Teaching children with dyslexia to read is a long and challenging process. However, with the right strategies, input from parents and teachers and persistence children with dyslexia can become competent readers.
Auditory processing and memory skills
Dyslexia was once believed to be associated with the eyes, visual processing and eye tracking. However, as experts learn more about the brain, it is becoming clear that all activities relating to literacy and language are directly connected to auditory processing and memory skills.
Although dyslexia has strong evidence of being hereditary, children with dyslexia may have had ear infections as a young child or experienced other auditory problems that have caused them to miss out on learning essential auditory processing skills. Children may also have poor short-term memory or memory recall skills, which inhibit their ability to remember and recall letters and words.
Children with dyslexia need to develop their auditory processing and memory skills to be able to start learning to read.
Due to the lack of auditory processing skills, children with dyslexia have poor phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear the sounds that letters make, match letter sounds to written letters and read and write words by sounding them out.
Although some people disagree because of the time it takes, it is generally believed that the best way to teach children with dyslexia to read is with a highly structured, systematic phonics program that teaches letter name and sound recognition. The program must also be multisensory in order to give children with dyslexia the best chance of creating lasting changes in the brain by engaging all senses and learning styles.
Although the progress shown in children with dyslexia is slow, improvements will be made with consistent practise. The key to success for these children is frequent short sessions with lots of repetition. Ten minutes of phonics practise each morning and afternoon will be more effective than one hour, one to three times a week. Since the pace of learning for these children is slow, some parents feel that what they are doing is not working; however, it can take years of intervention for children with dyslexia to find success in reading. Don’t give up!
Comprehension and vocabulary
Children with dyslexia struggle with comprehension tasks. This is because they are spending so much time decoding each word that they don’t have the ability to interpret the sentence at the same time.
Help children with dyslexia to become sophisticated readers by reading to them daily and discussing the characters and events in the story. Make predictions about what might happen next and look for hidden meaning. By doing the reading for your child and focusing purely on comprehension you are helping them to develop the skills to understand how to interpret texts.
Reading to children also helps to develop vocabulary. Discuss the meaning of unfamiliar words and think of other sentences you could use the word in. Helping a child with dyslexia to develop their vocabulary is important. When a child is reading and comes across an unfamiliar word, they have no clues to help them decode it and must rely on their phonological skills. If they have some knowledge of the word, this will work as a prompt when they are attempting to sound out words.
Parents and schools working together
Children with dyslexia need intensive, frequent, auditory, memory and phonological skill practise in order to move forwards in literacy. Thankfully, today’s schools provide children with daily, systematic literacy practise. Students who are identified to be at risk will also often receive extra support and intervention. However, it is crucial that parents also work with their children.
Children with dyslexia need constant repetition in order to gradually build neural pathways in the brain and create lasting learning. This takes time and practice. Parents should work with their children daily on simple listening, memory and phonics games. This is especially important during the weekends and school holidays when children have the tendency to forget what they have been learning because the practise stops.
Parents may feel overwhelmed by this. However, there are many programs available that provide simple activities and games that can easily be used at home. Our Comprehension and Listening Skills program and Letter Names and Sounds program are just one example of a simple, multisensory program. Parents can also speak to their child’s teacher and get advice on what they can do at home.
Encouraging confidence and persistence
Children with dyslexia will avoid reading and writing because it is difficult, and it doesn’t make them feel good. It is extremely important to help kids with dyslexia to identify their successes and enjoy learning to read. A multisensory approach with games is the best option as kids often don’t realise they are learning and simply enjoy the experience. Don’t chastise children for struggling or seeming not to pay attention. This will only make children less inclined to want to learn to read.
Children struggling to read need a confidence boost, so treat the time you spend with them on literacy skills as a special, fun time for the two of you. Celebrate every one of their successes no matter how small and encourage a love of reading by reading lots of different books to your child.
- Children with dyslexia often have poor auditory processing and memory skills. These skills need to be developed.
- Children with dyslexia need to be provided with a highly structured, systematic phonics programthat teaches letter name and sound recognition.
- Improvements in reading can be very slow. Frequent, short sessions of practise with lots of repetition is recommended.
- Read to children with dyslexia daily and discuss vocabulary, characters and events in the story to help develop comprehension and vocabulary.
- Parents must work with their children daily, on simple comprehension, listening and letter name and sound recognition skills. This is especially important in the school holidays.
- Celebrate your child’s successes.
- Don’t give up!