Dyslexia: 10 Strategies
TEACH Journal of Christian Education
Dyslex ia: 10 Strategies
Hills Adventist College
Avondale College ResearchOnline@Avondale
Follow this and additional works at: https://research.avondale.edu.au/teach Part of the Education Commons Recommended Citation
Dyslexia: 10 strategies
Learning Support Coordinator, Hills Adventist College, Kellyville, NSW
and Master of Education?Special Education student, Avondale College of Higher
Education, Cooranbong, NSW
Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Education, Avondale College of Higher Education,
Key words: dyslexia, learning disability, teaching
strategies, special education
Dyslexia once thought of as a hidden
learning difficulty is now exposed, due
to MRI technology, as a specific learning
disability. Dyslexia has a neurological basis
that transverses all languages and cultures.
Early identification of possible at risk students
ought to occur so that immediate intervention
strategies can be implemented. Schools
also need to ensure that reading instruction
includes all elements of ?The Big 6 of Reading?
and these elements are taught using an explicit
direct multisensory methodology. As dyslexia
has an impact on all areas of the student?s
education; early intervention including
adjustment to student tasks and assessments
needs to occur to ensure that the student
develops an understanding of dyslexia; their
personal strengths and weaknesses; and
strategies for successful achievement, thus
enabling the student to build a positive
Numerous definitions for dyslexia abound with the
majority of the definitions centring on the comparison
of students? differences between their reading ability
and their overall linguistic and cognitive abilities
(Zaretsky & Velleman, 2011)
. Further definitions
broaden the criteria of dyslexia to include the
persistent difficulty to attain correct and fluent word
recognition skills regardless of average intelligence,
functioning receptive senses and access to
adequate academic instruction
& Shaywitz, 2003)
Association (IDA, 2002
, para. 1) adds further clarity
with its widely accepted and often adopted definition
of dyslexia that states:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is
neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties
with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by
poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties
typically result from a deficit in the phonological
component of language that is often unexpected in
relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision
of effective classroom instruction. Secondary
consequences may include problems in reading
comprehension and reduced reading experience that
can impede the growth of vocabulary and background
In the modern era, the use of Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) has clearly demonstrated
that, dyslexia, once thought of as ?a hidden
(Swanson, Harris & Graham, 2013, p.
is now visible; and when comparing dyslexic
and non-dyslexic students, there exists a difference
in the neural functioning in the brain; and this
neural variance transverses all languages and
(Lyon et al., 2003; Mather & Wendling,
. Students with dyslexia display specific
learning difficulties with the phonological elements
of language and this is evidenced in any activity
that involves the pairing of the orthography symbol
sequences to the corresponding phonemes, such as
decoding real and nonsense words, reading fluently
and spelling (Lyon et al., 2003). These language
difficulties lead to a student?s reduced reading
experience and consequential adversities in reading
comprehension, vocabulary and the development of
deeper background knowledge.
Dyslexia occurs on a continuum with students
differing in the severity of difficulties. Often students
with dyslexia will present with comorbid deficits
in other academic and cognitive areas. Various
research findings identify the prevalence of dyslexia
ranging from three to as high as twenty per cent of
(Castles, Wheldall & Nayton, 2014,
. In Australia, it is projected that ten per cent
of the population has dyslexia
Association [ADA], 2014, para. 1)
three to as
high as twenty
per cent of the
need to be
History of Australian Government Legislation
In Australia, Dyslexia is recognised under an act
(the Disabilty Discrimination Act [DDA],1992, item f.)
which describes, in part, ?a disorder or malfunction
that results in the person learning differently from
a person without the disorder or malfunction.?
Further, The Disability Standards for Education 2005
(Commonwealth of Australia, 2015a)
claim to ?seek
to ensure that students with disability can access
and participate in education on the same basis as
(Commonwealth of Australia, 2015b,
. In 2007, in NSW, the Educational Support
for Dyslexia Children Bill
(Parliament of New South
Wales, 2007, para. 2)
required that ?dyslexia be
included within the Government?s disability criteria
when providing special or additional assistance?
to students. A Review to The Disability Standards
for Education in 2012
recommended that dyslexia be specifically
listed as a learning disability. In 2014, as part of
the Students First Education reforms, The Policy
Roundtable on Students with Dyslexia
of Education and Training [DET], 2014)
importance that students with dyslexia be supported
with in-class and whole school strategies to enable
them to fulfil their potential, and that dyslexia be
included in the 2015 Nationally Consistent Collection
of Data on School Students with Disability (DET,
2015). Currently, NSW is the only state that formally
recognises dyslexia as a learning disability under the
state?s Education Act.
Learning behaviours related to Dyslexia
Students with dyslexia all exhibit a shared
commonality of core indicators that include
difficulty with phonological processing in decoding
(reading) and encoding (spelling) activities (IDA,
2015) simultaneously exhibiting strengths in areas
such as creative thinking, reasoning, problem
solving, conceptual abilities, comprehending, 3-D
construction, seeing the big picture
and can also display giftedness in areas that don?t
require strong literacy skills
A vast variation of difficulties can be
demonstrated amid students and it must be
remembered that not all students who display
difficulties with reading or spelling will have dyslexia.
Additional core characteristics or behaviours that
can indicate the possibility of dyslexia are:
? inconsistent performance on a day-to-day
? poor recall of prior learning in reading and
? unexpected inverse correlation between effort
? difficulty with word storage, sequencing,
handwriting and co-ordination
? taking longer to process information
? poor performance in timed tasks
? having strong mathematical skills, but has
difficulty memorising number facts
(Adapted from Ministry of Education New
Zealand [MENZ], 2008a,b)
Age-Related Indicators of Dyslexia
Additional characteristics that correlate with the
presence of dyslexia can be associated with a
student?s academic progression from Prep to
Senior School. As a student progresses from one
stage to the next, educators are reminded that
characteristics need not be confined to any one
stage. Furthermore, it is imperative that educators
be mindful that students with dyslexia are working
considerably harder than non-dyslexic students and
are susceptible to frustration and fatigue. Table 1
outlines age-related characteristics that can indicate
the prevalence of dyslexia.
Assessment Instruments for Early Primary
Early identification for dyslexia are vital so that
immediate intervention can occur. All too often
in the school environment, there is a ?wait to fail?
philosophy for reading and spelling skills. Due
to limited resources and the unpreparedness of
teachers, students are left to fail before intervention
measures are instigated. Regardless that dyslexia
is a lifetime difficulty and that specific adjustments
may continually be required, the prospect is positive
for students ?who receive, intensive, systematic
(Mather & Wendling, 2012, p.
, therefore schools need to be proactive and
implement early screening for all students.
From the beginning of a student?s academic
career, family history of reading and spelling
achievement and the child?s early speech acquisition
development details need to be collated. If a parent
or sibling has a history of dyslexia or reading
difficulties, there is a 25-50% possibility that
the student will also manifest these difficulties.
points out that the
early acquisition of speech in young children is ?the
most important clue to a potential reading problem?
(p. 94). Other early screening considerations include
hearing and vision concerns to eliminate any
physical causes (
Mather & Wendling (2012)
Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) skills have
a strong correlation to positive reading acquisition
and have been successfully utilised as early
identification instruments for students with dyslexia
and other reading difficulties (Brookes, Ng, Hong
Age-Related indicators of dyslexia (adapted from Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand
[DFNZ], 2015; MENZ, 2008)
? automatic word
? reading speed
? spelling and
? note taking
? organising and
? timed tasks
? conversation to
? practical tasks
Has areas of
(adapted from Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand [DFNZ], 2015; MENZ, 2008)
Lim, Tan, & Lukitoet, 2011;
Wolf & Denckia, 2005
RAN involves the student?s ability to quickly identify
recognisable visuals, such as numerals, letters,
colours and objects. These identification activities
involve a combination of phonological, orthographic
and processing tasks which represent a similar
microcosm of cognitive tasks ?that are involved in
(Swanson, Harris & Graham
2013, p. 180)
. RAN screening is beneficial due to
its speed, ease-of-use and its ability to be utilised
with Prep and Kindy students, thus allowing for early
identification and early intervention (See Appendix 1.
RAN sample assessment).
should be screened in skills that are foundations to
reading development, including general phonological
and specific phonemic awareness assessments
that test sound comparisons, segmentations and
. The ?Ants in the Apple?
(Meeks & Easson, 2014)
has an initial
assessment that screens for phonemic awareness,
reading and spelling skills. From grade two,
assessments of word reading, decoding and spelling
should be completed (IDA, 2015). Assessment
instruments, including ACER Progressive
Achievement Tests (PAT) Reading
Council for Educational Research, 2015)
Before the completion of grade one, students
measures reading comprehension, word knowledge
and its ability
to be utilised
are able to
the belief that
they are lazy
and spelling; and Making Up for Lost Time in
(Wheldall, Wheldall & Rothwell,
that screens for sight words and phonological
awareness, including the decoding of nonsense
words. A student?s ability to decode ?nonsense
words is the best measure of phonological decoding
skill in children?
(Shaywitz, 2005, p. 133)
also need to attend to the skills of word decoding,
intonation and fluency demonstrated during oral
reading tasks. For a student who is of average
ability, a ?laboured oral reading can be a sign
(Shaywitz, 2005, p. 134)
Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
(https://dibels.uoregon.edu/), can be utilised to
screen oral reading skills in students.
Relevant teaching strategies for students with
As dyslexia is not associated with deficiency in
cognitive capability, it can be reasoned that students
with dyslexia would be highly receptive to suitable
intervention such as intensive training to improve
(Waldie, Austin, Hattie & Fairbrass,
. The benefits of early identification and
intervention are numerous. Students who have an
early identification of dyslexia are able to integrate
this concept into their identity and have a reduced
likelihood of developing a low self-esteem and the
belief that they are lazy or stupid. Identification also
allows for informed and immediate interventions
and accommodations that minimise the impact
on the student?s learning and decrease the gap
between the student?s age and their reading ability
(Armstrong & Squires, 2012)
Teaching practice accommodations
It is essential that teachers be skilled in the process
of identifying students that are experiencing
reading difficulties and the strategies that need to
be implemented to counteract these difficulties.
Teachers need to have an in-depth knowledge
in the basic concepts of language and be able to
impart this knowledge in a multisensory explicit and
structured program that is ?positively associated
with student reading achievement?
Mulcahy, 2014, p. 329)
. Currently many teachers
are unprepared to identify language problems and
are not equipped with the necessary strategies
and/or resources to adequately address these
(Moats & Lyon, 1996)
. This is further
evidenced by reports from students with dyslexia
that teachers often lacked understanding of their
(Long, MacBlain & MacBlain, 2007)
It is vital that schools ensure that teachers are
adequately prepared and appropriate resources are
available to cater for students with dyslexia. As part
of this process a whole school approach needs to be
adopted that implements evidence based strategies.
STRATEGY ONE ? Explicit direct instruction in
phonological and phonemic skills
The (second) major recommendation of the National
Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy
National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, 2005,
was that ?teachers provide systematic, direct
and explicit phonics instruction so that children
master the essential alphabetic code-breaking
skills.? To increase the effectiveness of the
instruction, a multisensory instructional methodology
needs to be adopted that includes visual, auditory
thetic strategies (Wadlington, 2000
intervention also needs to include the elements of
?The Big 6 of Reading?: oral language, phonological
awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and
(Konza, 2010; Moore & Hammond,
These strategies are appropriate in the early
years of school when students are learning the
skill of reading. Schools need to ensure that their
reading programs incorporate explicit phonemic and
phonological skills. Schools can utilise programs
such as Letter and Sounds
Children, Schools and Families, 2008)
, the Reading
Doctor (2016), Cracking the ABC Code (Fawcett,
n.d.), Spelfabet (Clarke, n.d.) and Jolly Phonics
(Jolly Learning, n.d.) that provide the necessary
explicit phonics instruction to enable students
to develop segmenting, phoneme blending and
letter-sound correspondence. For older students,
intervention in phonological awareness can be
implemented using MultiLit
(Wheldall et al., 2015)
where students require additional instruction with
sight words, vocabulary development, reading
comprehension and numerous practice opportunities
to develop reading fluency. Students with dyslexia
require extensive practice sessions to develop
the overlearning of skills required to develop
automaticity that leads to reading fluency.
recommends, that to develop fluency, once
students can decode a passage of text, that practice
should include the student rereading the same
passage out loud at least four times.
STRATEGY TWO ? Worksheets for students with
Recent studies have been investigating the impact
that font style has on the ease of reading for
students. Use of a three-dimensional font has shown
improvement in the reading scores for students with
dyslexia of 10 to 25 percent
Buot, Woods & Orton-Gillingham, 2012)
. The use of
a disfluent (hard to read) font leads to better recall
due to the deeper processing needed. Students
with dyslexia also benefited greatly ?in retention and
recall when presented with information in a disfluent
(French, Blood, Bright, Futak & Grohmann,
2013, p. 301)
. Alternatively, students can identify
their preference amongst the dyslexia friendly fonts
of Comic Sans, Century Gothic, Times Roman
(Reid & Green, 2014)
. Dyslexie, a
?purposely created? font for students with dyslexia,
has altered shapes of letters
with reading speed and accuracy
(van de Vrugt &
. Other worksheet considerations that
facilitate effortless navigation include larger font
size; use of visual aids; uncrowded well-spaced-out
; using left justification;
avoiding using italics, capitals and underlining, and
the use of bold type to emphasise
These strategies are appropriate for inclusion due
to the low cost and ease of implementation (See
Appendix 2. Worksheet Checklist for Teachers).
Classroom expectations, materials and other
The classroom is a microcosm of inter-related forces
that impact learning including factors of homework
expectations, resources used, student recording,
physical environment, time constraints and
stressors. Small accommodations in these forces
can have a positive impact on learning for students
with dyslexia (DFNZ, 2015). The following strategies
STRATEGY THREE ? Homework
Homework needs to be personalised and
differentiated and consist of simple and clear
instructions. Homework tasks ought to be
timedriven not task-driven, provide alternatives to writing
tasks, relate to prior knowledge (DFNZ, 2015), and
be provided in the appropriate printed form
& Green, 2014)
. Structured, clear and
easy-tocomplete homework tasks encourage the student
to engage with the content and lessen homework
STRATEGY FOUR ? Classroom resources
Resources used by both the teacher and student
should utilize colour coding, clear labels and use
familiar and consistent layout. Students with dyslexia
report that their greatest difficulty is taking notes by
dictation and copying off the board
& MacBlain, 2007)
. Therefore, student recording
should involve minimal copying from the board and
printed copies of teacher notes and PowerPoint
presentations should be provided (DFNZ, 2015).
This ensures that students are free from the
mechanical task of copying, allowing more time for
the student to engage with the content and can aid
completion of alternative tasks of highlighting key
words and identifying main ideas
(Reid & Green,
. Additionally, the creation of both personal
dictionaries to store subject-specific vocabulary and
visual summaries for each subject have also proven
(Long et al., 2007; Reid & Green, 2014)
STRATEGY FIVE ? Classroom learning environment
Teachers need to be mindful of the classroom
environment and its impact on students. Students
with dyslexia may experience difficulties with
looking, listening, concentrating, sitting still, locating
equipment and writing (Reid & Green, 2014). Time
spent in ensuring the classroom environment
is ?dyslexia friendly? will assist students in their
learning. Considerations include: lighting, seating
proximity to the board and teacher (DFNZ, 2015),
control of background noise, visual labels, neat and
clearly labelled equipment, and large well-spaced
(Reid & Green, 2014)
STRATEGY SIX ? Time constraints
Due to the neurobiological evidence that
demonstrates that students with dyslexia require
additional time to process reading tasks, students
should be provided with personally appropriate
additional time in test situations
(Mather & Wendling,
2012; Reid & Green, 2014; Karten, 2015)
. Other time
concerns include providing shorter achievable tasks
and being flexible with assignment deadlines (DFNZ,
2015). Further, students with dyslexia report that
their second greatest difficulty is to concentrate for
(Long et al., 2007)
, therefore, students
need to utilise ?brain breaks? where opportunities
to move about and stretch are provided to assist in
maintaining concentration and focus levels
STRATEGY SEVEN ? Reducing the stressors
Lowering the stress in the classroom can be
accomplished by having a culture of
mistakemaking-leads-to-learning, providing adequate
time for thinking, not asking the student to read
(Long et al., 2007)
, and a marking focus on
content not spelling errors (DFNZ, 2015). These
simple strategies are easy to implement but have
a considerable impact on reducing student stress
STRATEGY EIGHT ? Provision of teacher mentors
Students with dyslexia should be aligned with an
empathic teacher mentor, preferably a teacher that
has a sound knowledge of dyslexia and/or a teacher
that has dyslexia themselves. The student and the
mentor meet briefly twice a week to discuss topics
stress in the
?As dyslexia is
and ?is often
also focus on
including: immediate concerns, forward planning and
self-evaluation. The mentor also acts as an advocate
for the student with other teachers and encourages
the student to take responsibility for their learning
(Long et al., 2007)
. This strategy is appropriate as
the teacher mentors would assist students to keep
pace with school tasks and be able to immediately
intercept any difficulties.
STRATEGY NINE ? Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology (AT) enables students with
dyslexia to have fair and equitable access to print.
This can help overcome difficulties with the reading
of, and the production of, text and allows students
to bypass these difficulties and demonstrate their
strengths in higher-order concept development
and analysis. Technologies, like Dragon Voice
Recognition (http://www.nuance.com), aid the
student to transcribe their thoughts via
speech-totext capabilities, bypassing difficulties in spelling
and handwriting, thus enabling the student to
produce higher quality text
& Graham, 2013)
. Other technologies, such as
Natural Reader (http://www.naturalreaders.com),
facilitate access to text by converting written text
to spoken words, bypassing difficulties in reading,
and allowing students to access content that leads
to the development of deeper understanding.
Additional technologies, such as BookShare (http://
www.bookshare.org), offer an expanding number
of accessible books and periodicals for students
with print disabilities, such as dyslexia. Currently in
Australia, there are 166 000 books available for an
affordable yearly subscription. The E-ssential Guide
to Assistive Technology
(Schwab Learning, 2008)
and the ?Wheel of Apps?
(McNeill, 2015; Wilson,
provide support for parents in the identification
of suitable AT for their child (See Appendix 3 and
STRATEGY TEN ? Building reliance and
Dyslexia impacts on more than just the education
of a student; it also has ramifications on the social
and emotional well-being of the student. The extent
of the impact is affected by the environment, early
diagnosis and intervention implementation
& Wendling, 2012)
. Early diagnosis correlates to an
increase in the positive understanding and tolerance
for both the student and their peers
& Squires, 2012)
. Often intervention models for
dyslexia incorporate mechanical strategies of
multisensory phonemic awareness programs but
fail to address the needs of the whole child
et al., 2007)
. Students with dyslexia carry emotional
scars of frustration and defeat from constant failure
with activities that involve reading and writing tasks.
Teachers need to assist students to build positive
self-esteem by reflecting on their strengths
, developing peer support systems, and acting
as advocates when the need arises
As dyslexia is a life-long difficulty and ?is often
resistant to improvement despite dedicated literacy
and numeracy teaching interventions?
Frydenberg, Steeg & Bond, 2013, p.117)
needs to also focus on developing students? adaptive
coping skills. Instruction in three main areas:
defying self-defeating thoughts, knowledge and
consolidation of coping strategies, and identifying
needs and seeking appropriate support, should
begin as early as possible. Websites such as
Beating Dyslexia (http://www.beatingdyslexia.com/)
have these and additional strategies on developing
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that has
a neurological origin that negatively affects the
student?s ability in reading and writing activities
(IDA, 2002). This leads to additional difficulties
with comprehension, access to content and a
reduced reading experience. These difficulties
precede student failure and lead to feelings of
inadequacy and low self-esteem. Schools need to
develop policies and procedures that enable early
identification and intervention to occur. Teachers
need to have an in-depth knowledge of dyslexia and
be skilled in the processes for early identification
and have access to strategies and resources for
successful evidence based intervention.
Sample Assessments for RAN
Taken from: Reid & Green, 2014, p. 19.
Worksheet Checklist for Teachers
Have small steps been used?
Are the sentences short?
Is the vocabulary easy to understand?
Have visuals been used?
Has large print been used?
Is the font style appropriate?
Dyslexic friendly fonts: Comic Sans, Century Gothic,
Times New Roman, Dsylexie
? Do you prefer to read in this font? (Times New
? Do you prefer to read in this font? (Comic
? Do you prefer to read in this font?
Has enough attention been given to presentation?
? Space out the information, do not crowd the
? Use of indents for headings, subheadings
? Use of bold font or highlighting and/or
Are there opportunities for self-monitoring and
? Task broken down into smaller steps
? Self-assessment student checklist given?
Are the tasks within the pupil?s comfort zone?
Student Self-Assessment Checklist
Taken from: Reid & Green, 2014, p. 6.
Start of Task
What is my goal?
What do I want to accomplish?
What do I need to know before starting?
What resources do I need?
What is my deadline?
Midway through Task How am I going? Do I need other resources to complete task? What else can I do to finish the task?
End of Task
Did I accomplish my goal?
Was I efficient?
What did not work?
Why did it not work?
What strategies can I use next time?
The E-ssential Guide to Assistive Technology is an
e-book available from
The Wheel of Apps.
?The wheel of apps? is a graphical representation
of some of the applications suitable for assisting
students with dyslexia and available from ?
? for iPads http://www.callscotland.org.uk/
? and Androids http://www.callscotland.org.uk/
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