A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom

A Guide for Teachers and Parents

Author
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
  • 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 home.
  • 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 fashion.
  • Break tasks down into small easily remembered pieces of information.
  • 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.
Reading
  • 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.
Spelling
  • 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 skills.
  • 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 them.
  • Remember, poor spelling is not an indication of low intelligence.
Maths
  • 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 the question.
  • Encourage pupils to verbalize and to talk their way through each step of the problem. Many children find this very helpful.
  • 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 revision.
  • Rehearse mathematical vocabulary constantly, using multi sensory/kinesthetic methods.
  • Put the decimal point in red ink. It helps visual perception with the dyslexic child.
Handwriting
  • 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 pupil’s work.
Marking
  • 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.
Homework
  • 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 the child.
  • 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.
Integration
  • 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 ‘difference’.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Citation Information

Hodge, Patricia Lynn. (200) A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom. Davis Dyslexia Association International, www.dyslexia.com

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96 comments

  • Jonah D

    Help me please I struggle with almost every thing in school and my teachers yell at me. We are learning states and capitals and i can’t remember Hardley any of the I don’t know what to do except fail and go to summer school and every time I come home I’ll get a lecture (sigh) i don’t know if I’m dyslexic or not but I struggle with all of this please help me

  • Elijah B

    Hi. I have dyslexia to and i am still at school, but I don’t know how to cope because my teacher is always mean to me and calls me lazy when I strugle.

  • Rebecca M

    Hi! I have a 6 yr old daughter who will be 7 in August, she had a test in school for dyslexia and is at risk, I wasn’t surprised at this as she is very behind from her fellow pupils. She can’t read or write much and when she learns a new word 5 minutes later u show her again and it’s like she’s never seen it b4. She can be clumsy and can’t remember words 2 a simple song if I read her a book she doesn’t understand unless u go in 2 great detail and explain. We r on the list to see a pedestrian but this is going to take along time. Her school run trying with her she has speech and language support and a lady goes in to help her with concentration but even the school have said even though she is making a little bit of improvement the gap is getting much bigger than her same age friends. As she canth b properly diagnosed for dyslexia until she’s older I can’t get the support for her that she needs and her confidence is starting to suffer! Could u please guide me in the right way 2 help her. Many thanks Rebecca

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Rebecca, if you are able to work at home with your daughter, we have a kit specifically geared to her needs: the Davis Young Learner’s Kit for Home Use

      The kit is specifically geared to the needs of young children who might be considered at-risk. It is also designed to allow the parent to guide the child in a playful and relaxing way, so the child will be building skills in way that seems easy, natural and fun.

    • Hanh B

      Rebecca,

      My story sounds a lot like yours. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she had the hardest time learning the alphabet and sight words. By the end of the year, she barely learned 50 out of 100 sight words she was supposed to learn. Other children in her class were already on their 2nd set of 100 sight words. She was still struggling when she entered first grade and were encouraged over and over by her teacher to help her with reading. We read with her at home each night and it finally dawned on me one night that she could be dyslexic when she would ask me again what a certain word was after asking about the same word on the previous page 20 seconds prior. My husband is dyslexic so that’s when everything finally made sense. Around the same time, I had talked to another mom who found out her 5th grader was dyslexic and she referred me to a psychologist who could do testing. The testing required numerous appointments but in the end, we did get an official diagnosis that she is dyslexic about 2 months before the end of 1st grade. She was 6 years old at the time. When she finally had an official diagnosis, the school was able to accommodate her and her 1st grade teacher implemented some methods specific to dyslexia. By the end of 1st grade she was caught up to her reading level. I’m not sure which state you live in but here in Colorado, your child cannot have an IEP without an official diagnosis, and the school cannot do any of this testing or make any assumptions regarding your child even if they show symptoms of having a learning disability. You pretty much have to take matters into your own hands.

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Hahn, I am sorry that your daughter’s experience was so negative, but you were also given wrong information about the school’s obligations. Under federal law (IDEA) the school has an obligation to identify children in need of special education services, including performing whatever diagnostic testing is needed to qualify for such services, without charge to the parents. Schools have the option of following another route called Response to Intervention before initiating formal testing, but they cannot require parents to seek an outside “official” diagnosis.

        However, it also sounds like your school had unreasonable expectations, as many children are not developmentally ready for formal reading instruction in kindergarten. Unfortunately, early pressure to read –such as an effort to teach 100 sight words in kindergarten – can create symptoms of dyslexia in susceptible children who would otherwise be able to transition easily into reading if they were in an environment more suited to their developmental needs. That is why there are lower rates of dyslexia in countries like Finland where formal reading instruction is delayed until age 7 or older. There are many dyslexics who will struggle no matter what, but the problem is made much worse when small children are pressured to do learn things before their brains are ready to handle the tasks, as that causes a cycle of frustration, confusion, and disorientation.

  • Can I take the help of u r buk ‘ the gift of dyslexic’.. Is it helpful for me in my guidance to that child..I will give my personal time to that child….

  • Paul O

    Hi there, I find this very interesting reading but I would really like to go on a course to help with my sons learning, he is only 5 and in his first year of school but the teacher has indicated that although he is extremely bright in many areas she feels like he is falling behind the rest of the class and he is struggling to take things in. I have noticed this myself doing his reading homework, what I’m trying to find out is if there is any courses I can attend that can teach me techniques or help me aid my child in every possible way so I can enhance his learning if at all possible, I know he is very young but I want to make sure I’m doing all the right things as opposed to doing anything which could make him feel inferior to his peers. Could anyone please advise me? I don’t mind the cost of paying for a private course

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Paul – you can consider a Davis Reading Program for Young Learners for your son.

      That program is geared to the developmental level of a young child. A Davis Facilitator would work with your child with you present for most of the time, and also provide you with the training and guidance so that you can continue to work with your son on your own after the completion of the program. So this program is exactly what you are looking for — a course that will give you the techniques to help your child.

      You can find listings of Davis Facilitators in the UK here: https://www.davismethod.org/loc/uk

  • meena

    Hello, I m a psychology teacher in cbse school. There is one child in 4 th standard who has this problem. Her class teacher said that her IQ is low ..BT it doesnt seem to me when I spent some time with her on different days…when I got adjustment in their class. BT has a prob. Of reading , writing and memorizing. Today I tell her the diff. Between m and n, v and y …and she even know it on next day.
    Am I right or not? Can I able to work on her? I want to do that…she was so happy with me

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Meena, to reach a child you need to adjust your teaching methods to the way the child learns – and guide the child to her own discoveries. We work with clay with dyslexic students because of it involves all of the senses and also the child’s creativity, and because it is a 3-dimensional material. So when a child molds an m and n in clay, she will have a better recollection of the experience. A Davis facilitator would not tell the child the difference between m and n, but after the child had molded each letter in clay, would instead ask the child to point out similarities and differences. Usually the facilitator will first ask the child to say one thing that is the same about both letters, then one way the letters are different, and then another way they are the same, and then another difference, and so on, until the child cannot think of any additional similarities or differences.

      You could not hope to the same work as a Davis Facilitator in the classroom, but if this child enjoys working with you then you can discover your own path to helping her. But in order to truly learn something she need to do more than listen to your explanation — she needs to also make her own discoveries, and be able to explain things back to you. It is also best to work slowly, at the child’s pace, so as not to frustrate her.

  • Tammy S

    Hi there,
    I am a grad student researching dyslexia. I was wondering why Ms. Hodge’s references are not published with her article? Is all information in this article from her own personal experiences?
    Thanks,
    Tammy

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Patricia Hodge wrote this article based on her education and experience — as a classroom teacher, as someone who had earned a diploma in special education, and who had trained and worked as a Davis Facilitator, and as a parent. As you can see these are all practical tips and ideas that are meant to be easy for a classroom teacher to incorporate.

      • Tammy S

        Thank you for your reply Abigail. I loved all the tips. I wish teachers had followed some of these great tips when my brother was in school. As he was dyslexic he found school difficult and wanted to drop out many times, but he did finish!
        Thank you!
        Tammy

  • 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
    (NanaChar)

    • 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.

          • Grant G

            I just found this article while looking more in to my disability, dyslexia. My understanding, when you say grade 9, that would translate to him being around 14-15 years old. I am currently a freshmen at college in Alabama. I saw your comment and hoped some of my experiences could help your son. My first tip would be for any literature that he is suppose to read try and find an audio book of it for him to read along with. I found that I was able to retain materials much better when I was able to hear them. Also not sure how accommodations work in the UK but if he is applicable for them, most schools here I’ve learned will let me get extra time for reading assignments, I would highly suggest looking in to this as it was beyond helpful for me. I also would use online summaries to help me remember what I read earlier. Retention was a struggle for me and I felt the same way you have described your son to be feeling. I also wanted to touch on math. I never had a true strategy to math other than find my own way to go about doing the quadratic formula for example. I would always do the longest way possible as if you learn to take the longer route, you will get faster overtime. I really hope that he doesn’t let his dyslexia get him down. He shouldn’t think about it as a disability as I did but a weakness in one category, but being bounds better at another category, mine was math.

            I also wanted to attach this link for anyone else interested in what it is like to have dyslexia. The link goes to a webpage that runs code to scramble the letters in words all in a paragraph about how reading with dyslexia feels. http://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

            I hope any of these tips help or the link helps you understand what your son is experiencing.

  • 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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