Students with dyslexia may face a number of challenges within the current school system and may face difficulties keeping up with the rest of their peers.
This can significantly affect their confidence and lead to low self-esteem related to their disability. They may not be getting the support they need from their teachers and feel isolated from their peers.
Dyslexia is a condition that affects individuals throughout their lifetime. Dyslexia affects the reading capacities of individuals and can thus significantly affect their ability to learn. Students with dyslexia may have difficulties answering questions about material they have read and may even have difficulties with learning mathematics. According to experts, between 5-10% of individuals have dyslexia. Unfortunately this condition is often misconstrued with a problem of intelligence, which is not at all true.
As an English teacher, teaching students with dyslexia requires special attention to reading, comprehension, writing and spelling.
Individuals with dyslexia can become just as successful in their educational attainment and careers as anyone else. It's possible that their condition may improve at the college level. Many dyslexic students choose to take private tutoring, online tutoring or summer tutoring in order to help them manage their learning difficulties.
It's important to remember, that with a little support, and the right teaching methods and tools, any student can succeed!
Learning Challenges Dyslexic Students may face
- Difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and comprehension at all levels
- They may be mistaken for being lazy, apathetic or careless
- They may have high IQs and be considered bright students, but they may perform poorly in academic and particularly written tests
- They may have a low level of confidence and poor self esteem
- They may feel frustrated and have difficulty with reading, writing and exams
- Difficulties paying attention for long periods of time
- Thrive with hands-on learning, experimentation, observation and visual learning techniques
English tutoring may be particularly challenging for dyslexic students and it involves reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. It's important to be aware of these particular issues that dyslexic students may face when learning English or any other language:
- Reading may be particularly challenging. Students may develop dizziness, headeaches and stomach aches when asked to read for long periods of time
- Words, digits, letters, alphabets and verbal expression in general can be more challenging for dyslexic students
- Students may demonstrate repetitive behaviour when it comes to reading and writing. They may also omit, add or subsitute certain things which may seem strange or out of the ordinary.
- They may make the common error of reversals and alphabet transpositions
- Although they are highly observant individuals, they may struggle with depth perception and peripheral vision
- Spelling is a particularly difficult challenge for dyslexic students, and it can often be phonetic and inconsistent
- Standardised testing may be a challenge in all subjects including English, Math and Science, including visualised tests which may be found in tests such as the GMAT
In order to better understand how to help students with dyslexia learn English, it's important to get a better understanding of their condition and it may affect their hearing and speech:
Difficulties with hearing and speech
- Dyslexic students have an extended hearing and may often hear things that were not actually said
- They may have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time and get distracted easily
- They may face difficulties expressing their thoughts
- They may communicate better in words and short phrases and have trouble completing their sentences
- Some dyslexic students may stutter, particularly when they are under stress
- They may have difficulties with pronunciation of words
- It is common to transpose syllables and words when speaking and writing
Difficulties with Writing and Motor skills
Some students may also be affected with the following conditions:
- Handwriting may be difficult to comprehend and highly variable
- They may have difficulty with coordination
- They may be ambidextrous, but may often confuse right and left
Difficulties with memory
- Many dyslexic students have an excellent memory and have a particularly acute capacity to remember faces, locations and experiences
- On the other hand, they may have difficulties remembering factual information or sequences as their memory is more emotional and visual.
Tips for tutoring Dyslexic students
As we've seen, students with dyslexia face a number of learning challenges and so they require support and the right tools and techniques to succeed. This can certainly be a challenge, but with the support from a dedicated tutor, they can excel in just about anything they set their minds to!
Use these set of approaches adapted to help you tutor students with dyslexia:
Employ MSL (Multi-Sensory Structured language)
This technique is one of the most common methods for teaching students with dyslexia. Multi-Sensory Structured language is a method that employs all of the senses to help students, including touch, movement, sight and sound to help them learn new material. It also focuses on comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, spelling and writing by helping them to gain phonological awareness.
This method has proved successful in helping students to improve their reading abilities and their ability to recognise and spell words more accurately.
It is important to continually monitor your student's progress in order to identify any weaknesses and evaluate which skills they may need further work on.
Give your students words when teaching phonemes. You can then ask them to identify sounds in the words. Always aim to take note of their strengths and weaknesses in order to be able to adapt your lessons accordingly to their specific needs.
Be as explicit and direct as possible when teaching
Using the explicit teaching methodology can be helpful for teaching dyslexic students. This involves describing a skill by breaking it down clearly into different steps, and providing instructions and feedback along the way. It is also important to state the reason and purpose for acquiring a specific skill.
So for example, if you are working with your student on the letter 't', then you would need to start the lesson by explaining what exactly the student will be learning. You would ask the student to repeat the letter 't' after you. You could also use tools such as songs, images, and phrases to help illustrate your point.
In order to maximise your students' chance of success, you may also wish to consider the following tips:
- Be aware of your student's pace of learning and try to adopt your lessons accordingly. Try to stick to one word at a time when teaching in order to give the student the time to master what they've learned. Be careful not to overwhelm them with too much information at one time
- Ask your students to count the number of words in a sound. This will allow them to develop their ability in phonetic spelling for words that they are not always familiar with.
- Try to use visual supports in your lessons
- Encourage your students to keep a journal to record everything that they've learned
- Make recordings where you give clear instructions for assignments and a summary of what you've learned during your lesson
- Before you begin reading something new, pick out and discuss new vocabulary to help your students in advance
- Try using different cards, objects and colour coding to help your students learn and remember things visually
With a little extra support and the right techniques and methodologies, students with dyslexia can excel academically and achieve their true potential. As an English tutor, your job is to ensure that all of your students leave with the best reading & writing skills to their ability.
There are a number of tutoring centres across Canada that offer special services for dyslexic students. As an English tutor, your services would certainly be in high demand for students in need.
Do note that if you wish to start tutoring students with dyslexia, you will need to get special training to get a better understanding their learning needs. This training would help you to prepare assignments and evaluate your students in the best way possible.
But helping students with dyslexia does not have to be limited to English. Whether you are a French tutor, a math tutor or a geography tutor, these special teaching techniques would prove invaluable for students in need of your help.
Most importantly, you'll need to be passionate about teaching and helping your students achieve their potential! You'll get a huge sense of accomplishment from being able to make a difference in the life of your students.