It’s not just about reading and writing
The most important thing you can do to support a dyslexic learner in your classroom is to understand how their dyslexia impacts the individual
Consider implications beyond literacy difficulties e.g. emotional wellbeing, memory, organisation, mathematics and how information is processed
Keep in mind that many dyslexic learners have great strengths. These talents should be celebrated and learners empowered to use them in their learning
Support for social and emotional impact
One of the greatest barriers to success is the damage which can easily be done to a dyslexic person's self-esteem if they are not well supported at school
Provide opportunities which allow learners to work to their strengths so they can show themselves and others that they have talents and value
How we go about marking and providing feedback can make a big difference to a dyslexic learners self-esteem (see "Feedback" section below for further information)
A video produced by Made By Dyslexia on the emotional impact of dyslexia. Click here
Award-winning short animated student film I AM DYSLEXIC. Click here
Almost any subject or topic can be taught using multisensory techniques
Using all the senses in learning activities supports ALL learners (especially those with dyslexia) to absorb, store and recall information and skills
Use a mixture of visual, auditory and kinetic tasks. (If you are retelling a story can you sequence images of the story whilst retelling it and then perhaps act it out)
Make tasks colourful, noisy, interactive and fun
Allow movement around the classroom where possible
Share resources and ideas with colleagues
The following link is a great video from the British Dyslexia Association about using a multisensory approach. Click here
Using technology and digital tools
The right technology and knowing how to use it can be transformative
Using cloud platforms or virtual learning environments can help you share content prior to a lesson for pre-learning, during the lesson for easy reference and after the lesson for practise/revision
Many devices now include features which can remove barriers to learning such as text to speech, speech to text, predictive text, spelling and grammar checkers and alternative display settings to reduce glare and visual strain
Seat dyslexic learners near the front of the class/close to the teacher
Make sure learning resources are clearly marked and well organised
Avoid any activity that involves copying from the board e.g. give learners a set of notes so that they can focus on what you are saying or share electronically
Allow for regular movement breaks to help maintain focus and reduce fatigue
In planning learning for dyslexic learners always keep in mind the following key points:
- Learning should be progressive, structured and in small steps
- Over learning - lots of repetition and recapping prior learning
- Make it multisensory (see multisensory section)
- Consider barriers to learning and remove where possible e.g. alternative ways to demonstrate learning rather than lots of handwriting.
Ask yourself, if a learner’s written work is hard to read and difficult to mark, how hard was it for them to write it in the first place? Consider effort
If marking without the learner present, mark their work in two colours. One colour for spelling, punctuation and grammar and the other for creativity, thinking and effort
Only mark spelling and grammar rules which have been explicitly taught or are currently your focus
If possible, give oral feedback as a discussion. Technology can be used to provide audio or video feedback on work completed digitally
Think carefully before using peer marking as this could lead to challenges for all involved
Further support and resources
The British Dyslexia Association: The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has been the voice of dyslexic people since 1972. We are a membership organisation working to achieve a dyslexia-friendly society for all.
Made By Dyslexia: A global charity, led by successful dyslexics. Our purpose is to help the world to understand, value and support dyslexia.
Helen Arkel Centre: A charity which offers dyslexia support and advice to anyone who may need it, whether they think they have dyslexia or care for someone who may have dyslexia.
Dr Gavin Reid: Dr. Gavin Reid Ph.D., M.A, M.App.Sci, M.Ed., B.Ed, AMBDA, Assoc. F. B.P.S is an independent international educational psychologist. He is a director of the Red Rose School in the UK and Global Educational Consultancies (GEC) and a consultant to the Institute of Child Education and Psychology, Europe (ICEPE), the Open University and the BBC in the UK and the Child Early Intervention Medical Center (CEIMC) in Dubai.
Dyslexia Resource Booklet: A free to access digital booklet of information and resources to support those working with dyslexic learners created in collaboration between LGfL and The Islington Dyslexia Network.