How can I accommodate the needs of the middle and secondary students with dyslexia?

Published in SPELD SA Newsletter, Autumn 2003

Students with dyslexia suffer from self doubt and may go to extreme lengths to hide their difficulties.By High School students are often frustrated and demoralised. They are frustrated by the fact that they process information, read and write much more slowly than their peers and therefore become overwhelmed by the quantity of work expected.
 
They become demoralised because however hard they try, their work rarely reflects their ability. These students may be quite talented in some areas eg, oral discussion, problem solving, design, computing, mechanics, grasping mathematical concepts (despite difficulties with simple computation). It is important to acknowledge their strengths and not just focus on their weaknesses.
 

Classroom Strategies and Accommodations

Improving Listening skills

  • Sit students near the front
  • Keep instructions simple and short
  • Alert students using key phrases “This is important,” “Firstly, …”use visual aids, charts, pictures, overheads;
  • Write key points on the board

Improving Organisation

  • Set up classroom routines eg for collecting homework, giving out parent notices etc
  • Create checklists to help students organize tasks
  • Use folders to organize materials – a different colour for each subject
Dyslexics may be personally disorganised and forgetful, despite their best efforts

Engaging students with different learning styles

Design lessons to involve:
  • the visual channel eg, colour coding, writing key points on board, demonstrations
  • the auditory channel eg, explanations, have students repeat, use drama, discussion
  • the kinaesthetic channel eg, writing, making things, doing things
  • the thinking channel eg, analysing, organising, proof-reading, evaluating, summarising, asking themselves questions
  • encourage responses which reflect different learning styles:
    • visual: picture, chart, diagram
    • auditory: oral, cassette, play
    • kinaesthetic: model, movement 

Skill Development

  • Explicitly teach through modeling and guided practice the skills required to complete a task , eg,
    • comprehension skills
    • interpreting exam questions
    • research skills
    • study skills
    • exam revision
  • Provide lots of opportunities for practice and transfer of skills
  • Check knowledge on an ongoing basis and re-teach if necessary

Developing IT Skills

  • Teach keyboard and word processing skills
  • Encourage use of spellchecker
  • Encourage work on a word processor
  • Allow use of voice input if needed

 

Individual Support Accommodations

Completing Work

  • Shorten the task
  • Break the task into a series of steps, set time-lines and check each step on the due date
  • Modify the task

Marking Work

  • Expect high level intellectual content and reasonable written response
  • Advise students on how tasks will be marked. Where spelling/punctuation is part of the marking structure, give opportunity to draft and edit
  • Mark content, effort, presentation separately
  • Comment on the positives and provide constructive feedback for improvement
  • Ignore spelling mistakes; dyslexics are likely to have spent hours trying to improve their spelling

If the assignment isn’t finished, mark what has been done.

Building confidence and self-esteem

  • Reward effort
  • Show appreciation
  • Acknowledge frustrations, celebrate even small successes
  • Capitalize on special interests and talents
  • Provide opportunities to shine
  • Help students set manageable goals and work out strategies to attain them
  • Praise small achievements
  • Include student in decision making

 Accommodating difficulties with reading, note-taking and completing assignments

  • Provide photocopied notes: teacher’s or another student’s: dyslexics can’t listen and write at the same time, neither can they copy from the board efficiently
  • Provide resources at student’s reading level
  • Give extended/unlimited time for tests
  • Reduce amount of reading, teach short cuts: dyslexics read slowly & are always under pressure of time
  • Don’t ask dyslexics to read aloud if reluctant
  • Encourage response in point form, on spider map, oral presentation or tape
  • Provide a scribe when possible so student can concentrate on their ideas, let them dictate into Dictaphone, cassette
  • Provide genre structures and model how to use them eg for narrative, science report, newspaper article etc
  • Brainstorm vocabulary and write on the board
  • Provide topic sentences for paragraphs
  • Encourage the use of a word processor

Developing short-term memory skills

Intention

  • Students need to have a reason to remember
  • Establish an expectation to remember

Support

  • Give students extra time if struggling
  • Provide scaffolding/cues
  • Divide learning task into small, achievable steps
  • Teach each step explicitly
  • Make sure one step is learned before moving to the next

Teach memory strategies

Rehearsal/repetition

Simple recitation is useful for learning facts eg multiplication tables, lists. (Items at the beginning and end of a list are most likely to be recalled so have several short lists rather than one long one.)

Narrative chaining

Relate information to a theme or make up a story incorporating the information

Chunking

Group information into sub-units eg, the phone number 82164532 (8 bits) might be reduced to 3 bits (821 645 32); the word-ending /e/d (2 bits) could be reduced to /ed/ (1 bit)

Mental visualisation

Create a mental picture of the content to be remembered eg, details of a story; a process, directions. Close your eyes. Can you see it inside your eyes? For some students this may be difficult and require guided practice.

Mnemonics
  • Talk about the memory ‘tricks’ you use eg, to remember the spelling of stationary/stationery: cars are stationary; stationery paper
  • Make up a sentence using the letters of a word eg, because – big elephants can always understand small elephants
  • Make up a sentence with the order of the points of the compass – Never Eat Soggy Weetbix
  • Rhymes eg, Thirty days has September, April, June and November

Practice

Students with memory difficulties may know something one day and have forgotten it the next.
  • Provide many opportunities for practice – consider also the value of computer programs with their immediate feedback, infinite patience, potential for variety
  • Review knowledge regularly

Memory Aids

Encourage the use of diaries, illustrations, charts, calendars, graphs, cue cards, concept maps, notes, flash cards, summaries, post-it stickers with reminders, copy of daily/weekly timetable, checklist of tasks to complete, calculator, multiplication tables chart, indexed book with often mis-spelt words, business size cards with telephone numbers, important information.

Metamemory – knowing how to remember

  • Ask student: How are you going to remember this information/procedure?
  • Model strategies they might use
  • Student chooses their preferred strategy and talks themselves through the task
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Picture/written cue cards can be used until the student can perform the task automatically
 

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