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Cheat Sheet

Understanding & Managing Dyslexia For Dummies (UK Edition)

If your child has dyslexia, or if you have dyslexia yourself, you may feel in need of straightforward, practical, positive advice. This Cheat Sheet gives you some handy tips and pointers to keep you going in the right direction.

Spotting Dyslexia Warning Signs

A person with dyslexia struggles on a long-term basis with written (and sometimes spoken) words, even though she’s bright (or extra bright) in other areas. A whole cocktail of symptoms tells a psychologist that your child has dyslexia, and you can find a list on the BDA website to help you further, but warning signs include the following:

  • Lack of interest in letters and words at a young age, although shows enjoyment with being read to.

  • Inability to identify rhyming words (like hat, pat and fat) and word patterns (like Bill, bear, bun, bed and ball, which all begin with ‘buh’) at an early age.

  • Difficulty remembering names of familiar objects, numbers, colours and shapes at an early age.

  • Inability to remember sequences of numbers (like their telephone number) or letters (like the alphabet) or fast facts (like multiplication tables).

  • Extreme difficulty with reading. A child with dyslexia may leave out little words (like of), misread small everyday words (like they) even though she reads some harder words. She may read similar-looking words instead of actual words (like was for saw and horse for house) or read words that are similar in meaning instead of actual words (reading little for small or lovely for pretty).

    A child with dyslexia may read words that make no sense, but have one or two letters that are in the actual word (like tall instead of lot because both words have l and t in them). A child with dyslexia may, for example, read ‘There were a lot of roses growing all around Jane’s house’ as ‘There was a tall flowers growing around Jane’s horse’.

  • Extreme difficulty with spelling. A child with dyslexia may transpose letters (aleiv instead of alive), leave out letters (aliv), add letters (alieve) and reverse letters (typically b and d). She may also write words phonetically (exactly as she hears them), producing spellings like becuz, wur and thay.

Engaging a Child with Dyslexia in Memorising, Visualising and Rhyming

A child with dyslexia struggles to remember how words are put together in print, but rhyming and visualisation strategies can help her. When she turns letters into lively, more concrete characters, she can fix them better in her mind:

  • Help your child with short vowel sounds by having her draw images into the vowels while saying their short sounds. For example, she can create an apple out of a; draw an egg inside the top part of e; convert a pen with a blob of ink on top into i; change o into an octopus; and draw an arrowhead on each of the two top ends of u so it represents ‘up’.

  • Help your child read and spell words like late, hole and cute by showing her the ‘Bossy e rule’: when e is on the end of a short word, it bosses the earlier vowel into saying its name (but stays silent itself).

  • Help your child read and spell long-vowel words like meet, neat, nail and boat by teaching her this rule: ‘When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (and says its name).’

Helping your Child with Dyslexia to Pick Up Phonics

In straightforward terms, phonics means ‘sounds of language’ and your child needs to know these. One way to do this is the teaching method in which you show your child that letters and groups of letters represent speech sounds.

Your child with dyslexia needs to get a firm grip on phonics so that she discovers order in words that otherwise seem to her like an arbitrary mix of letters. Right here are four simple strategies to help you guide your child through phonics in the systematic, sequential way that experts recommend:

  • Emphasise single letter sounds (rather than names) to your child. Play games like ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with “buh” or “cuh” or “ch”’. Ask your child to tell you words to continue a word pattern like Bill, bear, bun, bed and ball (all beginning with ‘buh’).

  • Read rhymes and rhyming stories to your child, and sing rhyming songs so that you prime her for identifying word families like pan, fan, man, can and tan.

  • When you introduce written words to your child, start with a simple two-letter word like at and show her how she can add letters to at to build a whole at word family (bat, mat, cat, sat, fat). Make this activity more fun, and easy to repeat, by having your child use a book-sized whiteboard and marker pens. Even better, have two sets of boards and markers so that you can do the same activity and you don’t interfere with your child’s board!

  • Any time your child gets to know a word from which she can build a word family, build that family with her. Start her off with three-letter word families like big, pig, fig and wig; build up to middle-level families like chop, stop, flop and shop; and help her really think about tricky word families like would, should and could; and fight, might, fright, tight, sight and flight.

Dyslexia and the Benefits of Multisensory Learning

Multisensory learning is the kind of learning method that suits children and adults with dyslexia best. In simple terms, multisensory learning is hands-on learning that engages a few of your child’s senses (typically seeing, hearing, saying and doing) together at about the same time.

You can help your child with multisensory learning at home by having her play a lot of hands-on and physical games, say out loud the words she reads and writes and fit drawing and model building into homework assignments whenever she can. Additionally, when she first learns letters and words, have her:

  • Draw their shapes in different media, like sugar and pudding

  • Trace over them on unusual textures, like sandpaper

  • Construct 3D models of letters out of modelling clay

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