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5 Tips for Teaching a Student with Dyslexia

Whether you’re a parent of a child with dyslexia or teaching a child with learning difficulties, it can present a real challenge. It’s said that up to 20% of the population has a form of reading disability, with dyslexia easily being the most common type, with 10% of the UK diagnosed with dyslexia.

While the exact causes of dyslexia aren’t fully understood, studies have nevertheless brought us a wealth of knowledge about how teachers can help students to write well. The following 5 tips have been shown to improve performance, leading to increased confidence and results.

Dyslexia cannot and should not be categorised as one overlaying issue that children suffer from. A student may be a visual learning, an auditory learner or a kinesthetic learner; a student may struggle with numerical work but excel in other academic areas, and so on.

The overall message here is that just like in all walks of life, no two people are the same, and often you will find that different learning techniques will benefit some students more than they do others. Teaching Dyslexia needs to be attentive, and more so than the average classroom in the UK.

Identify where the student is weakest, and what areas of learning they struggle with the most, then use these five quick tips as a guide to support the learning process – nothing is impossible and you’re not alone.

1. Practice, Practice (and More Practice)!

Many Dyslexic students struggle with interpreting information. One of the best ways to combat this is actually showing them how something is done, rather than simply explaining a subject with no other sensory stimuli.

Once the student has been shown what they need to do and the types of techniques they can use to take advantage of improved learning, they will hugely benefit from implementing these steps themselves. This needs to be done many times over, and it will take more effort compared to the average student, but the rewards will be worthy of the hours put in.

However, don’t make the mistake of overloading dyslexic students. Don’t rush through materials and ensure you add in plenty of breaks, and varied learning techniques. It’s all about consistency, repetition, and organisation; not simply adding on additional hours of block-style learning or cramming. Dyslexia shows no correlation to the level of intelligence a student may or may not have, it simply affects the way in which someone absorbs information.

2. The Right Environment and Materials

You need to give a student with dyslexia an environment where he or she can thrive. It should be quiet, structured, calm, and consistent. The student needs to know what to expect so that focus can be retained throughout each study session.

If you’re teaching a child from home or an environment outside of the typical classroom, it’s a good idea to establish a specific room or area as a ‘learning zone’. Ensure they’re aware that this is a place where they need to focus and take new things in – otherwise information will never stick.

Different learning environments can have a huge affect on what a student associates learning specific subjects with. For example, a typical ‘dull’ classroom may not have as much of a positive effect as a room with range of sensory stimuli with practical learning tools.

3. Multi-Sensory Approach

Most students with learning difficulties will benefit from a multi-sensory approach to taking in new (or repeat) information, but dyslexics really reap the benefits from teaching that uses sight, sound, movement and touch.

Try and incorporate a range of quality sensory learning techniques during a single session, they will not only improve the rate of learning but also break up the lesson nicely.

The trick is in teaching the same (or similar) things with various methods, which helps the information stick. Use pictures, multimedia, play games, draw and paint, listen to books on tape, or simply watch a documentary with discussion points.

It all helps and it’s worth getting creative!

4. Keep Your Child Healthy

Dyslexic students tend to have difficulties with focusing on singular tasks in hand, and with short-term memory absorbtion. If they arrive tired, hungry or ill, they’re less likely to be able to maximise the learning experience.

Although this rule isn’t exclusive to students with dyslexia, the same can be said for all students; especially at a younger age.

If being tired or ill is something circumstantial that can’t be helped, work with the situation instead of against it. Reading is probably something you should reserve for another time – try going for a discussion or an artistic pursuit as an alternative. Look to engage the student and raise their attention to the task at hand.

It can be incredibly frustrating for students with learning difficulties because they will want to learn and do well in exams, just like other students. Ensure that you don’t punish them for lackluster grades. If one method of learning clearly isn’t working for them, try others – and keep going until you crack it.

5. Professional Dyslexia Tutors

By no means should seeking out professional dyslexia tutors be the last port of call here. Getting professional help really could make the difference between a student suffering without the knowledge of how to deal with dyslexia and a student learning to cope with learning difficulties.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to tackle the entire teaching experience on your own. Even if you’re an experienced teacher, it’s important to use alternative resources to ensure the child gets the best possible education.

For example, get your hands on the latest technology that has been shown to help dyslexic students. Games and multimedia programs have been specifically developed to help.

You can also employ someone to give your student some high quality private tuition. It helps tremendously and won’t make the child feel as if they’re falling behind their peers.

Remember, dyslexic students aren’t unable to learn – they simply struggle with certain aspects of your run-of-the-mill teaching methods. With just a few adjustments and tweaks, dyslexic students can achieve just as much as anyone else, if not more!