User Reviewed

How to Teach a Dyslexic Child

Two Methods:Modifying your Teaching MethodsImproving the Classroom Environment

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes an individual to struggle with reading and writing. It can also affect other areas of a person's life: focus, memory skills, and organization. When you understand how to teach a dyslexic child, you can help build their self-awareness as well as their cognitive skills by using teaching methods with a multi-sensory approach. This will help them not only in the classroom, but for the rest of their lives.

Method 1
Modifying your Teaching Methods

  1. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 1
    Utilize the Multi-sensory Structured Language (MSL) approach. While this method is the gold standard for teaching children with dyslexia, it is beneficial for all children. MSL teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, accuracy and fluency, and writing and spelling. Students are encouraged to use all of their senses (touch, sight, movement, and sound) as part of the learning process. [1]
    • Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, recognize, and use the individual sounds in a word.[2] A child that can identify that the words pat'', park, and "pump" all start with the same sound would be demonstrating phonemic awareness.
    • Phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds.[3] Knowing what sound the letter "B" makes or that "ph" makes the same sound as the letter "f" is an example of phonics.
    • You can receive MSL training and certification. The International Dyslexia Association [4] and the Institute for Multi-sensory Education [5] provide information about training and certification requirements.
    • Visual cues help individuals with dyslexia to understand written material. Use color on the blackboard or marker board. Write decimals in math problems in a different color. Grade in a color other than red, as red carries a universally negative connotation.
    • Write note cards. This provides something tangible for students to look at while also giving them something to hold. Having them read the note card out loud also engages their motor and auditory skills.
    • Make sand trays. Sand trays are simply tray-like containers that contain sand (or beans or shaving cream). Students can use these to spell words or draw pictures in the sand. This engages their sense of touch.
    • Incorporate fun activities into their learning time. Games and other creative activities get the dyslexic child more involved in the learning process. This makes learning more fun and rewarding, as it gives them a sense of accomplishment.
    • You can use music, songs, and chants to help students learn and remember rules.
  2. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 2
    Be direct and explicit when teaching. Explicit teaching includes describing and modeling the skill, breaking down the skill into steps, providing clear instructions and feedback throughout the process, providing examples and demonstrations, clearly stating the purpose and reasoning behind the skill., and presenting the information in a logical order.[6]This process is done until students master the skill.
    • You should not assume that student has any previous knowledge or understanding of the concept.
    • If you are using explicit teaching to teach a child about the letter "s," you would begin by clearly stating what he or she will be learning that day. You would then demonstrate the sound that the letter "s" makes and have them repeat it back to you. You would then model different words that begin with "s," and have them repeat the words out loud. You may also use songs, chants, or pictures of things that begin with the letter "s." You could ask them to think of some words that start with the letter "s." You would provide constructive feedback throughout the lesson as well.[7]
  3. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 3
    Repeat yourself often. Since dyslexic children may struggle with short-term memory, it is challenging for them to remember what you say. Repeat instructions, key words, and concepts so students are more likely to remember what you say, at least long enough to write it down.[8]
    • When building on new skills, continue to incorporate previously learned information. Repetition will help reinforce older skills and create a connection between concepts.[9]
  4. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 4
    Use diagnostic teaching. You should continually assess how well a student understands what is being taught. If something is not clear, the skill should be retaught. This is an ongoing process. Students with dyslexia often require more time and more intense instruction to learn a concept.[10]
    • If you wanted to teach children phonemic awareness, you might start by giving them some words and asking them to identify all the sounds in the words. You would note the strengths and weaknesses and then develop your lesson and teaching strategy based on the assessment.[11] As you are teaching, you would provide correction and feedback by asking the child questions and noting any progress. You may also conduct small quiz at the end of each day to monitor progress. When you feel the child has learned the skill, you would give them the original assessment and compare the results. If the child has mastered the skill, you would move on to something more difficult. If the child did not master the skill, you would continue to teach the skill.
  5. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 5
    Use time wisely. Dyslexic children often struggle with focusing. Other things may distract them, or they may have a hard time listening to a long lecture or watching a lengthy video. Dyslexic children may also struggle with short-term memory, making it difficult for them to take notes or understand simple instructions.
    • Take your time. Do not rush through a class lecture. Give students time to copy anything written on the board. Make sure dyslexic students understand you before moving on to another section.
    • Incorporate short breaks regularly. A dyslexic child often struggles to sit for long periods of time. Take short breaks throughout the day to divide long lectures. You can also move from activity to activity. For example, lecture, game, back to lecture, followed by a learning activity.
    • Use appropriate time limits. It takes dyslexic children longer to complete assignments other students may have no problem completing. Allow dyslexic students more time to take exams and quizzes and to complete homework so they do not feel rushed.
  6. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 6
    Stick to a daily routine. Schedules help dyslexic children know what to expect and what is coming up next. If possible, post your routine, using both words and images, on a classroom wall for students to refer to.[12]
    • Your daily routine should also include a daily review of previous information. This well help the students connect previous lessons to the lesson you are currently teaching.
  7. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 7
    Utilize other resources. Do not feel like you are the only teacher for a dyslexic student. There are several resources available to help dyslexic children learn. Seek out other teachers, dyslexia specialists, or tutors who have experience working with dyslexic students.[13]
    • You should also ask the child and the parents about preferences, learning styles, and the strengths and weaknesses of the student.
    • Encourage peer tutoring. Peer resources and social support are probably one of the strongest resources you can offer. Students can read aloud to each other, review notes, or conduct lab experiments together.
    • Different forms of technology are a great way to enhance learning. Games, word processors, voice activated software, and digital voice recording can all be very useful for a child with dyslexia.
  8. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 8
    Consider developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is a comprehensive plan that identifies the educational needs of the child, provides specific recommendations, and defines specific curriculum adjustments.[14] The IEP is a collaborative document to ensure that the school supports the needs of the student. This document will also make sure parents, teachers, counselors, and the school are on the same page.
    • The IEP process is long and complex, but it is worth it. If you are a parent, you should talk to someone at your child’s school about starting the process. If you are a teacher, let the parents know that you think an IEP would be helpful.
  9. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 9
    Be aware of the child’s self-esteem and emotions. Many children with dyslexia struggle with low self-esteem. They often feel that they are not as smart as other students, or they are perceived as being lazy or problem students.[15] Try to be as encouraging as possible and highlight the strengths the student has as well.

Method 2
Improving the Classroom Environment

  1. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 10
    Have the student sit close to the teacher. Placing the student near the teacher will help eliminate any distractions and allow the child to focus on their work. Sitting next to extremely talkative children or a noisy hallway may make it more difficult for them to concentrate.[16] This will also make it easier for the teacher to provide extra instruction of necessary.
  2. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 11
    Allow the use of recording devices. Tape recorders can help students overcome reading difficulties. The student can replay instructions and concepts for clarification or reinforcement. If recordings are made available before class, the student can read along as he or she listens to the tape.[17]
  3. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 12
    Provide handouts. Again, since dyslexic children struggle with short-term memory, providing them with some sort of outline as you are lecturing is helpful, especially following long lectures.[18] This well help the child follow along with the lesson, take better notes, and know what to expect. .
    • Use visual cues, such as asterisks and bullets, to highlight important directives or information.
    • Write homework instructions directly on the assignment so the child knows what is expected. It is also beneficial to allow use of reference guides such as alphabet and numbers
  4. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 13
    Use different test taking formats. Because children with dyslexia learn differently, the usual test taking formats may not allow them to demonstrate what they have learned. Children may benefit from oral testing or untimed tests.[19]
    • During an oral test, the test questions are read to the student and the student answers the questions orally. The test questions can be pre-recorded or read at the time of the test. The student’s answers could also be recorded for easier grading.
    • Students with dyslexia often have trouble working under pressure and take longer to read questions. Allowing the student ample time to take a test will ensure that student has time to understand the questions, think, and write down an answer.
    • Seeing all of the test questions at once can be overwhelming. Only allowing the student view one test question at a time will help them focus.
  5. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 14
    Decrease the amount of copying. Students with dyslexia need more time to copy information from the board, take notes from lectures, and write instructions for assignments.[20] Teachers can provide lecture notes and written instructions for assignments so the student can focus on the actual information.[21] Teachers may also assign another student to take notes or allow a good note taker to share their notes with the student.
  6. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 15
    Do not focus on the quality of handwriting. Some children with dyslexia may struggle with handwriting because of the fine motor skills it requires.[22] You can change the response format of the question to multiple choice, underlining, or some other form of marking to make it easier for them to answer. Students could also be given extra space to write answers. Emphasis should be placed on the content that the student provides versus how the information looks or is presented.[23]
  7. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 16
    Model organizational structures. Help individuals with dyslexia to develop organizational skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Organization could involve using different folders and dividers to keep track of homework, assignments, and tests. Model these in your classroom, but also encourage them to apply them at home.
    • Students should also be encouraged to use personal assignment planners and calendars to keep track of due dates for assignments, test dates, and other activities they may be involved in. Have them write daily assignments in their assignment book. Check the assignment book before the students leave school to make sure they understand the direction.[24]
  8. Image titled Teach a Dyslexic Child Step 17
    Modify homework assignments. A one hour assignment for a typical child may take 3 hours for a dyslexic child to complete. This can make the child anxious, stressed, and place an unnecessary burden on them. Instead having the student complete questions 1-20, have the student only answer the odd or even numbered questions. [25] Teachers can also set a time limit for homework each night or only have the student focus on key concepts.
    • Instead of presenting homework assignments through writing, students may be allowed to present information orally, visually, or other ways that they communicate best.[26]


  • Read 'The Gift of Dyslexia'. It is written by Ronald D. Davis, who is dyslexic himself. It will give you information on how dyslexic people's minds work compared to non dyslexic people's minds and will help you understand how dyslexic children learn better.
  • Give them flash cards with letters and words every week. If they do well and memorize them give them a treat or an award.
  • Allow students with dyslexia to use lined or graph paper for math problems. Lined paper enables them to follow the math problem horizontally or vertically, depending on what kind of problem they are working on.
  • Use objects to help teach dyslexic children, as this will be more of interest to them and they will understand it better.
  • Have them read along to audiobooks.
  • Never call them stupid. Show them a list of famous dyslexic people, like Albert Einstein to encourage them.


  • Do not force children with dyslexia to read in front of the class. Instead, have them read one-on-one with an adult or with a student who will not tease them.
  • Do not have a dyslexic child do anything in the class which will seem odd or pointless (eg. like drawing endless circles on the board with both hands) to the other students, no matter how helpful it may be to the child. If it's something that is worth pursuing, have it done in some other setting.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (23)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Teaching Students with Special Needs | Dyslexia