A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom

A Guide for Teachers and Parents

Patricia Hodge, Dip.spld (dyslexia) © 2000

Image by Sophia via stock.xchngProficient 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 their class.

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 self-value.

Of particular importance is an understanding of the problems that poor auditory short term memory can cause, in terms of retaining input from the teacher.

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
Copying from the blackboard


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 insidious.

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.


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  • Helene, New Zealand

    My 7 year old boy was diagnosed with dyslexia in April this year. In New Zealand you start school at 5 and you are expected to read at a good level by age 6. He is currently receiving tutoring to help him with his reading. He is a bright little boy full of life but this is weighing him down and his confidence has taken a tumble. He can see his classmates are ahead of him and he calls himself ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’. I am at a loss… he is advancing through school without being able to read and I am scared this is going to do some further damage along the way. His progress his slow and it’s hard. I don’t know anyone in the same situation and I just don’t know how to process it all. Any advice would be very welcome on how to help him built his confidence back up. Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Helene, there are a large number of Davis Facilitators in New Zealand, and I would encourage you to arrange for a consultation. Almost all children experience a significant boost in confidence with a Davis program. Here’s a link you can use to find a Davis provider near you: http://www.davismethod.org/loc/new-zealand

    • Jacob

      You’re right. I was born with dyslexia and dygnosed at age 17. I couldn’t read until 4th grade and that was after i got held back in 3rd grade. He will struggle but reading is unbelievable inmortant find what you can do to help him. Because of my lack of reading skill I failed taking spanish twice, failed algebra twice and thats not because I’m lazy its because Math and spanish are two entirely different languges. If english is hard just image how spanish and math will be. But as long as you have patience and help him as he gets older. Something i learned the long way was i became early depressed and didn’t even relies it until my mom pointed it out last year. My grades were never above c-. I stressed and thats because my entire family thought i was lazy and just a good kid but terrible in school. It wasn’t till junior year that we discovered what the problem was and by them my GPA wouldn’t have gotten me to the 7/11 around the corner. But It is your job to help this kid so he doesn’t have my problem Do your best ask for help. I wrote this Junior year


    Hi, I have a student, and she is in class IV. She it very slow in learning. And weak in maths . She gets confused with tables and some times she writes wrong answers. If I give her to write a answer which is of 4-5 pages. She would take almost 20 to 30 mins. She makes lots of mistake while copying answers from her text book or blackboard. Her handwriting is very small. Inspire of telling her to write little big and clear. She takes lot of time to learn one answer. And after some time, if I ask the same answer she is. Completely forgotten. She does not speak clearly and she gets feat. Is this the sign of dislexia. And what is the solution of it. How do I teach that child and make her understands.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Olampiya, it sounds like your student really needs individualized, specialized help. As a classroom teacher, you are probably not going to be able to give all the help she needs, but you can help by being supportive and modifying her assignments in a way that allows her to experience success. If it will take her too long to write a 4 or 5 page essay, ask her to write just two paragraphs — or whatever she can do in the time allowed. Instead of measuring her against the others students, measure her progress against her self. If she can write only 1 sentence this week, and next week she can write 3 sentences –that is progress, even if every other child in the class can do much more. But giving her assignments that she can do will help motivate her and build confidence.

  • Hey. I have a student who is 17 in age and never told anyone thats she has dyslexia! Basically she’s depressed with how low her marks are. Since i found out about it i felt really sorry for her and i want to help her as much as possible. She will be doing her IGCSE this year and I have no idea of how I should start helping her. What do you think will be the best things to do ?and please i would like you to answer this as soon as possible. This girl has lived a very hard life and is so low motivated and whenever i try talking to her she says things like “Don’t try, i will fail anyway” and things like that. Help will be really appreciated and thank you in advance.

  • Flo

    Hello, I am currently teaching in a primary school in India. One of the boys (aged 13) is struggling with reading out loud and is always getting his words mixed up when spelling. I want to take some extra classes with him, first to see if he does have dyslexia but most importantly to give him such extra help. However I have been unable to find any useful activities online and cannot find any ‘tests’ to see whether it is dyselxia he has. Do you have any useful exercises I can do with him outside of class to help him?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Flo, if you are able to work one-on-one with this boy, our methods are described in detail in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. The book contains instructions in how to use our core techniques.

      You don’t need to have a formal test to establish that your student is dyslexic — obviously from your description he has some very common symptoms of dyslexia. However, you will probably get a better sense if you review the common symptoms of dyslexia listed on this site.

    • Emily

      My son is dyslexic and one of the things I have learned is that teachers should never ask a dyslexic child to read out loud in front of the class without advance notice. It can be embarrassing and only cause set backs. Practice simple texts over and over to create confidence with fluency. Also teachers should not grade spelling in writing assignments rather correct them with the child. Hope this helps

  • Robert N Thurber

    Hello and good day, my girlfriend is a teacher in a special ed environment!

    Today she marking a simple test for students::
    Column 1, which consisted of numbers 1 through 10 were written from left to right (correct in essence to our way of learning/thought).
    Column 2, which consisted of the words/answers correct or not being spelled out backwards. What is this condition that they have? After reading a little bit on the website, I have decided to pose this question to your group of professionals!

    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      That’s an interesting idea, but its hard to say whether it will help the children or cause more frustration. The problem is that to a dyslexic child, it can be impossible to discern whether letters in words are out of sequence or in reverse order or not. The dyslexic child’s brain is processing information differently. While there is usually nothing wrong with the child’s eyes, their brain often “sees” letters out of sequence or reversed.

      We can correct this with our orientation techniques. Your girlfriend could learn more about what we do by reading The Gift of Dyslexia.

      Until she does that, I would suggest that she use this worksheet as an optional exercise for her students, rather than a “test.” She can say that it is a puzzle and offer it as something to do for extra credit, and at the same time have an alternative task ready for any child who seems to be exhibiting signs of frustration when given this assignment.

  • cong rolex

    I am 23 years old,at the university level,school of education,i have struggled with reading and finds alot of difficulties comprehending the materials,i need to repeat the material several times in order to make sense out of it,and therefore reads very slow and always not catching up with time,could this be a sign of dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, we would consider that to be a very common indication of dyslexia in adults. It is often missed in childhood because you are able to decode the words (sound them out), but many of the words lack meaning. For most dyslexics, it is the common small words of language — words like at, of, to — that have no meaning or cause confusion because they can have many meanings. There is a tendency to mentally skip over those words and then not be able to make sense of the sentence or passage. So you come back to read over the words again, but re-reading still doesn’t solve the problem. This is definitely the sort of problem that Davis methods can address.

    • Emily

      I was the same way as a child and teen an I completely overcame this by reading books that I wanted to. I started simple with assigned books from high school that I couldn’t read before like Lord of the Flies and Where the Red Fern Grows. When I started liking to read I made sure once a month I would read a book that was relatively easy but interesting to me. I read all of Nicholas Sparks and several others. I actually enjoy reading now which is a miracle in itself. Hope this helps

  • Werner

    I’m 42, and reading this made me laugh out loud… as 90% of all of these apply to me… I am a self proclaimed “laziest person” hence my ability to find ingenious shortcuts and solutions to problems others can’t see. I have read 2 books in my entire life (the first one I was paid per page) and the second one took me almost a year. I get very frustrated by others lack of logic reasoning and general intelligence, leading to people seeing me as an obnoxious know it all… I am the guy who creates logical reasoning and maths problems on Facebook for my friend to solve, yet at school I scored no more than 14% for math. Typing this comment has taken me more than 20 minutes even with the help of Siri, and yet I’m supposed to be packing for a trip in the next two hours… So I will cut this short article only one question…
    At my age is it worth trying to find a solution/cure to this…? I found many ways to bridge some of my problem areas but sometimes feel I could do more.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There’s no upper age limit on the Davis program — Ron Davis was age 38 when he made the discoveries that led to development of the approach, and his original research and development was done with same-age dyslexic peers. If you want to explore the approach, here’s a link that lists Davis Facilitators in South Africa: http://www.davismethod.org/loc/south-africa

  • Bianca Klock da Silva

    The funny thing is I struggled my whole life with learning process, for everything, I finished college 6 months later then everyone. I paid psychogist to handle it. I had to redo 6 grade and the junior and senior high school years. I had teacher’s help for that. I could never drive. I study English since 1998, I now I started mixing with mother language. So I don’t know how I could be tested and get some help. I could see myself in the 37 traits there. I am also 37 years old.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Bianca, if you are interested in a Davis Dyslexia Correction program, formal testing is not necessary. A Davis provider would meet with you to discuss the problems you are having now, and help determine whether the Davis program will help.

  • Melanie Hodges

    My daughter has autism spectrum disorder as well as sensory perceptive disorder. So far, she has done very well in a mainstreamed classroom. She makes A’s and B’s, and while I have had concerns about Kindergarten and 1st grade, the concerns I have for her now that she is in 2nd grade is exponentially increased. Here are some areas I am really worrying about: My daughter writes her 3’s, 5’s and 7’s backwards, some letters she writes backwards, like b and d, but I would think those are pretty normal, and when she is writing sentences, she has a tendency to write capital letters in the middle of words. For example, she might write: My doG liKes to cHaSe Me in my baCkYaRD. It takes us forever to do the slightest amount of homework, such as 8 sentences per night and a worksheet of skip counting. She is very easily frustrated, calling herself stupid all of the time, and very emotional about any and all schoolwork, saying often :”I just don’t know how to do school!”. I feel she puts the burden of perfection on herself. Her teacher has noticed most of this too and has mentioned slightly that she is concerned, but we haven’t talked much more about it. I read the signs of dyslexia above and realized my daughter has well over 10 of the signs you mentioned. I want to talk to her teacher again and she is due to see her autism specialist at the end of this month. What questions do I need to ask them? What if I tell them my concerns and they are brushed off?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Melanie, everything you describe is a common sign of dyslexia. Does your daughter already have an IEP because of her autism diagnosis?

      I don’t know enough about what services are already being provided to your daughter to know what action the school might take when you raise this issue, but I can tell you that if you decide to explore options outside the school, there is a specific Davis program for autism (Davis Autism Approach). The Davis Dyslexia Correction program can also be provided to a child on the autistic program, depending on the child’s level of functioning and motivation. We do have a lot of tools to help with the sensory and perceptual issues as well as the problems with reading and writing.

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