With dyslexia being estimated as occurring in 1 out of 5 students in a typical classroom, you might be looking for some effective dyslexia interventions and programs.
Before explaining strategies you can use to help dyslexic students, you should really understand dyslexia. It is a language-based learning disability that will require a multisensory, structured language approach. This article from the International Dyslexia Association is a great starting point.
If you have a student or child with dyslexia, you will likely notice some of the following:
- difficulty with reading comprehension
- difficulty decoding words
- poor memory
- difficulty with spelling
- difficulty with expressive language
- poor handwriting
- difficulty with math facts and operations
- average to high level of intelligence
- gifted in other areas
As you can see, the effects can manifest in a variety of ways and at different severities. The good thing is that using a multisensory, structured approach to teaching reading and writing works for ALL struggling readers.
As an experienced dyslexia tutor and special education teacher, I have received specialized training to teach students with dyslexia using multisensory and structured programs. There are several strategies and methods these programs use that you can use along with your current curriculum.
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Have a structured approach which provides extensive practice using controlled texts.
This means teaching things in an order that builds on previously learned material. You would think that all curricula already do this but if you examine them they do not.
Students with dyslexia need to learn new sounds/phonograms and spelling patterns one at a time. You cannot teach the long /o/ sound by including o-e, oa, oe, and ow at the same time. That is too confusing for dyslexic students. You can only do one at a time. Then, you can continue to practice by making sure future texts include the exact sounds already learned, and nothing that has not been explicitly taught. That is the part that is the most difficult to control.
I have seen many early learning texts which will say they focus on a certain sound, for example, short /a/. But when you start to read, you find other vowel sounds and complex multi-syllabic words that an early reader has not learned yet. Using controlled texts is critical to reading success.
Use multisensory methods to explicitly teach new content.
This goes for letters, sounds, spelling patterns, grammar, even math. It’s easier with phonics to make things multisensory but you can find ways to integrate multiple senses into any activity.
Some ideas include:
- color coding & highlighting
- using movement
- using songs and music
- textured writing
- learning games
It is important to present new ideas in ways that use multiple senses, as this is the most effective way for students with dyslexia to learn new material. This post explains multisensory teaching and provides many examples.
Work on phonemic awareness.
Most dyslexics have a severe deficit in phonemic awareness. I have a post all about phonemic awareness activities for struggling readers that’s full of multisensory ideas.
Even if the student is in high school, if they are having trouble decoding words at all then you need to go back and work on phonemic awareness skills.
Download my free Elkonin box template which can be used in many ways to practice phonemic awareness.
Teach spelling patterns and syllables.
But remember to teach each one in isolation and provide extensive practice.
Most students naturally acquire these rules but struggling readers need to be explicitly taught. This falls under the phonemic awareness umbrella but is so important I wanted to include it on its own. Again, see this phonemic awareness post for ideas.
Provide a tracking aide.
For students who make errors while reading like omitting and skipping words or substituting words, or for those who get lost while reading, provide a tracking aide.
I try to get my students into the habit of using their finger or pencil as they read. It really makes a significant difference as they don’t lose their place and are forced to focus on the word they’re pointing to.
It also helps them self-correct. They can often notice their own mistakes as the word they produce will not match what they’re pointing to.
For students who resist using their pencils or fingers, I give them a large index card or reading guide. For students who need a little more encouragement or younger students, a decorated popsicle stick works really well. Anything that gets them to focus that they can use to track their reading will work.
Use audiobooks to teach reading comprehension when using books above their reading level.
I always recommend this to parents when students are required to read a certain book that is above their actual reading level. This is usually the case with novels the whole class reads together.
Just because they are listening to the book doesn’t mean they aren’t gaining any reading skills. Just be sure they are pointing as they read and focus on comprehension skills instead of phonics. You can’t teach a student how to read using a text above their reading level anyway. And comprehension skills can be taught without ever reading a word.
Teach them how to visualize.
Since students with dyslexia will often struggle with comprehension, improving their ability to visualize is the best way to increase their comprehension.
This needs to be explicitly taught and will take some time and lots of practice. Check out this post to see how I teach visualization to struggling readers which can improve their comprehension across all subjects.
Dyslexia Teaching Resources
Check out the following websites for dyslexia teaching resources:
- The International Dyslexia Association
- Florida Center for Reading Research
- Reading Rockets Dyslexia Resources
- Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
I also strongly recommend the following books:
Programs that have been designed using a multisensory, structured language approach include Orton-Gillingham, Barton, Wilson, Lindamood-Bell, Logic of English, Reading Horizons, and All About Reading. These vary in cost and user-friendliness.
There are other resources that were created using these strategies that can be used to supplement any curriculum, such as Blast Off to Reading and Explode the Code. Alternatively, you could search for Orton-Gillingham resources on Teachers Pay Teachers to supplement any curriculum with multisensory activities, like the products I have created.
Some of the programs mentioned above provide training and certification to use their programs effectively. Most are expensive and some have requirements but the training is so amazing it is worth it. I will link below to some of the options available.
- Institute for Multi-sensory Education
- Center for Effective Reading Research
- Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes
- Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators
If you’re looking for more tips on teaching struggling readers, check out these other posts:
- Multisensory Spelling Strategy
- Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers – Elkonin Boxes
- Multisensory Strategies for B & D Reversals
- Systematic Synthetic Phonics for Struggling Readers
- How to Implement Multisensory Learning
- Phonemic Awareness Strategies & Activities for Struggling Readers