It does seem that schools as a whole are starting to become more effective at supporting dyslexic learners with well trained Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) working with staff and parents to provide the right level of support for statemented pupils. But there is a problem for many students that come over as 'average' when really they are dyslexic and have found a way to function within the education system, effectively 'hiding' their own neuro diversity.
The focus on provision for supporting dyslexic learners is mostly on those that have a diagnosis, but surely there are strategies that teachers can adopt in their teaching that could support a 'hidden' dyslexic learner?
Here are some tips and ideas that teachers could use for each person in their class without singling out the 'hidden dyslexics'.
1 - Assume you are talking to visual learners.
Many dyslexics often cope better with instructions when shown rather than when written. They are described as visual learners because they absorb information more effectively from a visual input rather than written.
If you need to hand out instructions in class, maybe finding a way to explain what you need in a visual way will enable you to gain more engagement generally. My dyslexic daughter, for example, used to get really stressed about copying information from the board into her books because it was time consuming. One strategy to get round this if you really have to write instructions out on the board is to let learners (if they can) take pictures of your instructions (using a smartphone or tablet) so that they have time to process them later on by reviewing their pictures. This reduces stress and you are more likely to get your message absorbed by your class and achieve successful outcomes.
2 - Format information to get the highest chance of comprehension.
If you have to provide information as written text then do your best to reduce visual stress by doing the following;
Do not use italics.
Do not underline text.
Do not use all capitals.
User a larger font (size 12 and upwards)
Keep lines short.
Use bold to highlight key points.
Choose a sans-serif font to use such as Arial, Helvetica or Calibri. There are more specialist fonts available that are thought to really help dyslexics. Click here for more information.
3 - Give your pupils space to think in the most conducive...space!
This is a hard thing to do with 30 pupils in a class. But I remember when I was in the early stages of primary education having a reading area, that was peaceful and encouraged reading. It was a nice place to spend time and concentrate.
What could you change in your classroom that could achieve something similar for all your learners?
4 - Use technology to support learning.
There are literally loads of technological resources available that can help teachers to get the best from their dyslexic learners. This technology includes dictation software and the commonly used text to speech software that can be used to read out text written on a PC. Some of the solutions are free too or low cost. Some of these programs will help a student to find the correct spellings of phonetically written words or suggest the correct homophone to use.Click the picture below to read a short guide on this type of technology that will help learners to proof read their written text by listening to it being read out. This technology increases the accuracy of the work done and results in better marks from the teacher thus boosting confidence and engagement.
5 - Foster a friendly peer support learning strategy where everyone is happy to help. It's always nice to encourage classmates to look out for one another, share skills and be encouraging. People with dyslexia are often incredibly creative and have a big picture view of what is going on around them. Encourage these skills and use them within the classroom as this will help build up self esteem and confidence.