How to Help Dyslexic Students Thrive

Author: Rich Atkinson

Jacob hated school

His classmates read books while he wrestled with reading words. During one instance, his mind went blank while trying to read. His classmates whispered, and he felt shame and embarrassment. Jacob kept his head down in class and never raised his hand; he feared being called upon.

Source: diverse-kids-reading-books.jpg

An estimated one in five students are affected by dyslexia. They may read or write letters backward and struggle with spelling and decoding problems, but with help, they can still thrive.

After Jacob was diagnosed with dyslexia in the fifth grade, his parents transferred him to a school that addressed his learning difficulty. He began to soar and be successful.

Students with dyslexia, like Jacob, commonly show many strengths, including:

  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Creativity
  • High empathy
  • Excellent big-picture thinking
  • Easily making connections
  • Strong narrative reasoning
  • Three-dimensional-thinking
  • Being observant

Here are five tips and tools to propel your students with dyslexia:

1. Enlist a Multisensory Teaching Method
Multisensory teaching in this context means simultaneously using sight, sound, movement, and touch to boost learning. For example, if the student is learning to pronounce the “b” in ball, he sees the word ball, hears it as he voices it, his mouth moves, and his lips touch as he sounds it out.

2. Share Reading Helps and Strategies
Students with dyslexia can improve their focus, allowing them to avoid skipping words or sentences, swapping letters, or reading too close to the page. Dyslexia reading strips and colored transparent sheets improve concentration and retention also. The colored sheets are placed over white sheets of words to make the text pop.

A similar resource is the overlay highlight bookmarks such as the See-N-Read tool. This aid helps students focus on one line at a time.

3. Resource Them With Digital and Audio Tools
Digital Textbooks and E-readers can be programmed to display a few words on a line so students with dyslexia can focus while reading and display better comprehension. Bookshare is a federally funded library of ebooks. It is a great resource for teachers to get digital textbooks for their students and has ebooks in English, Spanish (about 35,000 ebooks), and more than sixty other languages.

Audiobooks and textbooks can be multisensory learning tools. As students read content on an iPad, tablet, or computer, they can see the word highlighted and hear the word read. At the same time, they can read along and trace words with their fingers. A digital planner tool can help your students keep track of their assignments.

4. Give Them Tools to Ace Spelling Tests
Have them create pictures or drawings to help them remember how to spell words. Have them spell words or create sentences with magnetic word strips, magnetic letters, or Scrabble tiles. Consider phonics resources such as The Secret Stories: Cracking the Reading Code With the Brain in Mind By Katie Garner. Her resource is geared for K-2.

5. Note-Taking Strategies to Share with Dyslexia Students
Teachers can give them a printed or digital copy of your notes. Show them how they can incorporate the mind map method for note-taking. Mind maps are visual notes with a few keywords.

The notes are more expressive by including analogies, abstractions, and associations. They summarize with words, colors, arrows, and humor.

Students with dyslexia have challenges with reading, spelling, and processing words and vocabulary. Yet, they can thrive with some encouragement and tools. Teachers, by adopting multisensory teaching methods and by sharing resources for helping students with their reading, spelling, and note-taking, dyslexia students can be on their way to success. Jacob is thriving today. He helped found KidsRead2Kids with his siblings and is involved with the International Dyslexia Association, helping others thrive. For more information on a similar subject, check out our blog titled “Practical Tips for Teaching Special Needs Students.”

About the Author

Rich Atkinson

Rich Atkinson began his writing career with a community paper in Ohio.

He has worked for a magazine. Travel assignments have taken him outside the country to Haiti and Guatemala. In the U.S., he has journeyed to Atlanta, Boston, Milwaukee, and many other places for feature stories.

When not writing, Rich finds time to read and enjoys listening to authors discuss writing on podcasts and in YouTube videos.

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