"The bonus of creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom is that it will facilitate learning for everyone in the school"

The Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre estimates that 10 per cent of children are noticeably dyslexic, with about 4 per cent being severely dyslexic. The centre’s principal Bernadette McLean offers some proven strategies for meeting their needs in mainstream classrooms.

Speaking and listening
The main difficulty that children with dyslexia face is with listening to and processing the spoken word at speed. If teachers can slow down their speech and make sentence structures simpler, this will help all children’s understanding. Give plenty of time to practice listening. Teach children how to use visualisation and make pictures in their heads. Pictures are more easily remembered than lots of auditory words. Take pauses to give children thinking time.

Setting appropriate tasks
Children with dyslexia can take longer to name well-known objects, even up to higher education level and beyond. Slower word retrieval means that they cannot offer speedy contributions in class, even when they know the answer. The stress affects their working memory. They have a far slimmer chance of ever reaching automatic retrieval of knowledge, which makes it hard to multi-task. Avoid setting rote-learning exercises for anything: times tables, scientific formulae, French vocabulary.

The process of reading and memorising will take a child with dyslexia much longer, so allow extra time for such activities.

Rather than having low expectations of children who have difficulties reading and writing, give them opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in other ways, for example, through mind mapping, visual presentation or discussion.

Homework
Homework can be stressful for children with dyslexia because, whatever the subject, the homework often turns into English homework. Do not ask children to copy down homework instructions. If you are not able to give all the class written instructions, ask someone else to do the copying for a child who may struggle. If you give verbal instructions, check that they are being remembered. Set up a homework buddy system and give parents the buddy’s details, in case there is confusion over homework instructions.

By Bernadette Maclean for Barrington Stoke