When it comes to tutoring a student with dyslexia, it's important to remember that every person with dyslexia is different. There are, however, some general tips that can help make the tutoring process more successful for both the student and tutor. In this post, we will outline a few of those tips. Remember, though, that each situation is unique and should be handled on a case by case basis.
A Brief Look At How Dyslexia Affects Students
Beyond Teaching Children With Dyslexia To Read
We closely associate dyslexia with difficulty learning and other language and reading skills like writing and spelling. Dyslexia, however, goes beyond letters, spelling, and learning to read and write.
Dyslexia can affect how a child comprehends what they read and even what they remember. It can cause students to have difficulty following directions.
Dyslexia And Maths Skills
Somewhere between 60 and 100% of people with dyslexia experience difficulty learning maths.
Children with dyslexia often struggle with maths because they have problems following directions, remembering steps, keeping things neat and ordered, and recognising the meanings of symbols — all required aspects when learning maths.
For example, a child with dyslexia may have trouble completing a crowded, busy maths worksheet. The student may not remember the complicated steps to solve a mathematical equation or geometric proof.
Yet, challenges in learning are just the beginning.
Students With Dyslexia And Bullying
Children with dyslexia are often teased and bullied — partly because they're viewed as different from the other students and partly because their learning differences often single them out for special attention from teachers.
Bullying is a significant problem for all students with special needs, as their differences make them easy targets for bullies. In addition, low self-esteem from simply living with a disability adds to the problem.
For ways to counteract and prevent bullying in your classroom, look at our bullying products and services.
That said, there are also certain positives for children with dyslexia.
Advantages Of Dyslexia
Now for some advantages, students with dyslexia experience. Studies at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere have proven that adults and children with dyslexia better understand visual information — such as spotting differences and gaining a broader, more inclusive view.
In the words of one researcher:
"While typical readers may tend to miss the forest because all the trees block its view, people with dyslexia may...miss the trees, but see the forest." — Matthew H. Schneps.
And these abilities are not just limited to visual perceptions but also sound and hearing. For example, students with dyslexia can often detect softer sounds, hear a single voice in a crowded, noisy room, or excel at musical abilities.
So while it may be more challenging to teach children with dyslexia to read or spell, they may have surprising other talents your students without dyslexia don't have.
Let's look at methods you can adopt to benefit all your students.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Listening to audiobooks as an alternative to reading.
- Typing on a computer or tablet instead of writing.
- Apps that can make learning fun by turning decoding into a game.
- Using a ruler to help kids read in a straight line can help keep them focused.
For example, simplifying written directions, highlighting essential information, providing additional practice activities, blocking out unnecessary stimuli, and using applicable assistive technology can help make students with learning differences more comfortable in the classroom.
Experts agree that the best practice for teaching children with dyslexia is to engage all their senses (multisensory teaching). It means using visuals, motion, body movement, hands-on and auditory elements in their learning.
For dyslexia, effective interventions should include training in letter sounds, phoneme awareness, and linking letters and phonemes through writing and reading from texts at the appropriate level to reinforce emergent skills.
A specialist tutor, qualified to teach children or students with dyslexia and other SpLD, can greatly support your child's education. They can focus on the subjects that your child finds particularly difficult and will be able to identify your child's learning style and therefore work to their strengths.
What Not To Do With Your Students With Dyslexia
Let's first look at some things not to do when teaching a student with dyslexia, regardless of age:
- Could you not ask them to read aloud? It can lead to embarrassment and a sense of failure.
- Please don't ask them to copy things from a board or text.
- Don't expect them to complete assignments as quickly as the rest of the class.
Tips You Should Be Using
Go Into Detail.
Kids with reading difficulties may need help noticing all the details in a new word — especially if the word has an unusual spelling. Take the word through, for example.
Teach your child by first showing the word and then reading it aloud. Next, ask your child to say the letters in the word. For example, ask what vowels your child sees. What letters are at the beginning, middle, and end of the word? It helps kids analyse the word and process it in detail.
Create A Memory Aid.
Sometimes kids can find a trick to help them remember troublesome words. These memory aids are called mnemonics. For example, kids might develop a rhyme that includes the word or something they associate with that word.
They can also try making up a phrase that spells out the word. For example, let's say your child is struggling to remember them. Your child might come up with the mnemonic, "They Eat Yams."
Add Artistic Flair.
For some kids, remembering a sight word is easier if they connect it to a picture. Here's one way to do it:
Write a practice word on two sides of an index card. On one side, you or your child can draw a picture right into the word (like drawing eyes inside the double o in the word look). Then, introduce the practice words using the illustrated side of each card. When your child begins to read these words quickly and easily, switch to the "print-only" side of the card.
Use Different Senses.
Research shows that kids with dyslexia learn best when they engage many senses. For example, you can activate kids' sense of touch by having them trace letters on lists of sight words with their fingers. Or cut the letters out of sandpaper and have them trace the rough surface while saying the letter names and then the word.
Get kids moving by having them "write" the word in the air with their pointer and middle fingers as they say it aloud. For example, younger kids might like writing the words in sand or shaving cream.
Explore more multisensory reading techniques.
Take A Mental Picture.
Tell your child to get a good look at a word on a card and try to "take a picture of it" and keep it in mind. Then take the card away.
Ask, "What letters do you see in your mind? What letters are first, second, and last? What vowel(s) are in the word?" Practising visualising can help kids remember, read, and spell new words.
Grab A Pencil.
Once kids have practised reading and air-writing target sight words, they can try spelling them on paper. Have your child copy them from a flashcard or word list first. Then your child can try writing it out without looking.
You can also have your child write the word a few times on a chalkboard while saying the letters and then the word. Or write the word on paper a few times each day. Your child should practise the target words until spelling them consistently, without looking, happens smoothly.
Explore Word History.
There's usually a reason behind spelling words we can't sound out. For example, did you know there's a rule that English words can't end in v? That's why words like give and have are spelled with a silent e. Or take the word knife. It comes from the Old Norse word knife, and the k used to be pronounced.
Checking out a word's history can teach kids why it's spelled so strangely. It can also help them learn word meanings. And boosting word knowledge can help kids recognise sight words more quickly.
Make A Word Wall.
Create a space to display the words your child has mastered. For example, you can use butcher paper your child decorates and then hang it up where your child can see it. Then your child can refer to it for assignments and spelling practice.
You can write the words directly on the paper or have your child tape flashcards to it. It is a great way to show kids how their word knowledge grows, boosting self-esteem.
Do A Word Search.
Have your child pick out the words the class is practising at school in books you have at home. (Make sure the books are at your child's reading level .)
It helps kids build awareness of how often these words are used. It also helps them look for these words in daily reading. After your child picks out sight words, read the book together. Be sure to give positive feedback when your child reads target words correctly.
Tag-Team With The School.
Connect with the classroom teacher to keep up with the current sight word list. Then, when you and the school work as a team, your child will get a double dose of practice — something struggling readers need. It also helps kids stay focused on a single set of words at a time, building confidence and increasing chances for success.
Make Time For Fun And Games.
Yes, sight-word practise can be fun. Try changing things up by playing word-matching games like concentration. Fish, tic-tac-toe, hangman, and bingo also work well. It's easy to make game materials on your own, and Pinterest is a great source for new game ideas. There are also many learning games and apps that let kids practise sight words.
Space Out Your Introduction Of New Words.
Introduce one word at a time every day or two until you have about ten new words to practice at a time. Then, add one new word for each word your child masters. It helps keep learning goals manageable. It also makes it more likely for kids to improve and feel good about sight words. And that can give them the motivation to keep practising.
Involve Body Movement In Learning
Children with dyslexia learn most easily through hands-on activities. For example, they need manipulatives when solving maths problems rather than pencil and paper. For example, when learning maths concepts, let them see and understand what is happening instead of giving them facts or rules to memorise.
Readout Loud To Utilise The Auditory Pathway To The Brain
Children with special needs such as autism, auditory processing disorder, stuttering, and dyslexia see remarkable benefits from listening to themselves read aloud. We encourage using an auditory amplification device, such as the Toobaloo®, to create this experience for them.
Teach Children The Art Of Visualising As They Read
If a child has struggled to read, chances are their entire focus is on trying to sound out words. When decoding becomes a child's focus, the idea that words carry meaning will escape them. They assume "reading" means calling out words. It is important to teach children to stop every few lines to make a mental picture of the words. Learning to visualise might be slow-going at first, but visualisation will become an automatic process as you continue this practice! Our reading materials will prompt you to utilise visualisation while learning.
Use A Multisensory Teaching Approach.
They will successfully learn maths if they can see and understand what is happening instead of memorising rules for solving problems.
They learn instantly by snapping mental pictures of content embedded in images or other visuals such as charts, graphs, organisers. They will enjoy having hands-on activities to practise the concepts you teach them. When they hear themselves speaking or reading, they add another important pathway to the brain.
Using A Structured Literacy Approach
From phonology and the sound-symbol association to syllable instruction and morphology, certain topics can be challenging for dyslexic students to learn without additional, targeted support from well-trained teachers or tutors. While several effective teaching strategies exist, the International Dyslexia Association recommends a structured literacy approach for teaching children with dyslexia. This specific approach includes several particularly important topics for dyslexic learners to master.
Teaching principles that follow a structured literacy approach are recommended for all lessons. Teachers who utilise a structured literacy approach ensure that all teaching is systematic and cumulative. It means dyslexic students can depend on the materials presented logically, from the most basic concepts to more complex ideas.
By allowing students to master subjects and gradually build upon their skills, teachers promote confidence in students' abilities to learn new topics. Additionally, a structured literacy approach consists of explicit instruction where teachers continually interact with students and ensure all educational concepts are delivered clearly and attainably. Finally, these specific instructional best practises encourage educators to engage in diagnostic teaching, which involves continuously adapting lessons to meet the unique needs of each student.
Creating An Inclusive Classroom
Whether teaching a small group of dyslexic students or in a larger general education classroom, creating an inclusive classroom promotes a healthier, safer learning environment for all students. Certain elements of inclusive classrooms, such as sticking to reliable routines and following clear schedules, are helpful for all students.
Multisensory lessons and assistive teaching technologies can also be helpful for many students, but these accommodations can play a critical role in dyslexic students finding success in the classroom. These accommodations and specific teaching strategies for students with dyslexia are crucial in ensuring they receive adequate time and resources to learn effectively.
Giving dyslexic students time to process information at their own pace is one of the most helpful elements of an inclusive classroom—every dyslexic student masters reading and language skills on a different timeline. Additionally, not forcing students to read aloud is another critical component of establishing an inclusive classroom. Children with dyslexia may be self-conscious about their ability to read aloud in front of a class successfully, and many everyday classroom activities, such as popcorn reading, can cause unnecessary stress.
What Causes Learning Difficulties Like Dyslexia?
For years, scientists thought that learning difficulties corresponded to specific brain areas. But this latest research suggests something entirely different.
In this study by Cambridge Brain Sciences, researchers discovered that no particular brain area caused learning difficulties. Instead, they found that weak connectivity between different brain regions may be why some children struggle.
The study revealed that the brain is organised in hubs, like a transit system or a social network. Children who had well-connected brain hubs had either very specific cognitive difficulties, such as poor listening skills, or had no cognitive difficulties at all. By contrast, children with poorly connected hubs – like a transit station with few or poor connections – had widespread and severe cognitive problems.
"This study by Cambridge Brain Sciences gives us a deeper understanding of how the brain works -- through brain hubs and networks," says Dr Rebecca Jackson, Brain Balance Vice President of Programs and Outcomes. "Improving brain connectivity is the core focus of the Brain Balance program. This focus helps us to address the problem -- differences in brain connectivity -- directly rather than simply masking the symptoms that these kids experience."
Cognition and learning can allow greater success for kids in the classroom and beyond.
How Can The Brain Balance Program Help?
The Brain Balance Program is a non-medical solution designed to help improve connections in the brain in a way that helps alleviate the symptoms kids and teens experience with dyslexia.
Extensive scientific research demonstrates that the brain is malleable, allowing for brain connectivity change and development and creating an opportunity for improvement. Brain Balance has applied this research to develop a program that focuses on building brain connectivity and improving the foundation of development, rather than masking or coping with symptoms.
If your child exhibits symptoms commonly associated with dyslexia or has been diagnosed with dyslexia, the Brain Balance Program may be a great fit for your family. Take our online quiz to learn more!
There are many ways to help tutor a student with dyslexia. While tutors, parents and educators need to understand the symptoms of dyslexia to be aware of how best to support students, some great resources can give you more information about what causes this disorder and how people without it may go unnoticed. If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or if you're looking for advice on helping them learn in school, take a look at our article below! It should offer some pointers on how you can better teach these children who have trouble reading due to their brain's wiring issues.