A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom:
A guide for teachers and parents
By Patricia Hodge and Davis Dyslexia Assn.
Proficient reading is an essential tool for learning a large part
of the subject matter taught at school. With an ever increasing
emphasis on education and literacy, more and more children and adults
are needing help in learning to read, spell, express their thoughts on
paper and acquire adequate use of grammar.
A dyslexic child who finds the acquisition of these literacy skills
difficult can also suffer a lot of anguish and trauma when they may
feel mentally abused by their peers within the school environment,
because they have a learning difficulty. Much can be done to alleviate
this by integrating the child into the class environment (which is
predominantly a learning environment) where he/she can feel
comfortable and develop confidence and self esteem.
Class teachers may be particularly confused by the student whose
consistent underachievement seems due to what may look like
carelessness or lack of effort.
These children can be made to feel very different from their peers
simply because they may be unable to follow simple instructions, which
for others seem easy. It is a class teacher's responsibility to
provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for all pupils within
Class teachers need to have an understanding of the problems that the
dyslexic child may have within the classroom situation. Hopefully,
with this knowledge, a great deal of misunderstanding of a child's
behaviour can be prevented. In a positive and encouraging environment,
a dyslexic child will experience the feeling of success and
Of particular importance is an understanding of the problems that poor
auditory short term memory can cause, in terms of retaining input from
Examples of poor auditory short term memory can be a difficulty in
remembering the sounds in spoken words long enough to match these, in
sequence, with letters for spelling. Often children with poor auditory
short term memory cannot remember even a short list of instructions.
The following items should provide useful guidelines for teachers and
parents to follow and support :
In the class:
Of value to all children in the class is an outline of
what is going to be taught in the lesson, ending the lesson with a
resume of what has been taught. In this way information is more likely
to go from short term memory to long term memory.
When homework is set, it is important to check that the
child correctly writes down exactly what is required. Try to ensure
that the appropriate worksheets and books are with the child to take
In the front of the pupils' homework book get them to write down the
telephone numbers of a couple of friends. Then, if there is any doubt
over homework, they can ring up and check, rather than worry or spend
time doing the wrong work.
Make sure that messages and day to day classroom
activities are written down, and never sent verbally. i.e. music, P.
E. swimming etc.
Make a daily check list for the pupil to refer to each
evening. Encourage a daily routine to help develop the child's own
self-reliance and responsibilities.
Encourage good organizational skills by the use of
folders and dividers to keep work easily accessible and in an orderly
Break tasks down into small easily remembered pieces of
If visual memory is poor, copying must be kept to a
minimum. Notes or handouts are far more useful.
Seat the child fairly near the class teacher so that the teacher is
available to help if necessary, or he can be supported by a
well-motivated and sympathetic classmate.
Copying from the blackboard:
Use different colour chalks for each line if there is a
lot of written information on the board, or underline every second
line with a different coloured chalk.
Ensure that the writing is well spaced.
Leave the writing on the blackboard long enough to
ensure the child doesn't rush, or that the work is not erased from the
board before the child has finished copying.
A structured reading scheme that involves repetition
and introduces new words slowly is extremely important. This allows
the child to develop confidence and self esteem when reading.
Don't ask pupils to read a book at a level beyond their
current skills, this will instantly demotivate them. Motivation is far
better when demands are not too high, and the child can actually enjoy
the book. If he has to labour over every word he will forget the
meaning of what he is reading.
Save the dyslexic child the ordeal of having to 'read
aloud in class'. Reserve this for a quiet time with the class teacher.
Alternatively, perhaps give the child advanced time to read
pre-selected reading material, to be practiced at home the day before.
This will help ensure that the child is seen to be able to read out
loud, along with other children
Real books should also be available for paired reading
with an adult, which will often generate enthusiasm for books. Story
tapes can be of great benefit for the enjoyment and enhancement of
vocabulary. No child should be denied the pleasure of gaining access
to the meaning of print even if he cannot decode it fully.
Remember reading should be fun.
Many of the normal classroom techniques used to teach
spellings do not help the dyslexic child. All pupils in the class can
benefit from structured and systematic exposure to rules and patterns
that underpin a language.
Spelling rules can be given to the whole class. Words
for class spelling tests are often topic based rather than grouped for
structure. If there are one or two dyslexics in the class, a short
list of structure-based words for their weekly spelling test, will be
far more helpful than random words.
Three or four irregular words can be included each
week, eventually this should be seen to improve their free-writing
All children should be encouraged to proof read, which
can be useful for initial correction of spellings. Dyslexics seem to
be unable to correct their spellings spontaneously as they write, but
they can be trained to look out for errors that are particular to
Remember, poor spelling is not an indication of low
Maths has its own language, and this can be the root of
many problems. Whilst some dyslexic students are good at maths, it has
been estimated that around 90% of dyslexic children have problems in
at least some areas of maths. General mathematical terminology words
need to be clearly understood before they can be used in calculations,
e.g. add, plus, sum of, increase and total, all describe a single
mathematical process. Other related difficulties could be with
visual/perceptual skills, directional confusion, sequencing, word
skills and memory. Dyslexic students may have special difficulties
with aspects of maths that require many steps or place a heavy load on
the short-term memory, e.g. long division or algebra.
The value of learning the skills of estimation cannot
be too strongly stressed for the dyslexic child. Use and encourage the
use of estimation. The child should be taught to form the habit of
checking his answers against the question when he has finished the
calculation, i.e. is the answer possible, sensible or ludicrous?
When using mental arithmetic allow the dyslexic child
to jot down the key number and the appropriate mathematical sign from
Encourage pupils to verbalize and to talk their way
through each step of the problem. Many children find this very
Teach the pupil how to use the times table square and
encourage him to say his workings out as he uses it.
Encourage a dyslexic child to use a calculator. Make
sure he fully understand how to use it. Ensure that he has been taught
to estimate to check his calculations. This is a way of 'proof
reading' what he does.
Put key words on a card index system or on the inside
cover of the pupils maths book so it can be used for reference and
Rehearse mathematical vocabulary constantly, using
multi sensory/kinesthetic methods.
Put the decimal point in red ink. It helps visual
perception with the dyslexic child.
Reasons for poor handwriting at any age can be poor
motor control, tension, badly formed letters, speed etc. A cursive
joined style is most helpful to children with dyslexic problems.
Encourage the children to study their writing and be self-critical.
Get them to decide for themselves where faults lie and what
improvements can be made, so that no resentment is built up at yet
another person complaining about their written work.
Discuss the advantages of good handwriting and the
goals to be achieved with the class. Analyze common faults in writing,
by writing a few well chosen words on the board for class comment.
Make sure a small reference chart is available to serve
as a constant reminder for the cursive script in upper and lower case.
If handwriting practice is needed it is essential to
use words that present no problem to the dyslexic child in terms of
meaning or spelling.
Improvement in handwriting skills can improve self
confidence, which in turn reflects favorably throughout a pupils work.
Marking of work:
Credit for effort as well as achievement are both
essential. This gives the pupil a better chance of getting a balanced
mark. Creative writing should be marked on context.
Spelling mistakes pinpointed should be those
appropriate to the child's level of spelling. Marking should be done
in pencil and have positive comments.
Try not to use red pens to mark the dyslexic child's
work. There's nothing more disheartening for the child than to have
work returned covered in red ink, when they've inevitably tried harder
than their peers to produce the work.
Only ask a pupil to rewrite a piece of work that is
going to be displayed. Rewriting pages for no reason at all is soul
destroying as usually much effort will have already been put into the
original piece of work.
By the end of a school day a dyslexic child is
generally more tired than his peers because everything requires more
thought, tasks take longer and nothing comes easily. More errors are
likely to be made. Only set homework that will be of real benefit to
In allocating homework and exercises that may be a
little different or less demanding, it is important to use tact.
Self-esteem is rapidly undermined if a teacher is underlining the
differences between those with difficulties and their peers. However,
it should also be remembered that far more effort may be needed for a
dyslexic child to complete the assignment than for their peers.
Set a limit on time spent on homework, as often a
dyslexic child will take a lot longer to produce the same work that
another child with good literacy skills may produce easily.
A dyslexic child's ability to write down thoughts and
ideas will be quite different from the level of information the child
can give verbally. For successful integration, the pupil must be able
to demonstrate to the teacher that he knows the information and where
he is in each subject. Be prepared to accept verbal descriptions as an
alternative to written descriptions if appropriate. Alternative
ways of recording should be looked at, such as :
The use of computers for word processing.
Audio tapes for recording lessons that can then be
written up at a later stage.
Written record of the pupil's verbal account, or voice
activated software can be used.
More time should be allocated for completion of work
because of the extra time a dyslexic child needs for reading,
planning, rewriting and proofreading their work.
For a dyslexic child the feeling of being 'different'
can be acute when faced with the obvious and very important need of
'specialist' help for his literacy and possibly mathematical skills.
Some specialist methods can be incorporated into the classroom so all
children can benefit from them, thus reducing the feeling of
In order to be able to teach, as far as possible, according to each
child's educational needs, it is essential to see him or her as a
whole person, complete with individual strengths and weaknesses.
An understanding of the pupil's specific difficulties, and how they
may affect the student's classroom performance, can enable the teacher
to adopt teaching methods and strategies to help the dyslexic child to
be successfully integrated into the classroom environment.
Dyslexics have many strengths: oral skills, comprehension, good visual
spatial awareness/artistic abilities. More and more dyslexic children
could become talented and gifted members of our schools if we worked
not only with their specific areas of difficulty, but also their
specific areas of strengths from an early age. To do this we have to
let go of outmoded viewpoints that a dyslexic child must first fail,
in order to be identified.
These are the children of our future and they have a right to help and
support before they develop the dreadful sense of failure which is so
Class teachers dealing with dyslexic children need to be flexible in
their approach, so that they can, as far as possible, find a method
that suits the pupil, rather than expecting that all pupils will learn
in the same way.
Above all, there must be an understanding from all who teach them,
that they may have many talents and skills. Their abilities must not
be measured purely on the basis of their difficulties in acquiring
literacy skills. Dyslexic children, like all children, thrive on
challenges and success.
Patricia Lynn Hodge lives in Oman, and is a teacher and parent of a
dyslexic child. Pat is a licensed Davis Dyslexia Correction
Facilitator and also holds a Diploma in teaching ‘Specific Learning
Difficulties/Dyslexia' using traditional methods. Pat has brought
Davis methods to her local school system, where she has worked with
several students, and continues to work with other teachers to assess
her students and document the rates of progress with Davis methods.
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Bright Solutions for Dyslexia - Our mission is to educate
parents, teachers, and other professionals on the latest NIH research
on dyslexia -- in parent-friendly language. A website that helps
parents to understand their child's strengths and weaknesses, and
learn what they should do to help. Bright Solutions also publishes a
FREE quarterly e-newsletter on dyslexia. Parents can sign up for the
newsletter on their website or by calling 408-559-3652.
Abled Kids - Your child may struggle in some areas, but this
doesn't have to stop them from reaching their full potential. You
probably know more about your child's potential than anyone else and
know they have skills that are overlooked by others. You also have the
daunting task of ensuring your child receives a thorough education,
but where do you begin?
International Dyslexia Association - (formerly The Orton Dyslexia
Society) is an international, non-profit, scientific and educational
organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia. The IDA
was first established nearly 50 years ago to continue the pioneering
work of Dr. Samuel T. Orton, who was one of the first to identify
dyslexia and its remediation.
Learning Disabilities Professionals Directory - education
consultants who offer referrals to special programs and private
schools or offer college counseling for clients with learning
disabilities and special needs, plus listings for special education
US Dept. of Education
Teens vs. dyslexia and learning disabilities Teens Helping Teens -
useful website to recommend to dyslexic teens.
The Dyslexia Institute (UK) -
The Dyslexia Institute (DI) is an
educational charity, founded in 1972, for the assessment and teaching
of people with dyslexia and for the training of specialist teachers.
It has grown to become the only national dyslexia teaching
organization in the world.
LD Pride Online - online community for youth and adults with
learning difficulties such as dyslexia
Dyslexia Net - site for dyslexic teenagers (UK)
Davis Dyslexia Assn. International
International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit
organization dedicated to helping individuals with dyslexia, their
families and the communities that support them. IDA is the oldest
learning disabilities organization in the nation -- founded in 1949 in
memory of Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a distinguished neurologist.
Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities - The Levinson
Medical Center for Learning Disabilities was founded over 25 years ago
in order to medically diagnose and treat the inner-ear
(cerebellar-vestibular) disorder discovered responsible for causing
the many and varied symptoms characterizing Dyslexia or Learning
Disabilities (LD) as well as related Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
and Phobias. To date, Dr. Levinson has diagnosed and treated over
25,000 children and adults with the above and related disorders. And
his resulting insights have been documented in seven books and
numerous scientific research papers.
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'Rewired' Brains Help Children Overcome Dyslexia - An
intensive reading program conducted three years ago in 50 Allegheny
County schools permanently "rewired" the brains of dyslexic
children, Carnegie Mellon University researchers said.
Begins When The Wires Don't Meet - Research has now proven that
seeing letters in reverse or out of order is not the cause of
dyslexia. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which can
measure blood flow to different parts of the brain in real time,
researchers now know that the reading disability involves a weakness
in the part of the brain that decodes the sounds of written language.
Brain Scans Offer Proof That Intervention Helps children With Dyslexia
- This week, attendees at the International Dyslexia Association
conference in Philadelphia are hearing about the latest strategies for
treating language-based learning disabilities. Pediatrician Jack
Fletcher, who uses brain-imaging technology in his research, says
effective instruction can change the brain dramatically. [Free
Smart Drugs and Treatment - There are many and varied therapeutic
approaches to helping Dyslexics, both medical and non-medical. Before
getting into the specifics of medical treatment — utilizing
prescriptive as well as over-the-counter antihistamines, nutrients,
etc., let me first present my understanding as to why these
variously-named therapeutic approaches work.
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