How to Support Students with Dyslexia [Dyslexia Awareness Month]

Although dyslexia is one of the most well-known learning disabilities, how it affects individuals is often mischaracterized. Learn more about how to support students with dyslexia.

Dyslexia affects between 5-10% of the population, making it one of the most common learning disorders. In fact, dyslexia accounts for at least 80% of all learning disabilities and often exists in individuals also diagnosed with other disorders – including ADHD and OCD. But if dyslexia is so common, why are the signs commonly misunderstood?

What are some myths about dyslexia?

MYTH: People with dyslexia write letters and/or words backwards.

FACT: Many people believe this is a tell-tale sign of dyslexia, but this simply isn’t the case. Letter reversal is common in children learning to read and write, and this isn’t a symptom of dyslexia.

MYTH: People with dyslexia struggle with intelligence.

FACT: Research proves that dyslexia has virtually no relationship to IQ. In fact, many individuals with dyslexia are incredibly gifted and broadly exceed in their academic pursuits.

What are the signs and symptoms of dyslexia?

Dyslexia commonly affects phonemic awareness and decoding, meaning that students may have difficulty understanding that language is made up of different sounds. Put simply, people with dyslexia often have trouble breaking down the sounds of individual words, letters, or syllables. For example, an individual with dyslexia may read the word “doctor” as “do–ctor” instead of “doc–tor.

Dyslexia affects reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Students with dyslexia often have difficulty recalling familiar words or phrases, and may also struggle with grammar and sentence structure.

Other ways dyslexia can impact students include:

  • Difficulty with math skills and/or word problems
  • The ability to understand and follow directions
  • The ability to express ideas in an organized way
  • The ability to interpret body language and nonverbal cues
  • Spatial concepts, like knowing left from right
  • The ability to create and stick to a schedule

How can parents support students with dyslexia?

Students with dyslexia often require both intervention at school and accommodations at home to meet their specific needs. In most cases, experts recommend addressing dyslexia by third grade to provide the student with more time to “catch up” on their reading and comprehension skills. However, regardless of age, support systems and accommodations can provide a huge help to people with dyslexia.

Strategies for Supporting Students with Dyslexia

Give your student ample time to complete tasks, homework, and give answers. Students with dyslexia often benefit from organizational tools in order to plan their schedules more effectively. Learn more about how to create an individualized planner that works for you!

Reduce background noise and auditory distractions. This is excellent advice for all students, but individuals with dyslexia may especially benefit from an environment that encourages academic focus. Surveys of 8-18 year old students found that nearly a third admitted to watching television or using mobile devices while doing homework, and this certainly isn’t conducive to active learning.

Use technology to your advantage. Tutor Doctor recommends:

  • Speech-to-text software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking
  • Text-to-speech software like Read & Write Gold, Home Page Reader, or eReader
  • Use audiobooks and/or reading apps

Encourage alternative ways of engaging in reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. Students with dyslexia commonly benefit from learning activities that involve auditory or kinesthetic (hands-on) approaches, including:

  • Using visual aids such as diagrams and images
  • Clapping out syllables in words
  • Playing rhyming games
  • Reading picture dictionaries
  • Making flashcards to help memorize spelling words
  • Tracing letters in sand or snow

Children with dyslexia have specific learning needs, but with the right guidance and support, they can succeed like any other student.

Learn more home strategies to help your child with dyslexia.