Dyslexia: Overcoming Reading Difficulties

Although dyslexic people have diverse combinations of strengths and problems, one thing they always have in common is difficulty 'breaking the code' of written language. While some people overcome this obstacle and become great readers, many others struggle with the written word in their adult life. Their difficulties may be caused by phonological awareness, working memory, or processing speed deficiencies. Reading may be difficult and painful for certain people due to co-occurring visual stress disorders.

A page full of words
Photo by Rob Hobson on Unsplash

Whatever the underlying cause, dyslexic learner is likely to read significantly more slowly than their non-dyslexic classmates, which will influence comprehension, enjoyment of reading, and willingness to take up a book. We also know that youngsters who do not read miss opportunities to expand their vocabulary. The figure below depicts the vicious circle that this creates.

If we want to help dyslexic learners overcome their reading issues and establish a level playing field in terms of vocabulary knowledge and readiness to engage with the printed page, we must provide adequate support from the start of a child's educational journey.

Fortunately, instructors and parents/caregivers can access a wealth of tried-and-true resources and practices. The British Dyslexia Association's new 2nd edition Dyslexia Friendly Schools Good Practice Guide covers many of these. The second chapter of the Guide focuses on reading skills, providing a variety of ways to assist dyslexic learners, whether they are in the early stages of learning phonics or developing a love of books and reading. Several of these tactics are described here, but the Guide has many more.

We offer recommendations for teaching phonics skills from Frances Robertson and Lisa Ryan of Yorkshire Dyslexia Network, including:

Leicester City Council offers recommendations on how to boost reading in the classroom:

While the Willows School in Rotherham has some suggestions for parents to develop a love of reading:

To these suggestions, I'd add the following:

Above all, reassure students that there is no right or wrong way to read, no matter what they choose to read or how they access it, whether it's by reading aloud rather than silently, using assistive technology to convert text to speech, or using different color backgrounds or specific fonts to make the text clearer and more accessible. But, most essential, it demonstrates to children and young people that they can succeed at reading and, in doing so, enhance their lives by providing them with access to a world of books and literature.