How Dyslexics Learn to Read

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How do you teach someone to read when what they see, hear, and write differs from what other students perceive?

Back and Forth

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When you’re backing an automobile out of a garage, your visibility of opposing traffic diminishes. Also, your steering wheel is not always straight when you start the engine. So what do you do?

You backup slowly, straightening the wheel, until you can get a better view. Your driving differs in this circumstance from when moving forward with optimum visibility. People with dyslexia are figuratively backing out of garages all the way to their destination.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder which impacts a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. It results from a difference in the way a person’s brain processes language-based information.

It can cause difficulties in a variety of other areas such as math, problem solving, and understanding spoken language. So the preceding emboldened sentence might look something like this:

It’s a jumbled compilation of letters. All the normal reading instructions become ineffective. “Sound it out phonetically” and “group your words for fluency” leads to frustration for the student. Often, his grades slip, and educational opportunities diminish.

Dyslexia is not considered a mental disorder. It is a specific type of learning difficulty that affects the way a person interprets information. That said, dyslexia can still have a serious impact on a person’s learning and Language Arts skills, and it can certainly have an effect on their mental health if not properly addressed.

Read this Way

Teaching someone with dyslexia to read properly requires a specialized approach. The skills and strategies that work for one person may not work for another. Effective instruction necessitates a personalized approach.

Some techniques may include:

  • Providing contextual clues and support within text. 
  • Applying a multi-sensory approach to language learning.
  • Dividing reading material into more manageable chunks.
  • Providing extra prompting to check understanding.

The multi-sensory approach includes audio and visual feedback. By using brief sentences with shorter words, students can adapt to the unusual arrangement of alphabetical characters. Since dyslexics learn at a slower pace, they benefit from having in-class tutors or special programs for one-on-one instruction.

  • Encourage students to mark up text with colored markers, sticky notes, or anything else to help students sort, arrange, and highlight important concepts in the text.
  • Use mnemonic devices to help students with rote memorization.
  • Express praise when a student is trying hard, and offer words of encouragement when he encounters an obstacle.

There are a variety of reading resources available for dyslexic individuals. Some excellent resources include: Dyslexia Help, a free help guide for children and adults with dyslexia; Understood, an organization devoted to helping parents of children with learning and attention issues; and the National Center for Learning Disabilities, which offers research-based information and resources for people with learning disabilities.

A memento I save is a drawing of from a child with dyslexia. The art is basic, but what stands out is the way he signed his name.

Dyslexic Jonathan

Less than three years later, I showed it to him and he remarked, “I don’t write my name like that anymore.” He turned the paper over to print and sign his name in cursive. Jonathan’s mother put in tireless hours, allowing him to catapult to the head of classes. He is now a working adult.

Jonathan cursive signature

The parental role in education is important. Assist with homework and follow through on assignments from tutors. With time and patience, people with dyslexia can learn and accomplish great things.

Some notable persons with dyslexia include musician Billy Joel, actor Tom Cruise, and entrepreneur Richard Branson. Other well-known individuals include basketball star Magic Johnson, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and English actor Orlando Bloom (Legolas in The Lord of the Rings film series).

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