Overcoming the Challenge that is Dyslexia

Josianne Pisani

Overcoming the Challenge that is Dyslexia by:

Josianne Pisani

School can be very difficult for students with dyslexia. Literacy is the gateway to other subject areas and the key to academic success; yet it is precisely this area that is problematic for students with dyslexia who typically read slowly and have great difficulty identifying and spelling words. Effectively, what this means is that if these students do not ‘learn to read’ proficiently, they may find it impossible to ‘read to learn.’  

Early intervention to address reading difficulties will make a significant difference:

Early intervention to address reading difficulties can make a significant difference in long term reading ability. But that intervention must be effective. Students with dyslexia need explicit instruction in strategies to hear the individual sounds in words (phonemes) and make connections to the graphemes – written symbols - that represent them.  

But the learning doesn’t stop there. The International Dyslexia Association recommends a Structured Literacy approach that also teaches students about syllables, morphemes (the smallest units of meaning), and the structure and function of written language. This can be quite a daunting process, but it is made much easier when children get an early start. Since young children learn best when they are engaged, finding an approach to reading and spelling instruction that is fun and motivating may be the key to giving children with dyslexia a head start to literacy learning.  

Children have a playful mind and a witty imagination - use it:

Children have a playful mind and a witty imagination, so using this to leverage learning can go a long way. To this end, programs such as those of Sounder & Friends™ are fantastic as a starting point for our very young learners. This animated series features short, visually appealing episodes that capitalize on the power of storytelling to spark students’ imagination and draw their attention to the power of phonemes. Children are encouraged to interact with the characters and the "Soundscape" in the real and virtual worlds, all the while developing critical, foundational literacy skills. The free App, which will be available for download on December 7th, is both educational and entertaining and introduces children to phonemic awareness skills in a fun and playful way. Children can practice both basic and advanced phonemic awareness skills as they interact with the characters to solve puzzles and earn prizes.

Sounder & Friends™ explicitly draws attention to individual speech sounds, modelling the phonemic awareness skills needed for reading and spelling success, and encouraging young children to actively engage with the “Soundscape” in a playful, motivating, and developmentally appropriate way. By learning to hear, identify, and play with sounds during the preschool and kindergarten years, children with dyslexia will be better positioned for success in learning to read and spell.

But dyslexia is more than words:

Yes, dyslexia can involve more than just problems with recognising writing or uttering the right words. Some students with dyslexia also have challenges associated with working memory, organisational skills, and staying focused - all skills which are necessary in order to succeed academically.    

The impact that dyslexia has depends on the severity of the condition, so the experience of children with dyslexia will be different from child to child. Many children will suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and frustration. They might also feel like they are struggling to do the things that come so easily to their peers. Can you imagine what it must take out of a child to feel this way?  

Flowers bloom under the right conditions:                                  

But flowers bloom under the right conditions, so the good news is that with special instruction and support dyslexia can be managed.  

Here are 3 tips to support children with dyslexia.  

  • Work with their strengths – every child has them. Find out what they are and encourage them.  

  • Praise children’s efforts. Help them develop the perseverance that will help them overcome their difficulties.

  • Focus on the improvement that students make, from week to week, or month to month, and celebrate their successes.  

In order to successfully navigate the learning differences associated with dyslexia and achieve the best possible outcome for both educators and students, effective and accessible resources are crucial. This is why tools such as PAGS exist. By answering a few questions, this digital tool analyzes each child’s needs and customises targets and strategies, providing provision that uses the latest SEN expertise, allows professionals to work at the learners’ pace and with how they learn best whilst developing:

  • Recall skills - this helps children re-access and retrieve information and is an important skill for efficient learning

  • Organisational skills - this is what allows them to plan and prioritise and is a crucial skill not only for learning but also for life in general

  • Concentration - once they improve on their ability to concentrate, they are not only able to focus better and pay attention but will also be able to start and finish tasks better.

  • Stress management - managing stress levels effectively allows children to become more resilient under pressure, empowers them to meet challenges better and helps them become more productive

  • Emotional well-being - having the ability to produce positive thoughts, emotions, moods and feelings allows children to better adapt to different situations as well as have better relationships and overall quality of life

Dyslexia reflects neurodiversity, a different learning ability. With the right support, all children can find their strengths and fly to their highest height.

About PAGS:

Founded by Feliciea Jibson and supported by a growing number of professionals, PAGS is a digital companion for neurodivergent learners and their caregivers. It is a profiling, assessment and goal setting tool that can work alongside any curriculum, and can be used at home, during free time activities or in the classroom. PAGS is also one of 8 finalists in the BETT Awards 2022 in the ‘Assessment Planning and Progress Monitoring’ category.

Find out more about PAGS at https://www.pagsprofile.com/

About Sounder & Friends:

Founded by Heather A. Kenny, Ph.D., President of Unleashed Innovation, Inc. and Laura Robbins, M.Ed (literacy), Sounder & Friends™ is a powerful tool that teaches children, and the adults in their lives, about phonemic awareness and its importance to literacy development in an interactive, fun and playful way.  

Episodes from the Sounder & Friends™ animated series can be found on:

Sounder & Friends™ has also been featured on other literacy and Science of Reading-affiliated sites including Heggerty and the National Center on Improving Literacy.

The free Sounder & Friends™ App will soon be available for download on both Android and iOS devices.  

About the Author:

Josianne Pisani is a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer at ETI Malta with years of experience in teaching English as a second language to learners of all ages and abilities. She has written and runs various methodology courses and has been training teachers from around the world for the last 10 years. She is also a SEN coach and a PAGS professional. Josianne has recently launched her own website, a platform that provides interactive and engaging material as well as lesson ideas for educators.

Find out more about Josianne and what she does at www.englishpracticecafe.com

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