Thinking about Dyslexia and learning
Reading is a skill that many of us take for granted – as well as being the path for young people to experience the joy of books as a way to relax, stretch their imagination and extend their knowledge, vocabulary and understanding of the world. But for people with dyslexia, reading and writing can be a major struggle, which can cause almost as much frustration and anxiety for parents as for young people trying to deal with the problem.
Rather than simply being a matter of finding it harder to take in words or writing them on a page, dyslexia is now often thought of as information processing. Those with dyslexia may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, and it is this that can affect learning and mastering literary skills. It can also impact on the broader ability to organise things.
Far from being a rare problem, however, the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) believes up to 10% of people in the UK may experience a still poorly understood neurological condition to some degree. And while dyslexia can undeniably present significant challenges, the BDA is not alone in stressing that there can be genuine benefits in life for those who see the world differently – as evidenced by the many people who have taken dyslexia in their stride to go on and achieve success in science, myriad practical disciplines and a host of creative fields.
For many parents, the difficulties faced by a child with dyslexia can also bring on a sense of helplessness – or become a battleground between parents and a child struggling with homework. As well as impacting on a child’s overall well-being, dyslexia can trigger anxiety and lower confidence in children and young adults who may not be able to stop themselves from comparing their literacy skills to their peers. Then there may be worries about the potential impact on life after school.
Thankfully, there is a range of different ways that parents can help their child with dyslexia at home, especially when teaming up with a specialist dyslexia tutor to develop the right plan for your child. This is important as every child’s experience of dyslexia is distinct to them in both its nature and severity. Approaches may also need to be tailor-made to consider any other learning differences a child may have alongside dyslexia.
The difference a tutor can make to your child or young adult with Dyslexia
You may have already tried various ideas to help your child with their spelling, phonics, reading and writing challenges – but hit hurdles along the way which you have found difficult to overcome. When parents come to us, they often mention that, though they wish to provide the best support they can, they acknowledge lacking the in-depth knowledge and skills a specialist tutor can provide.
The benefits of a personalised tutoring plan
Given that every child’s dyslexia is as distinctive as they are, there are huge benefits to drawing on a tailormade programme developed by a highly experienced specialist tutor to get your child back on the right track with their literacy and processing skills.
This will normally depend on the age of your child, how much support your child is receiving at school and if they are also receiving support at home. From our experience, children and parents/carers will very quickly realise the benefits of the private support and the difference the sessions can make. Once any specific targets are met, most families will continue the support as they are keen to ensure their child is progressing in other areas to fulfil their potential.
Yes, many parents ask the tutor to help the child with their homework as this means that they are able to introduce and teach specific strategies at the same time as completing homework.
This will likely depend on the age of your child and how much homework they receive from school. Sessions, however, can be planned in accordance with your child’s specific needs and can enhance any teaching that they receive from school.
Yes, many private dyslexia tutors also work during the weekends. Please view the platform here.
You may wish to inform the school that you are considering external support, and ask if they would like to collaborate
All the tutor’s profiles are available here. We suggest that you read through the profile together with your child, and perhaps also ask them if they would like to be part of the interview process. You can arrange a video call with your tutor before the session so that they can start to develop a relationship. We suggest that you let your tutor know about your child’s hobbies and interests, so that they can interweave any reading and writing into the sessions in a more enjoyable way.
Depending on your child’s specific needs, you may wish to consider extra support for example to help their: working memory/processing, executive functioning skills or general wellbeing. If they are struggling with fine-motor skills, you may also wish to consider occupational therapy or talk to the school about touch-typing.
Many parents request intensive sessions during the holidays to help their child prepare for the new term or half-term. All parents have provided fantastic feedback to indicate that the sessions have been very beneficial for their child. Please read about holiday sessions here and please read some of our reviews here.
Select a tutor – Book an initial and subsequent sessions – Boost your child’s confidence and self- esteem – Help unlock and fulfil their potential –
Happy child = happy parents!
Linda is one of our specialist qualified dyslexia tutors and has over 30 years’ teaching experience. She has a Postgraduate Certificate in Literacy Difficulties (Dyslexia) and has published papers in the British Journal of Disorders of Communication and the British Journal of Educational Studies. She explains the approach she uses for SENsational Tutors to help students with dyslexia and SEN.
“The structured teaching of Phonics is central to Literacy teaching, and Early Years and Key Stage 1 classes focus heavily on teaching the skills of decoding (sounding out) and encoding (spelling.) These skills are typically very weak in pupils with Dyslexia, which is why most specialist approaches to teach pupils with literacy difficulties involve very structured, step-by-step phonics programmes
“My approach to teaching a child with dyslexia is to make reading and writing a pleasant experience, so that they are motivated to persevere to overcome their barriers with written words. In addition, getting meaning from what they are reading, and making their writing something that others can understand, are always at the heart of teaching literacy.”
“As well as periods spent teaching in schools and special units in London and New York, I have spent twenty years in a London borough leading teams advising mainstream schools on meeting the needs of pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Moderate Learning Difficulties and Disabilities, and Downs Syndrome. This role has involved thoroughly identifying the specific needs of individual pupils, and problem-solving in order to meet those needs. Finding fun and creative ways to overcome barriers to children’s learning is what makes SEN teaching the most stimulating and rewarding job there can be.”
Read our blogs about Dyslexia
How do I help my child with dyslexia at home?
“As a parent, it is important to reinforce your child’s learning of phonics using activities that are consistent with those used by the specialist tutor. Trying something different might be confusing and counter-productive” explains Linda.
Here are some ideas for activities for parents to make reading and spelling enjoyable, meaningful and successful for children with dyslexia:
For all children struggling with literacy:
For children at the very early stages of literacy:
When reading a story, have your child try to find all the examples of a target letter in a page, or paragraph.
To help them do this, you can have them colour/highlight that letter. Then read through the whole page, stopping at each identified word, and emphasising the target letter sound as you read it.
Play multisensory games to practice recognising letters and their sounds, or simple high-frequency words. Games that involve jumping around are often the most effective, as well as the most fun (see blog for specific ideas).
For older children with some literacy skills:
Don’t be too concerned about reading accuracy when mistakes don’t change the meaning of the sentence. This is because pointing out minor errors can undermine a child’s confidence, and may often then lead to more errors being made.
When your child comes across an unfamiliar word, it is not always necessary to sound out every letter. If they use context cues, they can often work out what even a multisyllabic word says from the first three or four letters, by thinking what would make sense in that sentence e.g. “Mum was ill so she went to the hosp…“
Reverse roles. So you read to your child, but deliberately make some mistakes for them to correct you. Be sure to make deliberate mistakes fairly obvious, though!
With written work, where there are spelling mistakes, give credit for the parts of the word that are spelled correctly, even if it’s just the initial letter. It may be just a little part of the word is misspelled
We all know how central reading and writing skills are to the school curriculum and life in general. But they should also be shared as a source of great pleasure – the more enjoyment children get from reading and writing tasks, the better their progress is likely to be.