Academic Diary with Dzifa: Managing dyslexia



  • Dyslexia involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters; but does not affect general intelligence
  • Dyslexia is an indication of learning differently and not an academic setback
  • It is a common misconception that dyslexic learners are not capable of achieving fantastic results
  • This article is the first of a six-part series that will deal with the management of the different learning difficulties that research has established.

I recently met little Kwakye, a pre-schooler who finds it very difficult to identify letters, letter sounds and even numbers. He also has difficulty in blending and putting these blends together to help him read. This is something that most of his mates do at the snap of a finger. I was very determined to help him be at par with his peers. Then I referenced my previous article titled: ‘Learning Differently’. This back-dive took me to researching more on Dyslexia.

Here is what I found, and this article will assist facilitators and parents with children with this learning challenge on how to manage it. Come with me let us learn.

Dyslexia in simple terms refers to difficulty in learning to read or interpret words and letters, but does not affect the general intelligence of the dyslexic learner.

To further discuss, dyslexia is a language-based difficulty of neurological origin that affects the skills involved in the accurate and fluent reading of words. It is one of the most common reading difficulties.

Current research suggests that dyslexia may be caused by a genetic predisposition. It is a persistent, life-long condition and affects students across the range of intellectual abilities. – (Pride Learning Center)

Learners with dyslexia may present some of these common features:

  • learning letters and their corresponding sounds
  • organising spoken and written language
  • reading quickly enough to comprehend
  • spelling
  • keeping up with, and following longer assignments.

Beside these signs or presentation comes the comforting note that dyslexia should be seen as an indicator of a learner’s learning style, and not of their academic capability. It is only when this is well-understood that this learning difficulty can be well-managed.

What have been established so far?

We have gathered that dyslexia is a learning difficulty that has to do with the challenge of interpreting letters, sounds and reading. A person with dyslexia indicates that their learning style is different and not that they are academically derailed.

Now that these points have been established, let us learn how to manage this learning style as I would now like to term it, and I know you will agree with me because of the points discussed so far.

Multi-sensory teaching

Experts agree that the best practice for teaching children with dyslexia is to teach them by engaging all their senses. This means using visuals, motion, body movement, hands-on, and auditory elements in their learning process. With this approach, I came to see that with little Kwakye – mentioned in the opening paragraph, he is on top of the class when it comes to presentations of complex materials in the sensorial subject area while his mates who can grasp the reading and spelling concepts struggle to catch up. This goes a long way to show that dyslexic learners thrive on multi-sensory teaching approach.

Studies have shown that children with dyslexia draw from various regions in their brains while engaging in reading, so it stands to reason that using teaching approaches that stimulate various regions in the brain would ensure success for these learners.

In a typical classroom, most facilitators tend to assume that all learners are auditory learners, and rely on talking to explain their lessons or to teach. They also rely on asking and answering questions orally to assess understanding. The dyslexic learner, however, is unable to process information using only his auditory modality. “Dyslexic learners need to learn using an approach that simultaneously combines auditory, visual, and tactile learning strategies to teach skills and concepts.”

  1. Visual aids

When teaching new concepts, with the introduction of images, learning and recall become charged up. Images are captured as quickly as snapping a picture with a camera, and those images are stored in visual memory. Learners with dyslexia learn by observing, so they love visual aids. Image and colour-coding provides visual hooks with easy recollection.

  1. Body movement

Dyslexic learners most at times learn easily through hands-on activities. They need manipulatives when solving math problems rather than relying on pencil and paper. When learning math concepts, for example, allow them see and understand what is happening instead of giving them facts or rules to memorise.

  1. Encourage the art of visualising when reading

If a learner has struggled to read, chances are their entire focus is on trying to sound out words. When decoding becomes a learner’s focus, the idea that words carry meaning will escape them. They assume ‘reading’ means calling out words. It is so important to teach children to stop every few lines to make a mental picture of what the words are saying. Learning to visualise might be slow-going at first, but as you continue to encourage the learner to visualise, it will become a more automatic process.

  1. Summarise, paint the big picture, then teach the details

Learners who have dyslexia need to see the whole picture before you start teaching them details. One example in reading is showing children all the ways you can spell the sound of Long A. In math, showing the children a global view of the combination of numbers that make 10 will make it much easier for them to learn each individual combination.

  1. Use the ‘see, say, do’ approach

In teaching new material, you need to massage your way to the brain of the dyslexic learner. Using the three-pathway approach to the brain is very crucial.

Most lessons in school depend on the learner spending time memorising and drilling. Learners with dyslexia do not learn by memorising. They will successfully learn or grab a concept if they can see and understand what is happening.

They learn instantly by snapping a mental pictures of content that is rooted in images or other visuals such as pictures, charts, graphs, organisers. They will enjoy having hands-on activities to practice concepts you are teaching them. When they hear themselves speaking or reading, they add another important pathway to the brain.

Do you remember?

Experts agree that the best practice for teaching children with dyslexia is to teach them by engaging all their senses through visual aids, body movements, visualising, breaking down the bigger picture, and massaging all their senses by using the three-way approach.

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