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Jul 03, 2024

Dyslexia: Effective Teaching Strategies & Tips

Around 15-20% of the population have dyslexia. However, multisensory teaching is proven to be an effective path to overcoming the challenges associated with dyslexia.
Check out these awesome strategies that make you the hero in your child's reading journey!

A Common Roadblock

Does your child struggle with learning due to dyslexia? It is estimated that around 15-20% of the population have dyslexia, meaning you are not alone. There is a way for your child to experience success and love learning!

Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development have shown that for children who have difficulties learning to read, a multisensory teaching method is the most effective approach. This is especially crucial for children with dyslexia.

A graphic illustration showing dyslexic spellings of the word cat.

What This Means

For many children with dyslexia, traditional teaching methods that rely heavily on auditory instruction and occasional visual instruction, reading can be quite the challenge. However, dyslexia is not an inability to learn to read; unfortunately, often the label of dyslexia provides more harm than help.

A graph showing the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modalities.

If we look outside the traditional learning strategies, we are able to find other methods that resonate with children who face challenges due to dyslexia. Using a multisensory teaching approach means using materials that engage more than one sense. In using a multisensory approach, you provide opportunities for a child with dyslexia to utilize modalities that align with their learning strengths. For example, if a child struggles with recognizing plain text, a multisensory flash card, such as SnapWords®, will tap into their strengths, paving the way to the goal of plain text recognition.

When a child is able to lean into their learning strengths, they will experience both short-term and long-term success while strengthening their less dominant modalities at the same time. Providing a child the ability to learn in a way that naturally makes sense to them can open so many doors. Let's take a look at some strategies and tips you can start using today to help your learner overcome their challenges!

A girl thinking about the word take.

Strategies & Tips

The following strategies and tips are engaging and effective ways to help your child achieve new levels in their learning journey! 

Incorporate Visual Elements

Embedding new material into images can supercharge young students’ abilities to understand and recall that new content. They can store the images associated with the new material into their visual memories as quickly as you can snap a picture with a camera. A recent study showed using a picture-embedded method for teaching developing readers’ sight words produced stronger performances than text-only methods. According to the study, picture-embedded methods are effective for both typically developing readers and those with more diverse needs. Children with dyslexia love visual aids, so the embedded picture provides a win-win solution. Learning and recall get a boost, and the kids enjoy the process, associating learning to read with a positive experience.

Involve Body Movement

Girl making cat ears with her hands.

Children with dyslexia learn more easily through hands-on activities. To work through math problems successfully, they often depend on manipulatives–objects they can move rather than using just pencil and paper. When dyslexic learners can experience a concept or word physically, they can better understand that concept. Simply giving them facts or rules to memorize will likely leave them more frustrated than educated. The same principle applies to learning words; lean into your developing readers’ natural learning style. Lead them toward more successful, confidence-building learning by giving them the opportunity to “act out” a word or “move as the word moves.”  

Use an Explicit, Systematic Approach

Learners can ultimately make connections for themselves, but developing readers and math students need direct instruction showing them how to make those connections. For example, emerging readers need to be shown how the word “apple” connects to an actual fruit or to connect the short “a” sound to other important words, and what those words represent in their world (i.e. “daddy,” “ask,” or their pet named “Happy”). 

Read Out Loud

Toobaloo

Children with dyslexia can see remarkable benefits from listening to themselves read aloud. Using an auditory amplification device, such as the Toobaloo®, enhances the learners’ ability to hear themselves create and simultaneously listen to letter and word sounds. For children with dyslexia, this multisensory approach and auditory emphasis allows the opportunity to pair visual signals with their corresponding sounds, and gives children who stutter a low-risk chance to practice speaking and pronunciation.

Teach Visualization

If a child struggles with reading, chances are their entire focus is on trying to decode or “sound out” words. When decoding becomes a child's focus, the idea that words carry meaning tends to escape them. They assume "reading" just means calling out words. In 1997, literacy researchers and experts Keene and Zimmerman concluded, “Proficient readers spontaneously and purposely create mental images while and after they read.” Their conclusion continues to inform reading instruction. It is so important to teach children to stop every few lines to visualize a mental picture of what the words on the page actually mean. Learning to visualize might be slow-going at first, but as you continue to take your child through this practice, visualization will become an automatic process. Try our Teaching Visualization activity to help with reading comprehension.

Teach From Whole to Part

Children with dyslexia, as well as many other learners, need to understand the global view and to see the end product before they can understand how the parts of that global whole work. Think of your approach to assembling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. You might need to see the completed picture on the box cover before you start sorting pieces and putting them together. 

In math, showing the children a global view of the combination of numbers that add up to 10 will make it much easier for them to learn the individual combinations.

For a developing reader, they need to understand the reason behind learning little pieces of words; teaching whole words along with explicit phonics is important because most right-brain dominant learners do not successfully memorize and utilize those little word fragments. They will be more successful if they are given the whole word used in a sentence that means something, and then the words are broken down into their sound spellings. 

List of eight ways to sound out long A.

First, introduce basic sounds; one easy way to do this is through well-known nursery rhymes in which learners hear and see the sounds repeated. As students progress, show them the different ways you can spell each sound (i.e. long A has 8 different spellings), providing a global frame of reference that will help them to better understand the many individual words that include that sound. Then, move to teaching whole words with multisensory flash cards, such as SnapWords®. After children can recognize whole words, it is easier for them to recognize the sounds within them and break those words apart into their phonemes (sounds). Through this process, children will develop “detection skills” and recognize words related by sound spelling. Try our Teaching From Whole to Part Math and Reading activities.

 

Conclusion

Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of a multisensory approach to teaching, especially for children with dyslexia. Here at Child1st, we have heard from many parents and teachers about the success they have witnessed when their students discover their strengths, have confidence in their abilities, and experience a love for learning!

Start your student on their multisensory journey today!

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