Teacher's Guide to Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that affects the normal development of literacy related skills, in particular the skills required for fluent and accurate reading and spelling. Most children with dyslexia have difficulties with phonological awareness, and they may also have verbal memory and verbal processing speed difficulties.

Around 10 – 20% of the population have dyslexia, mostly undiagnosed. So there are probably 3 – 6 children in your class with dyslexia.

Children with dyslexia have difficulties with some or all of the following: reading, writing, spelling, punctuation, grammar and handwriting. They may also have problems with slow processing, poor working memory, organisation and planning.

The most likely reason why children in your class are struggling with reading is due to dyslexia or an eye tracking problem. Failing the UK Year 1 phonics check is a red flag for dyslexia.

Most children learn to read through reading. Once you’ve taught them a bit they connect the dots and teach themselves the rest. However children with dyslexia generally need to be taught more explicitly.

Prerequisite Skills Needed to Read

Before a child can learn to read using phonics they need good phonological awareness. They need to be able to hear that a word is made up of different sounds. Phonological awareness is taught in nursery though games like I Spy and nursery rhymes. However a child with dyslexia will need more practice than this and it should continue to be taught until they display a good understanding.

Reading Unlocked and Fluency Builder are effective, evidence-based, online reading programs that have a strong emphasis on phonological awareness.

In order to learn to read, children need to be able to focus both eyes on the same letter and track across the page. Children with this difficulty may reverse b's and d's, skips words and lines when they read, see double, or the words appear to move.

Their eyes need to work together efficiently, before they can track smoothly across the page. Engaging Eyes is an online vision training program, that trains children's eye muscles, making reading easier and quicker.

If a child does not have good phonological awareness and eye tracking, learning to read will be challenging. Our programs have been designed to address both of these problems in a fun, easy-to-use, online intervention.

Reading Interventions

The best way to teach any child to read is through a phonics program – however the above pre reading skills are needed first.

1:1 interventions that take 10 or 20 minutes a day are usually more effective than small group interventions. 10 or 20 minutes a day is also better than an hour once a week.

In English, you need to know how to pronounce a word in order to read it. Phonics alone isn’t enough.

For children who struggle to learn via phonics (i.e. very many dyslexics) the answer is not to teach them to read via sight words – but instead to improve their phonological awareness so that they can learn via phonics.

Teaching Spelling

English has evolved, from many languages, over many centuries, and is therefore irregular and inconsistent. That why it is it problematic to teach spelling rules.

Teaching children to sound out words, and then write each sound, is far from the whole story of what you need to know to be a good speller.

People may judge you harshly if you spell simple words wrong, but no one expects you to be able to spell every word in English. It’s just not possible. If you can spell the most frequently used 300 words, you won't look like a dreadful speller.

Spelling Tutor teaches the 1,000 most frequently used words via spaced repetition.

Co-Occurring Difficulties

A large proportion of children with dyslexia also have other neuro-developmental difficulties.

A pupil with Dyslexia may also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or ADHD), having difficulty with sustaining focus and attention.

They may also have Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also called Dyspraxia, where they have difficulties with fine or gross motor coordination, spatial awareness and coordination.

A pupil with Dyslexia may also have Dyscalculia or Dysgraphia.

While some dyslexics are very articulate, some also have word finding problems which makes it hard for them to tell you what they’ve learnt.

Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, DCD, ADHD and language problems, are not just a part of having Dyslexia and should be investigated separately.