Guest post by Laura Buckler
Top Tips for Teaching Kids with Dyslexia to Read
Dyslexia is a learning disability, but it is not a disease.
Kids with dyslexia simply process language differently from those without the condition. They have a problem with turning heard words and sounds into written form, and have a hard time remembering and reading words in isolation, such as on flash cards, or in sequence, such as the days of the week. Most people with dyslexia are of normal to high intelligence, and cope with their difficulties by accessing higher language learning skills.
Many kids with dyslexia reach adulthood without a proper diagnosis, and this can lead them to think they are not as intelligent as they actually are, simply because reading is a basic skill they have failed to master. They are scared that something is wrong with their brain, when in fact they simply learn differently.
While no one really knows what causes dyslexia, researchers believe it is hereditary. Because they learn differently from others, traditional methods for teaching them to read are not very effective. In many cases, the undiagnosed dyslexic child will use context to “read” without actually recognizing individual words to keep up with other children.
People with dyslexia can learn to read just as well as other people with the proper attention, methods, and tools. It is therefore important to diagnose the problem as early as possible to help them now and in the future. Here are the top tips for teaching kids with dyslexia.
Show and Tell (and Feel and Smell and Taste)
Kids with dyslexia learn to read best by engaging all their senses in the process. This helps the brain create more associations with a particular word. This is the basis for the MSL, or Multisensory Structural Language, approach, and it works well with all language learners, not only people with dyslexia. Learners are encouraged to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste a word using various tools. Here are some ways to use the MSL approach with your child:
- Use flash cards with a picture and the word printed together on it, and have the child hold it as they read the word. This gives them something to hold and look at as they say the word. Have them trace each letter with their finger as they read the word.
- Use actual objects. Whenever possible, have the student hold the physical object of the word being taught. For example, if you are teaching the word apple, have them hold one, and encourage them to smell, feel, and eventually, taste it!
- Use sand trays. Fill a flat, shallow tray with sand or beans in which the child can spell a word repeatedly. This engages their sense of touch and sight.
- Use music. Songs, rhymes, and chants can help the child remember spelling rules and sequences. For example, you can teach the child to spell “Mississippi” by chanting MIS-SIS-SIPPI!
- Use color to classify different types of words and numbers. Use different colors for nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech. Use a different color to distinguish whole numbers from decimal numbers, and so on.
- Use reading games. Games are always a good way to teach anything. Check out these links for some MSL games and activities to help your dyslexic child.
Some people with dyslexia see letters all jumbled up, and they have a hard time seeing subtle differences. Lower case p and q, for example, look the same to them. The same is true for b and d. To help them distinguish similar letters, write them big and bold, and put plenty of space between words. As they learn to recognize the letters, you can gradually make them smaller and closer together.
Just to be clear
Kids with dyslexia need a lot of reinforcement when learning to read. Do not assume that the student has any familiarity with the lesson. When introducing the letter B, for example, you should tell the student that it is letter of the day. You then clearly sound the letter out and ask the student to repeat it several times before introducing words beginning with the letter B. Make the student say each word aloud several times before moving on to the next one. You can also use other strategies such as games and songs related to the letter or word.
Repetition is the Key
Make it a habit to repeat everything several times to help kids struggling with short-term memory, which is common among those with dyslexia. Instructions, concepts, sequences, and words have a habit of slipping off into forgetful land. Encourage the student to write them down to help them remember, and make sure to correct any spelling mistakes.
An important aspect of teaching kids with dyslexia is connecting concepts when building new skills. Whenever you introduce a new lesson, make sure to connect it to an old one. If you must, refresh his or her memory by reviewing old lessons. A kid with dyslexia will learn something new better if they can associate it with something they already know or experienced.
Teaching kids with dyslexia to read is not hard if you accept and understand that they learn differently from other kids. Accommodate their learning styles and difficulties and give them practical coping skills using these tips and other teaching strategies. You will soon have them reading with the best of them.
BIO: Laura Buckler is a great writer, always making the best out of her articles. Her belief in life is that anything can be done with an amount of perseverance, so she puts an effort into all her duties. She teaches people to be aware of their potential. Check out her twitter.