Teaching Children With Dyslexia

What Accommodations Should My Child Have at School?

As a dyslexic specialist and someone who knows a great deal about teaching children with dyslexia, I see on a daily basis the struggles these students face in the mainstream classroom. What can be written in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) varies from state to state, and, often, dyslexia is not even addressed. Sometimes, if you approach it as a reading disability or a processing disorder, the schools may be more willing to work with you. You have the right as parents to discuss with your children's teachers certain accommodations that will help your children perform better and allow them to measure a more-accurate assessment of their knowledge and intelligence. You may take this list in to your children's schools and/or teachers and discuss with them what they would be willing to do to help your children.

These are the accommodations I suggest for teaching children with dyslexia while they are at school. Please read over them with your children and make your children's teachers and/or aides aware:

  • Additional time on tests may be needed to process the information. Often, students may need the directions or questions read to them. If writing is a severe struggle, they should be allowed the option to give their answers to their tests orally.
  • Spelling tests should have a common phonetic skill and should be no more than 10 words a time.
  • It is important to remember that until dyslexic readers achieve fluency, they will increase their comprehension when they have more time to read. Please allow for additional processing time.
  • Dyslexic students' route to learning is through meaning; meaning provides a framework for remembering. More than for others, they must fully understand the topic; rote memory does not work well for them. Focus on concepts and real-life examples and experiences, and provide many opportunities for practice. Teach ideas first, then establish categories for different groups of facts, and point out connections within and between categories (like a three-part essay.)
  • Far and away, the most critical accommodation for dyslexic readers is the provision of extra time. They also benefit from a quiet environment.
  • Students should never have to copy notes or outlines from the board or overhead projections. They should be provided with a written copy, or teachers should allow someone to take notes for them. This allows students the ability to focus on processing the information instead of laboring to write it and losing the intent and meaning.
  • All directions should be two steps or fewer. Give them one thing to do, let them complete that task, and then give them the next task. They will get confused and frustrated with a long list of “to dos” or directions.

Here are some additional helps for teaching children with dyslexia:

  • Obtain books on tape or in digitized form.
  • Preview reading materials to identify words you can’t pronounce. Obtain a pocket dictionary, and take it with you everywhere.
  • Talk through the material with your teachers or tutors on a one-to-one basis. This usually works best after you have read the required pages.
  • Avoid multiple-choice tests; instead, request tests that are based on short essay. Multiple-choice tests do not provide enough context to help you get to the meaning of difficult-to-decode words.
  • Avoid speed-reading classes.
  • Obtain a waiver from foreign-language requirements.
  • Visualize the material.
  • Do not allow language problems to influence performance in other academic areas.
  • Handwriting is often laborious and barely legible, so you can get a laptop computer, borrow someone else’s lecture notes, record lectures, and record your own essays. Your written work should be graded on content rather than on form, especially spelling.
  • Give prepared, short oral reports rather than instant oral responses in class.
  • Phonologic slips should not be mistakenly interpreted as a lack of knowledge.
  • Learning is a top-down approach, going from meaning to facts; select courses in which the emphasis is on concepts, not details.
  • Focus on strengths, and remember how amazing you are!

Read more about reading programs that will help you continue teaching children with dyslexia.