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Students with dyslexia experience varying degrees of difficulty with reading, spelling and listening. This is commonly thought to be due to differences in brain development, but it is also influenced by the type of instruction that a dyslexic student receives.

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Students with dyslexia in the classroom

Dyslexic students are often very intelligent, but learning is impeded by the affliction. Teachers who have students with dyslexia in the classroom can have an enormous positive influence on the educational success of dyslexic students.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder or disability. It has a neurological origin, which means that the problem stems from the brain. Dyslexia is characterized by symptoms such as poor spelling, the inability to focus and being unable to recognize words and/or letters. The resulting consequences include trouble with reading comprehension and an unsatisfactory reading experience that severely impacts the person’s ability to learn and/or retain information.

Dyslexia can also prevent or impede the normal expansion of vocabulary over time.

What causes dyslexia?

It is not exactly known what the specific cause of dyslexia is. However, research involving brain imagery has revealed striking differences in the way a dyslexic person develops and functions compared to a person who does not exhibit dyslexic symptoms.

Further, demographic and geographic differences do not impact the prevalence of dyslexia. People from all kinds of backgrounds and intelligence levels have been known to have dyslexia. However, it has been discovered that dyslexia has a tendency to run in families, indicating that there could be some hereditary factors involved.

It’s very important to recognize that the existence of dyslexia has no bearing on the intelligence level of the person. In fact, dyslexic people can be very intelligent. Successful people with dyslexia work in a wide range of challenging industries including science, mathematics, mechanics, physics, entertainment and sports.

What are the challenges of dyslexic students?

The impact of dyslexia on students can range according to the individual, the severity of the dyslexia and how well the student has learnt to cope with their condition. Some of the challenges that dyslexic students have revolve around retaining information that is spoken, being able to express themselves in an eloquent manner, being able to read fluently and being able to comprehend things that have just been read.

In addition, dyslexic students may be easily distracted by extraneous stimuli or have trouble concentrating on the task at hand.

Signs and symptoms of dyslexia

Teachers can be very helpful in identifying signs and symptoms of dyslexia in students. This information can be used to help parents and doctors in identifying the areas in which the student is struggling.

Some of the typical signs and symptoms of dyslexia include:
  • Difficulty with simple counting
  • Difficulty rhyming simple words, such as cat and fat
  • Trouble recognizing words that all begin with the same letter
  • Difficulty pronouncing words or numbers
  • Inability to clap in time to a song
  • Difficulty coming up with the right word to describe something
  • Difficulty following spoken directions
  • Trouble with short term memory recall

Accommodations involving learning materials

Materials are a large part of the learning environment. Students interact with learning materials for a generous portion of the school day. However, the vast majority of instructional materials offer little flexibility for teachers to engage a classroom of students with varying degrees of learning aptitudes; much less the ability to teach to students with dyslexia.

By making some simple accommodations involving learning materials, teachers can make learning easier for everyone, including students with dyslexia.

Highlight or condense written instructions

Many learning materials have a paragraph or more of written instructions, which can intimidate or confuse dyslexic students. When this occurs, teachers can physically highlight or underline the pertinent points, or even rewrite the written instructions into a condensed form.

Break work down Into manageable bites

Workbooks that contain an entire semester’s workload are often used in the classroom. This can be intimidating to students with dyslexia. Teachers can help not passing out the workbooks. Instead, make 3-ring binders or folders for each student. Tear out the relevant workbook sheets so students are faced with just one sheet of paper instead of an entire workbook. As students hand in work, the sheets go back into the binder or folder. This reduces stress and anxiety for the dyslexic students and helps to keep them from becoming discouraged.

Highlight important information

If a book is assigned for reading, the dyslexic student may feel like it will be impossible to read and retain. The teacher of students with dyslexia in the classroom can help by going through the book and highlighting paragraphs or chapters that contain only the essential information that the student needs to absorb.

Block out stimuli

Dyslexic students are easily distracted by stimuli, which prevents them from concentrating as they should. Teachers can help by blocking out stimuli on worksheets and other learning materials, either by taping a sheet of white paper over extraneous images and text or by cutting off those sections entirely with scissors.

Accommodations involving instruction

The challenge for a teacher of one or more students with dyslexia is getting and keeping their attention during classroom instruction. Likewise, verbal instruction is difficult for the dyslexic student to grasp. Here are some ways that teachers can bridge the gap.

Simplify instructions

When speaking instructions to the classroom, use abbreviated sentences that are instructional and straight to the point. For example, instead of saying, “Okay, class, now we’re going to begin studying history, so I need you to take out your history books and open them to page 121,” you could say, “Please take out your history books. Place them on your desk. Open the book to page 121.”

Short sentences like these are much easier for dyslexic students to follow.

Repeat instructions

Dyslexic students are easily overwhelmed by instructions; especially if they think they are the only student who doesn’t understand them. Teachers with dyslexic students can help by repeating instructions. Try to state the instructions slightly slower the second time. Another strategy to try is to have the students repeat the instructions back to the teacher. Stating the instructions aloud helps students to remember them.

Maintain routines

Dyslexic students often experience frustration; particularly if they were expecting one thing to happen and then something different occurred. Teachers can help students with dyslexia avoid this frustration by maintaining daily routines. This introduces reliable structure into the classroom environment that dyslexic students can cling to.

Write key points on the chalkboard or whiteboard

Another common source of frustration for dyslexic students is feeling like they are missing the point of the lesson. Teachers can help with this by writing key points and takeaways on the whiteboard or chalkboard before the lesson begins. This helps dyslexic students to listen for when those key points are mentioned as well as to refer back to them as they try to memorize.

As stated, teachers play an integral role in helping students with dyslexia to succeed in the classroom. The influence of the teachers’ method, strategy and even patience will go a long way toward helping the dyslexic students feel less frustration and more dignity and confidence in the learning environment. Teaching students with dyslexia often requires the use of specialized teaching materials.