Teacher's Guide to Dyslexia
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading—unexpected in relation to: intelligence, age and education. Around 10 – 20% of the population have dyslexia, mostly undiagnosed. So there are probably 3 – 6 children in your class with dyslexia.
Children with dyslexia have difficulties with some or all of the following: reading, writing, spelling, punctuation, grammar and handwriting. They may also have problems with slow processing, poor working memory, organisation and planning.
The most likely reason why children in your class are behind with their reading is due to dyslexia or an eye tracking problem. Failing the UK Year 1 phonics check is also a red flag for dyslexia.
You may think a child is behind because they don't read at home – but in all likelihood this is not the problem. Children with dyslexia don’t read at home because they have dyslexia and they can’t read / hate reading. If their only problem was that their parents didn’t read with them, then it could be easily corrected by them doing extra reading in school.
Most children learn to read through reading. Once you’ve taught them a bit they connect the dots and teach themselves the rest. However children with dyslexia generally need to be taught to read very explicitly. Because they activate different parts of their brain when reading than non-dyslexics do, practising reading often does not improve their reading.
1:1 programs (listed below) which can be done at home are generally a better use of parents and teachers time than ploughing through reading scheme books.See less...
Prerequisite Skills Needed to Read
Before a child can learn to read via phonics they need good phonological awareness. They need to be able to hear that a word is made up of different sounds. Phonological awareness is taught in nursery though games like Eye Spy and nursery rhymes. However a child with dyslexia will need more practice than this and it should continue to be taught until they display a good understanding. There are many good phonological awareness games and worksheets available on the internet. Fluency Builder is a very good phonological awareness program.
Before a child can learn to read they also need to be able to focus both eyes on the same letter and track across the page. If a child skips words and lines when reading they have a problem focussing both eyes on the same letter (convergence problem). You need to improve their convergence before you can improve their eye tracking. You need to get their eyes working together before you can train them to move across the page smoothly. Engaging Eyes or other forms of vision training are good interventions to teach these skills.
If a child does not have good phonological awareness, and sound eye tracking and focus, reading will always be a struggle.
The longer you wait to get help for a child with reading difficulties, the harder it will be for them to catch up.
Our programs have been designed to address both of these problems in a fun, easy to use online intervention.
The best way to teach any child to read is through a phonics program – however the above pre reading skills are needed first.
1:1 interventions that take 10 minutes a day are generally more effective than small group interventions that take half an hour or an hour a day. 10 minutes a day is also better than an hour once a week.
Teaching children to look at the pictures and guess what the text might say, or read to the end of the sentence and come back to it, are not effective ways to teach reading. Nor is suggesting they look at the first few letters and guess.
In English, you need to know how to pronounce a word in order to read it. Phonics alone isn’t enough.
Advice on teaching sight words vary, but there are very few words you should teach by this method. The above mentioned programs all teach a few sight words.
For children who struggle to learn via phonics (i.e. very many dyslexics) the answer is not to teach them to read via sight words – but instead to improve their phonological awareness so that they can learn via phonics.
When all children first learn to read they use the ‘phonological route’. I.e. they sound out the word and then work out what was written. Children without dyslexia then very quickly switch to using a different area of their brain to read – the lexical route. This means they can just look at a word and instantly recognise it without sounding it out. However people with dyslexia generally don’t ever switch to reading via the lexical route, so even when they can read they don’t read well because they are still using the phonological route. When a fluent reader sees a word they automatically read it. Someone with dyslexia doesn't. They have to explicitly choose to read each word.
Comprehension is very rarely the problem. If a child can answer your questions when they are presented orally, but gets them wrong in a written test, it’s a reading problem not a comprehension problem. Similarly if they can’t answer them orally, it’s a language problem not a reading problem.See less...
Spelling in English has evolved over centuries, and there is no good way to teach it. Phonics proponents recommend you teach children to sound out words, and then write each sound. This however is far from the whole story of what you need to know to be a good speller, because over the centuries the pronunciation of some words has changed, without their spelling changing. E.g. two, every, Wednesday.
If you can spell the most frequently used 1,000 words, you look like a good speller, and your spelling is more than adequate for most things. People judge you harshly if you spell simple words wrong, but no one expects you to be able to spell every word in English. It’s just not possible.
Difficulties to Expect
Normally dyslexia exists alongside other problems. A lot of children with dyslexia also have dyspraxia (problems with fine or gross motor skills and spatial awareness) or ADHD / ADD (problems with paying attention). However these problems aren’t due to dyslexia, and should be investigated separately.
While some dyslexics are very articulate, some also have word finding problems which makes it hard for them to tell you what they’ve learnt.
Children with dyslexia are often very bright, and it’s very important both not to judge their ability on their written work, nor to inadvertently patronise and talk down to them because their reading and writing is not what you'd expect from someone of their age.
Finally, please remember that it is not just reading and writing a dyslexic child struggles with. Their brain works differently and lots of simple tasks they’ll struggle with. And they’ll also struggle with the gap between their intelligence and their ability in class. They’ll find it hard to understand why they can’t do what everyone else can do so easily, and their self-confidence may be very low.