By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
There are a range of educational programmes and interventions available to help improve reading and spelling ability among children with dyslexia. The extent to which a child benefits from early intervention depends on several factors including their age and the severity of their condition. Similarly, the type and intensity of the intervention depends on the severity of their dyslexia.
While in most cases, symptoms are not considered severe enough for a child to receive individual schooling, a few hours of one-to-one or group tuition outside of mainstream classes may be beneficial to children with dyslexia. Very few dyslexic children need to be transferred to a specialist school that deals with this type of learning disability.
The majority of children respond well to interventions and go on to progress in their learning, but other children continue to experience reading and writing difficulties and will require more intensive and longer term support.
It can be difficult for parents to decide which type of educational programme may benefit their child the most, but a large body of scientific evidence supports an approach that focuses on phonological skills.
This refers to our ability to identify and process the sounds that make up a word. Teaching a child “phonics” involves six key aspects, which are described below.
Awareness of phonemics
Children are taught how words are made up of smaller units of sound called “phonemes.” For example, the child is taught that three sounds or phonemes “t”, “e” and “n” make the word sound “ten.” The next step is to teach the child that if the phoneme “t” is replaced with “h,” the word becomes “hen.”
The child learns how a printed letter corresponds with a phoneme. These letters are referred to as graphemes.
Children learn how to combine letters and graphemes to create words, as well as how these words combine to from sentences.
Fluency and practice
Fluency is achieved by helping the child to practice reading words correctly. Children try to read at a reasonable rate with a good level of accuracy. This helps them to keep up with what they are reading, rather than becoming too focused on individual words and losing track of the text’s overall meaning.
The child builds up a stock of the words they recognise as well as adding new words to it as they go along.
Children are encouraged to monitor their own understanding of what they read by noticing any gaps in their understanding as well as linking what they are reading to information they have learned previously.
Some important features of methods that seem to be effective when teaching phonics to dyslexic children are described below:
Lessons should be structured, building knowledge up in small stages and adding to information learned in previous lessons.
Dyslexic children benefit from using different senses while they are learning. For example, a child may benefit from seeing a letter at the same time as sounding it and writing it down.
Children practice the different letters, phonemes and rules they have learned about writing and reading.
Children are made aware of the different methods of learning available to them as well as being encouraged to think about which methods benefit them the most. In other words, they are encouraged to think about the way they think.
Last Updated: May 19, 2014