1. Use verbal instructions alongside written ones
Those with dyslexia often fall behind in classwork because they take much longer to read written instructions. Rather than spending their time learning by completing the actual assignment, they can become stuck and frustrated before they even get started. You can help your child avoid this by reading instructions or checking in frequently to help them decode the instructions, depending on their reading level.
2. Use a spell-checker
Many English words have confusing spelling that is impossible to predict. This can be due to unpredictable word endings and sight words, among other factors. Therefore, using a spell-checker can be highly beneficial for dyslexic learners. Spell checkers are used in dyslexia-based spelling programs such as the Barton System and can also be used in a home environment. They are intended only to check for unpredictable spelling, not as a replacement for spelling rules and phonemic awareness.
3. Use a word frame or ruler for reading
Dense text is challenging for dyslexic people to decode, so breaking apart words, letters, and sounds is vital in dyslexic learning. One way to keep a dyslexic learner focused on one line or phrase at a time is by using a word frame or ruler. Word frames can be a quick DIY project using only an index card and scissors. Simply cut out a rectangle the size of your child’s text in the middle of your index card. The index card can now be placed over text to isolate one word or parts of a word. Using a ruler has a similar effect but instead helps to separate one line of text by holding it under each text line as the reader moves down the page.
4. Block out distracting noise/create a non-distracting work environment
Dyslexia causes difficulty with phonemic awareness, so learning with minimal audible distractions is essential. Keep your home calm and quiet when your child works on homework or practices reading/spelling. This will encourage them to practice phonemic awareness and limit sound confusion or distraction.
5. Celebrate small victories
Living with a learning disability is a frustrating experience that can lower a child’s self-esteem without proper support. Children with learning disabilities often see their peers surpass them quickly regarding skills they struggle with due to their disability. This makes it all the more meaningful to celebrate small victories at home. Ensuring your child’s effort is rewarded can take many forms depending on their needs. The main goal is for your child to continue feeling motivated and optimistic about their reading skill development.
6. Use Mnemonic devices (i.e., pigs or balloons)
Mnemonic devices are memorization methods that work for anyone and can be especially helpful to those with dyslexia. You’ve likely already used a mnemonic device yourself. Some examples of mnemonic devices for reading and spelling include acronyms and acrostics, songs and rhymes, and associations between a word/sound and an object or image.
7. Use a text-to-speech device
Technological advancement has allowed many people with disabilities to be accommodated in improved ways, including those with dyslexia. Text-to-speech tools are one of these advancements, which are fortunately widely accessible. Programs such as Speechify are available for your internet browser and smartphone and can vocalize your documents, PDFs, and images through your phone camera. Text-to-speech could be incredibly helpful for your child’s time management and information processing, making their day-to-day reading activities less frustrating. Text-to-speech is not a replacement for reading and spelling learning but instead an aid for their everyday life.
8. Provide examples of sight/difficult words around your home
Repetition is the key to mastering sight words. If your child struggles with their sight words even with practice during lessons, it may be beneficial to display their problem words around your home or integrate the use of them into your home routines. This can include posting flashcards of words on bulletin boards or busy areas of your home. Certain words could also be published in a location relevant to their meaning, which also creates a level of association with the word and improves memory retention (i.e., “front” posted at the front door or “month” on a calendar).
9. Prep for school lessons
Trying to keep up in class with non-dyslexic peers can cause significant stress for dyslexic learners. Reading out loud in class, reading instructions slower than classmates, and not understanding how to pronounce new vocabulary words can all create anxiety for dyslexic learners. To address this issue, it is beneficial to communicate with your child’s teacher about lessons ahead of time. By knowing what assignments are coming up in your child’s class, you and your child can practice reading the new vocabulary and reduce their anxiety about upcoming classes since they already have some understanding of the material.
10. Practice sentence starters for written responses
Written responses are incredibly nerve-wracking for dyslexic learners. Because spelling is already tricky for dyslexics and phonemic awareness poses an extra challenge, coming up with an answer on the spot can be nerve-wracking. To alleviate the anxiety, prepare “sentence starters” with your child. Practicing ways to begin written response sentences can take much of the pressure off dyslexic students and allow them to focus on the crucial parts of their responses. Starters to practice can include “My opinion is that…”, “For example…”, “Firstly/Finally,” and other similar age-appropriate phrases.