Helping students with dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects up to 5% of children. These children have difficulties with:

  • Phonological processing. Problems associated with connecting written letters to their corresponding sounds (phonemes) are reflected in an inability to rapidly name letters and their common associated sounds. Hence, children struggle to decode letters and words when reading, and to encode letters and words for spelling and writing. 
  • Working memory. Insufficient short-term ‘mental workspace’ can make the linguistic storage and processing needed for reading, writing and spelling difficult.

As a result children with dyslexia struggle with core literacy skills such as accurate and fluent word recognition. They experience difficulties despite, typically having average or above intelligence, adequate vision and hearing, and age-appropriate education. These difficulties with basic literacy skills can flow on to impede their acquisition of more complex vocabulary and general knowledge, and problems in reading comprehension.

The following selection of strategies may assist students with dyslexia:

  • Explicit systematic phonological awareness instruction. Teach phonological awareness, including during Reading Recovery in the early years. Reading Recovery programs tend not to focus on phonological awareness or rapid letter and sound training, which are featured in MiniLitand Multilit programs. These programs can be taught to students individually or in some cases in small groups across the early primary years.
  • In later years implement a decoding reading program. For example, theSunLit program, at Sunshine College, utilises Dr. Carol Christensen’s research and program Reading LINK-Decoding. The decoding stream of the program has assisted junior secondary students with dyslexia.
  • Hands-on learning. For example, introduce procedural texts via recipes and cooking. Allow the child to give an oral presentation, create a PowerPoint presentation, or draw a series of labelled diagrams to support word, sentence and paragraph writing, rather than struggling to write a text without step-by-step support.
  • Encourage use of assistive technology. Budget at a classroom or department level for assistive technology. Some students may be unable to read fluently without such support. Clicker, Text Help Read and Write andDragon Naturally Speaking can assist children at various ages to read and/or create written text using a computer.
  • Use the computer’s text-to-speech function. Most computers have a function that allows students to highlight text and have the computer ‘read’ it aloud. This provides auditory and visual input. Some computers also have a function that allows students to highlight and save large chunks of text so they can listen on MP3 devices. This is useful for homework and revision.

For more specific strategies on assisting students with dyslexia to spell, read, write, and to modify the curriculum and assessment appropriately, read the ebookletWorking with children with dyslexia (available now to Psych4Schools members).

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Psych4Schools members can also access our Dyslexia screening tools. These tools are designed to be used with student entering school and in the middle of their first year of schooling. We are currently trialling these tools, so please provide email feedback to Psych4Schools during this period.

Not a member? Read more about dyslexia here