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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  • Charmaine A

    I am looking for books that will help me, help my granddaughter. I am also looking for books that will teach me how to understand more about this condition.

    My granddaughter is extremely smart and intuitive and I worry.

    Thanks so much
    Charmaine Abbott

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Charmaine, the two books we recommend are: (1) The Gift of Dyslexia, by Ron Davis. This book explains the Davis theory of dyslexia, and gives step-by-step, scripted instructions in how a parent or other caregiver can get started using key Davis techniques at home.

      (2) The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Dyslexia. This is a book that I wrote as a way of sharing everything I had learned over the years as the parent of a dyslexic son, and via my role with DDAI. This book has a much broader scope and provides tips and suggestions related to parenting issues and dealing with teachers, information about possible genetic and neurological causes of dyslexia, as well as a comprehensive overview of the process of learning to read, a variety of different educational and therapeutic approaches to dyslexia, and a summary of research that supports various methods profiled. Even though it has a lot of information, it is written in a style meant to be direct and informative, and to provide family members with the information needed to help make a variety of decisions along the way.

    • My son has just started year 9 so is working towards GCSEs. We are really struggling with coursework. He cannot remember what he has learned in class to support the assignments he is set. & when he does complete them, often the standard isn’t up to scratch so the teachers have him stay behind for catch up support. His moral is low & he hates school. Any tips on how to help him without doing too much of the work for him ?

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Have you considered having your son work with a Davis facilitator?

        • H hooper

          There are none in our area, so this is not an option

          • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

            If your son is willing to work with you, you could buy the book The Gift of Dyslexia and try working through the Davis techniques with your son — but you and he would definitely need to be motivated to follow through. (It tends to be easier for parents to work with younger children than with teenagers).

            Please keep in mind that you can consult with a facilitator by phone — here are listings for the UK — a facilitator can provide an informal program screening at a distance, and if your son decides that he wants a program, you could consider arranging the 5-day program during a school break or other time that it is feasible for you to travel. Some facilitators are also able to travel to their client’s location to provide programs.

  • Blanca G

    My son has dyslexia and is current receiving therapy for his dyslexia. They use the Orton Gillingham approach . He goes to a Catholic school which I feel they don accommodate his (IEP). He comes home frustrated and doesn’t want to do any school work. I really don’t know what to do. I have talked to his teacher
    and resource teacher and they say they are helping my son. Though I get a different feeling about that. I don’t know if I should pull him out of school and send him to a public school.. I work for CPS and I don’t feel that they are always accommodating as well. I feel like my hands are tied. My son has being going to the private school for 4 years. I feel that pulling him out now would be detrimental. On top of the problem that he had to endure everyday, his difficulty in school and reading.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Blanca, you might consider a different approach. Orton-Gillingham is widely considered a standard approach for dyslexia, but it is slow and painstaking, and doesn’t seem to work for many dyslexics. When I was researching my book, The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Dyslexia, I had a tough time finding statistical information to support the approach, even though it is so widely used. It is a remedial approach that focuses intensely on the student’s area of weakness, which can seem like a logical way to help, but can be very frustrating and demoralizing for the student.

      Our approach – Davis Dyslexia Correction – is very different and is a strength-based approach. That is, rather than trying to tutor and drill the child in phonetic decoding strategies (an area of weakness) – we teach the student to use their inherent creative mental strengths and follow a more holistic approach to reading, emphasizing word meaning and appearance and building whole word recognition through mastery of sight words. We typically see a major boost in self-esteem in children who complete a Davis program, and very commonly see dramatic increases in reading ability and confidence level in the course of a program week. I would encourage you to explore the possibility of a Davis program.

      • Leah

        I am having the same exact issue with my daughter. We are spending tons a money a month and she is failing in her dyslexia program that also utilizes that same program

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Leah, if a program isn’t working after a reasonable amount of time, then it is time look for something different. Obviously on this web site we are going to recommend a Davis program — but I would say the same thing about any approach. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach or answer.

          I think one drawback with Orton-Gillingham is that tutors and teachers expect to see slow and gradual progress. That method is built around careful, incremental teaching and “over-teaching” (they usually call it “overlearning” but just because a person is doing the teaching doesn’t mean that their student is actually learning anything). Because the expectation is that progress will be slow, the teachers are unlikely to tell you that the program isn’t working – in their eyes they may very well be seeing improvement. But as a parent you can see whether your daughter is getting any real benefit, or whether the tutoring just leads to greater frustration and anxiety over time.

          For children age 8 and above, a Davis program usually is completed over the course of 5 days, and it’s common to see significant improvement in that time. It also tends to be a great confidence-booster. That’s not the end of the program — it requires commitment and follow-through after the program, or else the newly-gained skills are difficult to retain — but the methodology is built around expectations of seeing breakthroughs that will result in readily observable and often very rapid progress. Since the facilitator has a different expectation, it’s not a situation where you are going to be told to wait and see. Most of the time, on the fifth day of program, you are going to come in for support training and the facilitator and your child will demonstrate specific areas of progress and accomplishment.

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