Dyslexic children are often auditory and kinesthetic learners. They learn best by hearing and by doing. Hands on, concrete activities are the best for reading spelling, writing and maths.Writing on buff or coloured paper is often better than white, because it reduces the glare and enables them to concentrate better.
Play dough or modelling clay is great for little children to form letters, words and to correct reversals in numbers and in letters. Words made of play dough should always have a model of the word beside them. Eg. tree should have a tree made of play dough beside it, as that enables the child to visualise and relate the word to the picture. It gives meaning to symbols.
Writing in sand and finger painting letters and words is also helpful. Cutting out big letters and making words with them helps children to learn more quickly and efficiently than writing them out ten times.
Using scrabble tiles, or magnetic tiles to make words can be helpful. Mind mapping is a great way to connect or associate words of similar word patterns or sounds. Always use colour as these kids learn better using shapes and colour, than by words alone.
As children get older, writing syllables in colour, enables them to picture or visualise the words. Our aim in all this teaching is to enable the student to keep a mental picture of the words in his/her head.
Brain Gym, cross patterning activities enable these students to use both sides of the brain and therefore concentrate better and keep focus longer.
Make a book with words the child knows and put into a story with the child’s help. You can add illustrations and put it in a colourful cover. This will give the child pleasure and added confidence to be able to read a whole book unaided.
Computers are a good home tool for children to learn to spell and read. Regulate the background and ensure the screen has no reflected glare on it. Encourage the child to write a story in large font. Help with spelling words. (That could be part of the created book.)
Stories on audio tape are great for these children who can the words in a book. The Royal Institute for the Blind has books on tape and lots of aids for all ages. Orders need to be taken through the school system, so you may find a sympathetic special needs teacher. You could read a book onto tape yourself and the child could then follow it whenever he/she felt like it.
To improve comprehension, talk to the children about trips, adventures and activities and encourage them to visualise the picture. Illustrate it, write a sentence about it, dictated by the child. Make a mind map or concept map about it for older children.
To improve short term memory, play games like Memory. Play ‘I went shopping and I bought…… encouraging the child to visualise each item.
To improve oral language processing, play a game such as giving a child two or three short sentences and the aim is for the child to put them into one sentence. Then the child should give you three sentences and learn how you put them into one.
For Maths activities, beans, blocks, cutting shapes for fractions trading boards, measuring liquids or ingredients for cooking Is helpful. Anything to help the child to understand ‘why’ you are writing those numbers down helps him/her to put the problem into perspective. These students are usually top down learners, ie. they need to see the finished product before the steps or instructions and they need to ask why?
Times tables should be learnt on fingers and by finding patterns as much as possible. Eg 2.4,6,8,10 is the only pattern to learn when counting by twos. Learning three times tables is easy on hands because there are three spaces on each finger.
Days in months of the year, learnt on knuckles, is the easiest method. The knuckles have 31 days and the valleys except for February all have 30 days.
Encourage children to read written problems a sentence at a time and to draw a diagram building it up as they go. Eventually they will understand what is required of them.
They can process one instruction at a time, which can be increased by visualisation activities and they are distracted easily. Just remember these students can not be hurried. They need positive reinforcement. They will not process a problem as you do, so have patience and focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
Dr Gloria Thomas. lrien Dyslexia Centre.