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Strategies for Teaching Dyslexic Students

15 percent of U.S. students are dyslexic, which means they face difficulty with language, particularly reading. Teaching dyslexic students requires a special skill set, including knowing how to adapt lesson plans designed for the general student population. A master’s degree in special education prepares teachers for this and other challenges they will meet in the course of their careers working with special student populations.

Below you will find some of the strategies commonly used by teachers who work with dyslexic students. You will notice that the strategies begin with the task of simply identifying children who are dyslexic. Dr. Sally Shaywitz summarizes the dire need for an understanding of dyslexia in our school systems. Before we can even begin to think about teaching dyslexic students, we must first understand who they are.

“Dyslexic children”¦go un-identified, unremediated and un-accommodated with great harm to the children”¦” ““Dr, Sally Shaywitz, Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

Science is quickly providing ways to identify dyslexia in children at a very early age, but much work has yet to be done. The neurobiology of dyslexia has advanced a great deal in understanding this condition, and it provides evidence for the teaching methodologies used by teachers. But the key point remains: identification of dyslexia is of paramount importance.

Therefore, we will begin with a definition of dyslexia, the first step in teaching dyslexic students.

Dyslexia 101

10 to 15 percent of the general population has dyslexia, a condition that causes the brain to struggle with processing language. In particular, reading is truly challenging, not because dyslexia causes people to see letters and words incorrectly, as is commonly thought, but because it causes the brain to process them incorrectly.

When they read, dyslexics see what everyone else sees on the page. What their neural pathways do with what their eyes are seeing, however, is a different story. This causes severe difficulty with decoding even the simplest of words in some cases (the severity of dyslexia varies from mild to very severe).

Teaching dyslexic students

The way a dyslexic brain processes language during reading can, fortunately, be altered and improved. Teachers may choose to learn the techniques for accomplishing this as part of the coursework involved with a master’s degree in special education.

The strategy to alter the way a dyslexic student reads and processes language is described as an “intervention.” In essence, the brain is trained to approach reading with more left-brain activity. In order to train someone in this manner, educators must undergo their own training in teaching dyslexic students. Only trained educators can implement appropriate, science-based approaches tailored to students’ needs. This includes multisensory techniques such as

  • Using a tape recorder
  • Clarifying directions
  • Presenting school work in smaller chunks
  • Eliminating distractions
  • Using both oral and visual presentation in teaching methods
  • Using mnemonic instruction

Educators who have a better understanding of dyslexia and how it affects learning can help dyslexic students be more successful in class and in life.

Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Special Education.

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