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Primary Education News
News Supporting students with dyslexia: tips, tricks and tech for teachers
1.2 million children in the UK have dyslexia so it's important teachers understand how to support pupils with the disability. David Imrie shares his techniques and insights
1.2 million children in the UK have dyslexia, a print disability where students have difficulty reading and interpreting meaning. For them, though words are visible, they may swim or dance on the page and this can seriously affect their studies and performance. But with the right support from their teachers and the use of technology, simple changes can make a big difference.
Technology is an important tool that can be used to support students with dyslexia with reading and writing. Here are some resources and ideas that teachers can employ, however, you should note that dyslexia manifests itself differently amongst children so it's important to try a combination of methods to find out what works best for them.
Lesson plan adaptations
When planning your lesson, take into consideration the following points to help students with dyslexia in their tasks:
Teachers should ensure that documents given to students with dyslexia only contain instructions needed for the exercise without any unnecessary detail as these could be distracting. All materials for students with dyslexia should have a clear layout, short sentences and an uncomplicated structure.
Images that exemplify sentences or unfamiliar words are really useful. By spacing out the instructions and adding a diagram, students can follow it without having to understand every word – this is called 'reading for meaning'.
• Fonts and background colours
Software that is regularly used in schools, such as Microsoft Word, is a good resource for fonts and background colours. Changing the background colour to green, for example, can help with reading as can wearing green glasses.
Fonts can also enable reading and understanding; teachers can download free specialist fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, which are free and can run on Microsoft software. This font adds gravity and weight to the document and is thicker at the bottom as shown in the image below. Students who find characters invert or swim should try using this font.
Again, one size does not fit all and you should test it with your students to see what works best for them. I personally use the Verdana but there are schools in Glasgow that use the ClearType font and Arial is a good all-rounder.
Text readers and additional support
There are a variety of text readers available including a free version developed by a teacher called WordTalk, which runs on Microsoft Word. You can set this to read one word at a time, one paragraph at a time or continuously. It can also convert text to MP3 so students can record their own voice as an audio comment which is great for capturing their ideas straight away to revise later. Similar to Word, when using text readers the background can be changed to the preferred colour for further help.
I use Texthelp's Read&Write Gold literacy support software with my students because it offers additional highly-effective features that are not available on the free software. It has a reading tool with quality voices and students have access to a dictionary. This dictionary is more sophisticated than the standard one in Word – it checks every word and offers a homophone or 'sounds like' facility which picks up on words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.
Using and building additional resources
Load2Learn and Books4All are useful sites where teachers can download free accessible resources, especially books, to help students with dyslexia. These resources are made by educational professionals who have an interest in providing support. I have made and uploaded around 30 books to support the Scottish curriculum. If you make any, especially if you are a primary teacher, please do the same and support your colleagues and students dyslexia everywhere.
David Imrie is a biology teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator at Ashcraig School in Glasgow.