October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and October 14th signals Developmental Language Disorder Day. It is very appropriate that DLD Awareness day occurs in Dyslexia awareness month because the two conditions commonly co-occur. 

In order to raise awareness for dyslexia and DLD, we’ve decided to put together some information that we think any teacher or parent can get value from. Read on to find out more! 

Language & Learning is owned by  Kathryn Thornburn. Kathryn holds dual qualifications in Speech Pathology & Teaching (Primary and Special Education). She has been a certified practising speech pathologist and member of Speech Pathology Australia since January 1998 and a teacher since 2002.

Kathryn holds proficient teacher accreditation within NSW. In 2021, she was employed on the English Writers team for the K-2 and 3 – 6 NSW English Syllabus curriculum reform project. Kathryn is a consultant teacher with Learning Difficulties Australia and Tutor for SPELDNSW. 

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is viewed as a reading impairment (DSM 5/ICD 10), a learning ‘difficulty’ (UK) or a specific learning disability (USA). The latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5th edition (DSM 5) uses the terminology Specific Learning Disorder in Reading, Writing or Mathematics. These are the conditions that have also been referred to as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia.

According to AUSPELD, it is conservatively estimated that well over 20% of Australian children are currently struggling with learning difficulties and 3% to 5% of students are known to have a developmental learning disorder. Of those students identified with a learning disorder, four out of every five are assessed as having a reading disorder (or SLD with impairment in reading), commonly known as dyslexia.

A learning disorder can co-exist with difficulties related to attention, working memory, developmental language disorder or other disabilities such as hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorders, dyspraxia or a traumatic brain injury.

The key symptoms of dyslexia are problems with decoding or single-word reading and/or poor reading fluency and poor spelling. Phonological weaknesses, specific language-based learning difficulties or difficulties with Rapid Automatic Naming, are typically the underlying cause of the literacy problems associated with dyslexia.

Students with Dyslexia may present with other co-occurring conditions (such as a language disorder, ADHD or anxiety). However even in the absence of a co-occurring diagnosis, students with dyslexia typically read less than average readers and as a result are at risk of difficulties with comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and writing which become more severe over time as the academic demands of school increase.

The problems associated with dyslexia are language-based, not visual and not related to cognitive skills or intelligence. Phonological processing problems are the principal cause of dyslexia. Phonological processing refers to the ability to analyse speech or spoken language, from identifying individual words to word parts or syllables, and then into the smallest parts called phonemes or speech sounds. Some children may experience difficulty with Rapid Automatic Naming which can compound the challenge of learning to read.

Co-occurring conditions

In addition to a diagnosis of dyslexia, students might also have a co-occurring diagnosis such as Developmental Language Disorder, ADHD or anxiety. Did you know that 50% of students with a diagnosis of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will have a diagnosis of Dyslexia and 50% of students with a diagnosis of Dyslexia will have a Diagnosis of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

However, even if they don’t have a co-occurring diagnosis, students with dyslexia typically read less than their peers. As a result, they’re at risk of having difficulties with comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and writing – and these problems usually become more severe over time as school gets harder, however, there are many ways a classroom teacher can help.

8 teaching strategies for students with dyslexia

1. Create an encouraging and collaborative learning environment

Create a positive learning environment by getting to know each of your students as individuals and encouraging them to get to know one another. This will allow the children to feel at ease and will encourage them to ask questions and participate in class even when they’re unsure.

2. Use a universal screening assessment with all students to measure and monitor student progress. 

Early intervention is essential and there are many ways that teachers can help in the classroom.  Universal screening tools like Acadience Reading or DIBELS can identify students early and staff can monitor how students are responding to intervention.  Schools can also screen oral language skills using the CUBED Oral Narrative Assessment which is freely available. For more information, read my blog on using Universal Screening Assessment tools.

3. Teach all students using a structured literacy approach

A structured literacy approach incorporates the science of reading and science of learning research and focuses on teaching all core aspects of literacy in a clear, explicit and systematic way. This includes foundational skills in phonological and phonemic awareness, such as letter-sound correspondence, blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation, along with decoding for reading and encoding for spelling. Support skills with matched decodable readers to allow students to practice the skills they are learning to read and spell.

4. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your students 

Offer the children in your classroom a variety of options for engaging with activities to make learning more engaging and inclusive. For many students difficulties with reading, spelling and writing may make them feel like school is overwhelming. It is helpful to help them see that frequently, they have great knowledge of the content that is being learned in class and they simply have difficulties with reading and writing. Providing opportunities to give spoken answers,  using mind maps, colour coding and drawings can help record ideas and thoughts. 

5. Break down new language into small and manageable pieces

Don’t introduce too much new language at one time, or else the child in question might become overwhelmed. Breaking new language down into smaller chunks can help them learn it more easily. Help students to see patterns, use colour to code steps in a task or identify themes and write information down or record it so that students can refer back to it.

6. Spend time teaching children how to properly use exam methods

Spend some time teaching exam strategies, such as how to go about specific activities in an examination, and break these down into a series of easy actions. Breaking exams down into more digestible chunks will assist students to perform to their best. Talking through exam strategies can help students to read the entire task and start with the tasks they can do most easily. Many students with learning difficulties become overwhelmed if they can’t complete question one, whereas those who often perform better on exams know how to take strategic risks and educated guesses by skipping questions to do those that are easier and returning to the more challenging tasks even if it means completing tasks out of order.

7. Utilise Technology to support curriculum access and liaise closely with both the student and their families 

By the time a student reaches upper primary school or high school many with dyslexia and/ or  Developmental Language Disorder have had an extensive intervention. It is really important for the classroom teacher or KLA teachers in secondary school to understand how the student has responded to intervention and what the goals are for the student. 

In the same way that we allow a student in a wheelchair to use a ramp rather than establishing the goal that they will walk upstairs, it can be highly appropriate to allow students to utilise technology to support their independent access to the curriculum in all settings. A student who depends on technology to access learning content will not abuse the privilege if it allows them to demonstrate their full capability.  

Just like we don’t ask students with glasses to remove them in an exam setting to ‘level the playing field’, removing support from a student in exams or assessment tasks is equally inappropriate. A diagnosis of Dyslexia or Developmental language disorder is a lifelong disability and is not an indication of an intellectual disability. With the correct support in place, students can thrive and demonstrate their true potential, in the same way, a pair of glasses or a wheelchair can unlock the potential of students with vision loss or physical disabilities.

8. My Top Technology Tools for Curriculum Access across K-12:

Language & Learning can provide dyslexia teaching strategies for your school

Language & Learning is spearheaded by Kathryn Thorburn. Within the education sector, Kathryn has worked across the NSW Department of Education and Training, and Catholic and Independent school sectors in NSW for over 20 years.

Kathryn has practical experience as a classroom teacher, coordinator, member of a school leadership team/school executive and consultant for schools within a regional team. Kathryn has extensive experience managing and implementing whole school change in a K-12 setting in the areas of Literacy, Numeracy and Inclusive Education.

Kathryn has provided clinical education to Speech Pathology students (4th year & Masters programs) from both the University of Newcastle and Sydney University within a Preschool – Year 12 setting and provided a regular guest lecture to Speech Pathology students on the topic of Reading & Spelling – Assessment & Intervention. So if you’d like to learn more about dyslexia or DLD teaching strategies, contact us today. 

Not all children learn and develop in the same way. While some develop quickly, others need a little more time. This applies to all aspects of a child’s life, including reading and writing. 

Many children find reading challenging, but when the struggle to learn to read becomes severe, the child may have a form of a learning disorder called dyslexia. 

Many parents and teachers have felt discouraged over the perceived inability of their children to read, write, or spell. They can feel inept and sometimes frustrated that the child is falling behind their peers when it comes to learning, yet the child may have dyslexia.

Reading about how dyslexia affects learning can help teachers, parents, speech therapists, and anyone who works or spends time with children better understand the condition. With adequate information and training, the child can be encouraged to be the best they can be, and often dyslexia improves as the child grows. Be sure to contact Language & Learning if you need any assistance understanding what dyslexia means for your child.

In this post, we will look at dyslexia and how it affects learning and its impacts on the child.

Dyslexia and learning

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders. It can make it difficult for a child to read, write, and spell. It impacts the ability of a child to read at a normal pace and causes the brain to have trouble processing letters and sounds. 

Some forms of dyslexia are more severe than others, occurring on a continuum. Dyslexia does not affect every child in the same way: no two cases are the same. There are similarities, however. 

The signs of dyslexia will usually show before a child starts school, although they are often missed.  Besides the above, dyslexia leaves a mark that generally goes beyond reading and writing; it can affect a child’s confidence, motivation, and self-image.

Below, we will discuss the various impacts of dyslexia on a child’s learning in more detail.

The impacts of dyslexia on learning

Dyslexia has various impacts on a child’s learning. These impacts include, but are not limited to:

#1. Reading and writing challenges

Children with dyslexia may have different combinations of learning challenges. For example, one student may find reading difficult while another may find writing more difficult. Another may have both reading and writing challenges.

Children with dyslexia typically have difficulties sounding out new words and fluently recognising old ones.

All these are not a matter of the child’s effort or intelligence, but they are related to neurological problems in the brain.

#2. Speech struggles 

Many children with dyslexia have speech delays and may start to speak later than other children their age. In addition, dyslexia is often identified in students who had difficulties with speech sound accuracy when learning a task or a diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech. 

#3. Comprehension difficulties

Difficulty with comprehension of written text is seen when students struggle to decode or read the words of a text.  Typically, students with dyslexia have good spoken language skills; however, language difficulties (or developmental language disorders) can co-exist with dyslexia. These disorders appear as difficulties with comprehension in both spoken comprehension and reading comprehension. 

#4. Classroom anxieties

In school, children with dyslexia are more likely to become anxious than their peers because of their learning difficulties.

Many will find it hard to take notes and copy down words from the board. Because of their reading struggles, there may be increased anxiety when called on to read aloud in class. This may lead to frustration with school and learning as a whole and is why understanding dyslexia and the individual needs of students is so vital for teachers, parents, and students alike. 

#5. Emotional impacts

Children diagnosed with dyslexia may struggle to learn like their peers, but if they are left undiagnosed and do not have the help they need, the struggle may lead them to become frustrated. This in turn can affect their emotional well-being.

They may suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Fear of making mistakes may affect their ability to interact with their peers. They may struggle with thoughts of rejection. Identifying their dyslexia early can significantly reduce any negative consequences. They deserve fair and compassionate treatment along with tailored support to equip them to reach their potential. 

#6. Social impacts

Dyslexia can also impact a child socially. For example, experiencing academic failure despite sustained effort can impact friendships and self-confidence  Many kids with dyslexia suffer from low self-esteem because they think that something is wrong with them. 

Some dyslexic children will think they are not trying hard enough and push themselves too far, causing them to stop believing in their abilities. They need reassurance that they are intelligent and capable – and they are! There is absolutely no indication that dyslexia affects intelligence whatsoever. 

Contact Language & Learning today so we can help your child with dyslexia

The impacts of dyslexia on children vary. It depends on several factors, including the severity and the kind of help the child receives. However, with the proper support and encouragement, dyslexic kids can learn to read, write, and excel in school and society just like their peers.

However, without adequate help and support, they may struggle more than they need to. This is why parents and teachers need all the training they can get to support children with dyslexia, and at Language & Learning, we have all the resources to help. 

At Language & Learning, we know that the earlier a dyslexic child gets support, the better. This is why we have put together various training courses for parents, teachers, and speech therapists that are structured to meet the specific needs of children with learning difficulties of all kinds.

We have years of experience working with students with difficulties within the education setting. We aim to help children with learning difficulties succeed and know that there is nothing they cannot achieve.

It is never too late to start. Contact Language & Learning today

A learning disability is a condition that makes learning or assimilation of knowledge challenging. Students with these disabilities do not take in and process information like the rest of their peers. 

Here is a list of the more common learning disabilities:

  • Dyscalculia makes it difficult to learn number-related concepts or use symbols and functions to perform maths calculations.
  • Dysgraphia makes it difficult to put thoughts onto paper.
  • Dyslexia makes it difficult for a child to read.
  • Dysphasia makes it difficult to understand and generate speech.

Students with learning difficulties can also experience problems with executive functioning.  This means they may struggle with planning, organisation and memory.

Teachers must know how to help students with learning disabilities. Doing this will put the children in a position to compete and hold their own in the classroom. It will also build their confidence, allowing them to become the best person they can be and aid them in succeeding in life.

What if one of your students has a learning disability? As a teacher, how can you help such a child? Read on to learn more.

Supporting Students with Learning Difficulties

As a teacher, you need to begin by understanding that a child with a learning disability has just as much potential to succeed in school – and life in general – as any of their peers. With adequate support and help from family and teachers, students with these disabilities can be confident and achieve in society; all they need is understanding and patience from those around them. With this, they can then blossom into the amazing human beings they are destined to be. 

Here are five tips that teachers can apply when assisting students with learning disabilities:

#1. Pay specific attention to the child

To help a child with learning disabilities, the teacher must focus on the child. There must be specific attention to the child’s individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. This requires explicit, direct, and individualised instruction for students with a learning disability. It is also essential that the teacher give the student a way to share their progress with you or ask for help without standing out as different from their peers.  

#2. Break learning into small steps

When teachers break the learning process into simple steps, a child with a learning disability will be able to follow along far more readily. One way to do this is to use a variety of learning resources, such as diagrams, graphics and pictures. The more stimulating the material provided, the better. 

#3. Model your instructions

Modelling the assignment or project that your students are to undertake is an excellent way to help those with a learning disability. By watching and copying your actions, they will learn more efficiently. Colour coding the steps in a task can also help enormously.  This is the process of making your thinking visible, also known as ‘metacognition’. Colour coding also allows students to work on a task at their own pace and minimises the risk of overwhelming them.

#4. Be supportive

One of the most critical aspects of teaching a child with a learning disability is simply being supportive and patient. Many of these children struggle and are very aware of their differences from their peers as they are very observant. They pick up on minute changes in an adult’s demeanour and will know if you are getting frustrated. Unfortunately, they might often internalise this frustration and become disheartened or disinterested, exacerbating the issue. Being patient and supportive is vital when teaching children with learning difficulties, and it cannot be underestimated or overlooked.

#5. Partner with your child’s parents

Even though the child spends a great deal of time at school, some of the child’s progress can be lost if a learning environment is not reinforced at home. Therefore, as a teacher, you should try to partner with parents to support your students’ progress and ensure they remain encouraged. 

One good way of doing this is to supply regular, quality feedback to parents. For example, engage them in parent-teacher sessions and discuss the strategies you have applied to help the student learn better. On top of this, they can give your input on the processes that have worked best for their child.

Assisting Students with Learning Difficulties

There is no cure for a learning disability. It is a lifelong challenge. However, students with these challenges are typically hard-working, just like their peers. Their difficulties do not indicate a lack of intelligence but rather specific difficulties with the tasks of reading, writing, spelling or mathematics.  Utilising a range of technologies can also enhance student learning and independence. Many tools can be very easily incorporated into the classroom through the use of tablets, laptops and headphones. 

As a teacher, you can take training courses and coaching sessions that will equip you to support all your students and help them to be the best that they can be. You can start by getting professional support or training  from Language and Learning.

Language and Learning provides online professional development courses with a focus on language, learning and literacy for teachers, school leaders and speech therapists working with special needs students across all schooling levels in Australia. We provide training courses and coaching designed to equip teachers and school leaders to support their special needs students to be the best they can be.

Ready to get started? Contact us today.

Language and Learning

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