Many dyslexic children will be relieved not to be attending school with its added pressures. They will of course be missng the social aspect greatly. They will be happy not to be facing the daily effort that is their normal experience. Therefore help them make the most of this unique experience. There will rarely have been a time when the pressure of learning lessens, and they are afforded the clearer thinking skills that come from not having to know the right answer, or of comparing themselves to others that appear more clever or quicker. They can learn at their own pace.
Some suggestions –
Get them reading by following the print while you read slowly at a pace they can visually follow or encourage them to read for themselves. Make sure that the book has no more than one word in every ten they struggle to read. This will ensure that they do not get frustrated, refuse or become reluctant to engage in reading. Avoid your frustration when they are able to read a word on one page and not the next, this is a part of their frustration too and is unfortunately the nature of the beast! It is probable that they initially ‘recognised’ the word from the picture or sentence context.
To encourage fluency, provide them with the words they may struggle with rather than pressure them to ‘sound them out’. Try not to teach, just encourage the enjoyment of the story.
Permit them to read and reread books that you might consider are much too easy for them. Re- reading familiar books encourages reading fluency of words they already know and allows intonation and expression to be practised. They could be encouraged to read a simple story to a younger sibling at bedtime, adding voices and expression.
Create opportunities for them to access high quality fiction that they might currently struggle to read, either by reading to them or through recordings. This will improve their vocabulary and their understanding of storybook language. This will also greatly enhance their writing skills as they assimilate, by osmosis, what constitutes a good story or a good writing style,
Teach them life skills such as handling money or telling the time.
Work with them on learning the time tables – recite one table evey day, just learning one at a time for weeks if necessary. Moving on to another before one is secure will only add confusion to what has already been learnt. The most difficult tables to learn are the 6s 7s and 8s – why not spend 6 months learning each. There are 4 years at Key Stage 2 in which to learn them thoroughly!
Get them writing; notoriously dyslexics choose not to write – challenge them to create storyboards (just like in the film world), with just one sentence under each picture, use the word processor with spellcheckers to create stories that can then be amended easily. When typed, their work will look good, probably better than in their handwriting and more easily read, thus confirming the correct spelling of words they might find difficult.
Encourage them to keep a daily journal whilst they are at home. Head each day with the day and month – check the spelling is correct. Eventually they will be able to spell the days of the week and the months automatically, as repetition of those words will help them remember. This journal would also become an interesting historical record of how they spent their time at home during the current crisis. Illustrate the journal with drawings and photographs. Tell them about Anne Frank’s diaries or share The Wimpy Kid!
If they really struggle with writing, then encourage them to use the voice to text facility on a home computer, lap top, iPhone or iPad. This releases them from the effort of writing and spelling, and allows them to be more verbally creative with their writing. Dyslexics are very often verbally able children frustrated by their lack of spelling skills. The spell checking facility can be turned on, as can an audio read back option. Editing and then printing off their journal to create a book will provide a little historical record of their time in ‘lock down’.
This enforced lock down is also an excellent opportunity for parents to correct a poor pencil hold or indeed correct letter formation. In a large class of children, teachers find it difficult to focus their attention on every child to stop any bad habits forming. This is where parents are invaluable. Ensure that each time your child picks up a pencil they use the correct grip. The index finger should be on top of the barrel and thumb and second finger placed each side in a tripod grip. Practice by encouraging them to take their pencil for a walk across the page, scribbling, drawing lines or writing words to free up their arm and hand with this grip. Using an incorrect grip over time will become permanent and while their handwriting might still be deemed ‘neat’, it will ultimately affect the speed and comfort of any prolonged handwritng task.
These are just a few initial ideas but do visit our forum to ask questions or look at some of our resources which could help you to put some of these ideas into practice.