What is Dyslexia? What Can Be Done?

Dyslexia means many different things to many different people. The usual definition of dyslexia involves difficulty reading and recalling sounds, letters and words. It is characterized by a neurological dysfunction in the left side of the brain to various degrees.

Practically, however, most dyslexics do not get an MRI, so parents and teachers need guidance in realistic and effective practices, medical diagnosis or not. Dyslexia most often affects reading, rather than math, skills.

Development of fluent word analysis skills is necessary, whether the approach is phonetic, linguistic, or multi-sensory.

Dyslexics can and do learn to read.  Whether they overcome their disability or just find ways to compensate is still debated. Here are some points to remember about how to remediate dyslexia.      (See also Helping the Troubled Reader.)

  • Analyze strengths and weaknesses.
  • Decide on priorities for instruction. Figure out where a breakdown in this fundamental skill sequence is occurring:
    1. letter identification
    2. letter-sound correspondence
    3. blending sounds into words
    4. rhyming and word families
    5. short and/or long vowels and vowel combinations
    6. high-frequency, irregular sight words
    7. fluent phrasing
    8. literal comprehension skills
    9. inferential comprehension skills
  • Decide on effective strategy.  Remember that humans think and process in patterns, and multiple ways of providing practice in fundamental decoding and spelling skills is necessary. (Our Bingo Games are a great way to provide this important practice in an enjoyable way!)
  • Offer many, repeated examples of learning the objective skill. It is necessary to over-practice and over-learn to mastery. In American classrooms today, much is taught, but little is taught to mastery. This is why it seems that there are more dyslexics than ever.  Our teachers have so much content to teach that many children who require more practice are not getting it, and dyslexics are at the top of that list.
  • Parents, from day one in school, must go over the papers the child brings home each day and make sure (s)he understands that day’s lessons. Extra practice is often necessary!  There are many “teacher stores”  TpT (www.teacherspayteacher.com) is my favorite, and you don’t have to be a teacher to purchase. Most products are reasonably priced. They have practice pages which present the exact reading content your child is learning in school, but in a different presentation. All of our Learn to Read and Reading Tutor Bingo Games make an effort to provide much needed practice for over-learning decoding skills in a different and fun-filled way. Community or private tutoring are options.
  • Model how you decode a word, how you remember a word, and how you reason while you read.  Copying is a most fundamental human characteristic. It is also the easiest way to learn.
  • Build confidence with easy material at first.  Remember that a learner who has repeated failure probably avoids the cause of that failure as much as possible.
  • Be positive and provide real, meaningful praise whenever possible. See our Free Tip: Praise Brings More Than Smiles.
  • Our Blog Post Happy Students Learn Better is also helpful.
  • For an interesting analysis of the benefits of the struggles of some successful dyslexics, read “Part Two: The Theory of Desirable Difficulty” in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath, Hachette Book Group, Inc. 2013.


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