I get a lot of questions from readers asking how to teach writing skills to kids with dyslexia. I have had quite a bit of experience with this, in fact I just helped my teenage daughter write an elaborate research paper for her college speech class. She has come a looooooong way from those early days when even simple writing assignments resulted in tears and frustration!
Teaching Writing to Kids With Dyslexia
Help them understand the assignment. Many kids with dyslexia also struggle with executive function skills such as organizing, planning and prioritizing. This can make the writing process agonizingly difficult and slow for some kids.
There are many different types of writing assignments and so before your child gets started it is important for them to truly understand what is being asked of them. In my home, one of my kids wants to make every writing assignment into a creative writing project. She loves to write creatively.
So when she is assigned a research type of assignment, it is important for me to remind her that not only does she not NEED to elaborate creatively on the subject, but that she SHOULD not!
Teach them how to use mind maps to organize their thoughts. People with dyslexia are known for their great ideas (40% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic). This can become a problem, however, when there are too many ideas! Teach your kids how to organize their thoughts using a mind map.
Photo from https://www.examtime.com/
The basic idea behind mind mapping is that each main idea goes in a ‘bubble’ with supporting details in smaller bubbles surrounding the main idea. There is something about the visual aspect of the mind map that has been incredibly powerful for helping our kids with dyslexia organize their thoughts before writing them down.
Most of our kids’ mindmaps have been sketched into a simple spiral bound notebook. However, there are an abundance of apps and other programs to help with this. Visit our Resources Page for our recommendations.
Putting words on paper. The next step in the writing process that can cause difficulties for a student with dyslexia is getting their words on paper, or onto a computer. Since many kids with dyslexia struggle with handwriting and most students with dyslexia will struggle with spelling, this can be a real challenge.
- Scribe: Have mom or dad or another sibling be the scribe and have your child dictate the paper to them.
- Speech-to-text: Utilize one of many computer programs and apps that actually take your spoken words and convert them into text. These can be as simple as the free iPad app Dragon Dictate to more elaborate computer programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
- Typing with a good spell checker. Visit the Resources page of this site for dyslexia-friendly recommendations for spell checkers and other forms of assistive technology.
Utilize an editing checklist. An editing checklist such as the COPS Editing Checklist will help your child develop the skills to self check their writing assignments.
At first, this will need to be done alongside your student until they have mastered the skills to complete the check list on their own.
A good writing checklist will walk your student through each area of writing that needs to be proofed before the paper is ready to hand in.
Other thoughts on teaching writing to kids with dyslexia:
Don’t be afraid of the sloppy copy. All good writers first write a rough draft or sloppy copy. This helps to get the main ideas onto paper. Going over a paper a second (or third) time to edit for clarity, word choice, spelling and punctuation is a normal part of the writing process.
Practice, practice, practice. The best way to help your kids to get more comfortable with the writing process is to have them write each week.
I have found that as a busy homeschooler, it is helpful to have kids take a writing class through your homeschool group, co-op or other community offering. Our kids have benefited from the attending an IEW class for the past 2 years.
The level of writing that they are producing has vastly improved with these manageable weekly writing assignements.
Note on taking classes: If you are nervous about having your child take a class because of their dyslexia, this is an excellent time to teach them about self-advocacy which is one of the most powerful skills you can teach your student.
- Talk to the teacher ahead of time about your child’s reading, writing, spelling struggles.
- Suggest and agree to any accommodations that your child will need. Accommodations for a writing class might include:
- asking that there be no in class writing assignments
- no reading out loud (unless they want to)
- not marking off on any spelling done in class
Writing Curricula That Work Well With Dyslexia
Write Shop: Every level from Kindergarten through High School taught in a systematic way that works well with kids with dyslexia.
Fortuigence: Essay Rock Star: Online video classes with online teacher that corrects assignments and provides excellent feedback. Read my review here.
Institute for Excellence in Writing: Teaches writing in a step by step manner that is enjoyable for (at least my) kids.
As with reading and spelling, all kids with dyslexia can be taught to write and write well with the right methods!
What tips do you have for teaching writing to a child with dyslexia?
Reading and Writing Strategies for Students With Dyslexia
As researchers increase their understanding of the causes and dimensions of dyslexia, the toolkit of effective strategies for teaching such students continues to grow.
Students with visual processing disorders have very individual needs, so teachers must have a range of techniques ready to use.
Here is an overview of some approaches that researchers have found that provide help for dyslexia.
Keep Work Spaces Uncluttered
This concept includes simplicity in the visual and auditory realm. Keep desks and tables uncluttered by asking students to put away all materials not actively in use. Teachers need to leave plenty of blank space between words and lines when they write on the blackboard or prepare worksheets. Classrooms and personal study spaces should also be kept as quiet as possible.
Establish Academic Routines
Almost every outline of effective dyslexia strategies involves careful structuring of new material. This includes presenting each step of a lesson in graphic and spoken order, and proceeding step by step.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) points out in its teacher tips that daily classroom routines are very important, as is repeating directions and presenting new words in small sequential steps.
Use Color and 3D in Writing Exercises
Since different areas of the brain come into play when recognizing shape and color, writing letters in different colors helps students to distinguish between them.
One effective strategy for writing with dyslexia combines a color scheme with phonics so that syllables are differentiated by color.
With younger students, letter shapes can be traced in sand, or the letters themselves can be three-dimensional objects that are picked up and positioned.
Encourage Speaking and Listening
Yale researchers have found that “the phonological deficit masks what are often excellent comprehension skills.” A classroom assistant can transcribe the dictation of a student with learning disorders.
This aids the student in separating intellectual content from the effort of writing, instilling confidence in his or her ability to think.
Listening to story tapes can build a love of literature that is separate from the task of reading with dyslexia.
Nurture Reading Pleasure by Presenting Easier Books
Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity suggests engaging the entire class in books that combine rich storytelling with simple words. This technique enables dyslexic students to finish books, appreciate humor and articulate opinions on par with their peers. It short-circuits the usual competitive anxiety about being able to keep up and enables a sense of competence.
Help for Dyslexia
5 Creative Writing Tools for Dyslexic Kids
5 Creative writing tools for dyslexic kids
A couple of months ago I finished my year-long teaching course at a local organization in Poland, working with dyslexic children. While teaching my first two classes of English, I was very scared as to how I would prepare for my classes and which techniques I could use.
After a month or so, I fell in love with those kids. They are gifted and creative, and also very eager to learn and improve. After I returned home, I was anxious to go there again, as I felt that I could make a difference and wanted to continue helping those kids.
Teaching to dyslexic children is an art and requires thorough preparation. While volunteering as an English teacher in Poland, I came up with a list of tools that work as a whole to help the learning process easier. These tools are targeted at teaching writing, but involve listening and reading as well.
1. Spelling Assistance
As dyslexia affects a child’s memory for letters and words, it also influences the ability to learn how to spell. Dyslexic students can memorize how to spell a few words for a short period of time but can easily forget them. In this case, instruction requires a lot of training, often done by the students themselves.
Dyslexic students can use the benefits of predictive spelling software to make writing much easier. An example is the Co:Writer
Top tips for creating Dyslexia friendly print materials
Fonts should be rounded, allow for space between letters, reflect ordinary cursive writing and be 'easy on the eye'. Look for a font that spaces letters rather than running them closely together. Bear in mind that fonts that have unusual shaped letters can create difficulties.
- Select sans serif fonts such as Arial or Comic Sans. Other suggestions include Verdana, Helvetica, Tahoma, Trebuchet and Sassoon. Information on Sassoon is available at clubtype.co.uk (external link)
- Use a minimum of 12pt or 14pt font size.
- Where possible use lower case letters rather than capitals. Using capital letters for emphasis can make text harder to read.
- Don't write sentences entirely in capitals; this infers that the reader is being shouted at.
Presentation can make a big difference, both to readability and initial visual impact.
- Limit lines to 60 to 70 characters. Lines that are too long or short can put strain on eyes.
- Use line spacing between paragraphs to break up text.
- Use wide margins and headings.
- Use of boxes for emphasis or to highlight important text can be effective.
- Avoid dense blocks of text by using short paragraphs.
- Use bold to highlight. Italics, or underlining can make the words run together.
- Keep lines left justified with a ragged right edge.
- Use bullets or numbers rather than continuous prose.
- Don't hyphenate words that are not usually split in order to fill up line ends, e.g. “operation”.
- The space between lines is important. Recommendations suggest a leading (space) of 1.5 to 2 times the space.
The way in which text is written can have an impact on the reader. Long and complicated sentences can be difficult for the reader to navigate and comprehend.
- Write in short simple sentences.
- Be conscious of where sentences begin on the page. Starting a new sentence at the end of a line makes it harder to follow.
- Try to call the readers 'you'; imagine they are sitting opposite you and you are talking to them directly.
- Give instructions clearly. Avoid long sentences of explanation.
Some additional hints from the Plain English Campaign (external link)
- Stop and think before you start writing. Be clear what it is you want to say.
- Use short words where possible.
- Keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words.
- Use active verbs as much as possible. Say 'we will do it' rather than 'it will be done by us'.
- Be concise.
When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it can display information about the reading level of the document, including the following readability scores. Each readability score bases its rating on the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence.
To set your spell checker to automatically check readability, go to Tools, Options, Spelling, and Grammar, then tick the Readability request. Word will then show your readability score every time you spell check.
- Flesch Reading Ease score
Rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 70 to 80.
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score
Rates text on a U.S. grade-school level. For example, a score of 5.0 means that a fifth grader, i.e. a Year 6, average 10 year old, can understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 5.0, by using short sentences, not by dumbing down vocabulary.
Everyone processes information in a different style. It is important to consider this when presenting ideas and concepts. Some people might find it easier to access a long and wordy explanation whilst others may prefer an alternative style. For example:
- Flow charts are ideal for explaining procedures.
- Pictograms and graphics help to locate information.
- Lists of “do's and don'ts” are more useful than continuous text to highlight aspects of good practice.
- Provide a glossary of abbreviations and jargon.
- Include a contents page at the beginning and an index at end.
Dyslexia friendly style guide – British Dyslexia Association
This Style Guide provides principles that can help ensure that written material considers the difficulties experienced by some dyslexic people and allows for the use of text to speech to facilitate ease of reading. Adopting best practice for dyslexic readers has the advantage of making all written communication easier on the eye for everyone.
When making changes consider all the ways that you use written communications, such as emails, presentations, web pages and printed materials.
Consider these principles in combination with other accessibility guidance such as the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG).
- Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial and Comic Sans, as letters can appear less crowded. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri, Open Sans.
- Font size should be 12-14 point or equivalent (e.g. 1-1.2em / 16-19 px). Some dyslexic readers may request a larger font.
- Larger inter-letter / character spacing (sometimes called tracking) improves readability, ideally around 35% of the average letter width. If letter spacing is excessive it can reduce readability.
- Inter-word spacing should be at least 3.5 times the inter-letter spacing.
- Larger line spacing improves readability and should be proportional to inter-word spacing; 1.5/150% is preferable.
- Avoid underlining and italics as this can make the text appear to run together and cause crowding. Use bold for emphasis.
- Avoid text in uppercase/capital letters and small caps, which can be less familiar to the reader and harder to read.
Headings and structure
Use headings and styles to create consistent structure to help people navigate through your content. In Word, you’ll find these tools in the ‘Home’ tab:
- For headings, use a font size that is at least 20% larger than the normal text. If further emphasis is required, then use bold.
- Use formatting tools for text alignment, justification, indents, lists, line and paragraph spacing to support assistive technology users. In Word, you’ll find these tools in the ‘Layout’ tab:
- Add extra space around headings and between paragraphs.
- Ensure hyperlinks look different from headings and normal text.
- Use single colour backgrounds. Avoid background patterns or pictures and distracting surrounds.
- Use sufficient contrast levels between background and text.
- Use dark coloured text on a light (not white) background.
- Avoid green and red/pink, as these colours are difficult for those who have colour vision deficiencies (colour blindness).
- Consider alternatives to white backgrounds for paper, computer and visual aids such as whiteboards. White can appear too dazzling. Use cream or a soft pastel colour. Some dyslexic people will have their own colour preference.
- When printing, use matt paper rather than gloss. Paper should be thick enough to prevent the other side showing through.
- Left align text, without justification.
- Avoid multiple columns (as used in newspapers).
- Lines should not be too long: 60 to 70 characters.
- Use white space to remove clutter near text and group related content.
- Break up the text with regular section headings in long documents and include a table of contents.
- Use active rather than passive voice.
- Be concise; avoid using long, dense paragraphs.
- Use short, simple sentences in a direct style.
- Use images to support text. Flow charts are ideal for explaining procedures. Pictograms and graphics can help to locate and support
- information in the text.
- Consider using bullet points and numbering rather than continuous prose.
- Give instructions clearly.
- Avoid double negatives.
- Avoid abbreviations where possible; always provide the expanded form when first used.
- Provide a glossary of abbreviations and jargon.
The Dyslexia Style Guide 2018 is available as:
- Dyslexia Style Guide 2018 (PDF)
- Dyslexia Style Guide 2018 (DOCX)
Dyslexia friendly training
Training for employers
12 Tips to Help Kids With Dyslexia Learn Sight Words
Kids with dyslexia can have extra trouble learning . Some of these words don’t follow standard spelling rules, so they’re not . Others appear so often that kids have to recognize them quickly to be fluent readers. These tips can make learning sight words easier.
Kids with reading difficulties may need help noticing all the details in a new word—especially if the word has an unusual spelling. Take the word through, for example.
Teach your child by first showing the word and then reading it out loud. Next, ask your child to say the letters in the word. Ask what vowels your child sees. What letters are at the beginning, middle, and end of the word? This helps kids analyze the word and process it in detail.
Sometimes kids can find a trick to help them remember troublesome words. These memory aids are called mnemonics. Kids might come up with a rhyme that includes the word, or something they associate with that word.
They can also try making up a phrase that spells out the word. Let’s say your child is struggling to remember they. Your child might come up with the mnemonic, “They Eat Yams.”
For some kids, remembering a sight word is easier if they connect it to a picture. Here’s one way to do it:
Writing with Dyslexia
Writing With Dyslexia
by Miriam DarnellPlease read our article about reading with dyslexia
Dyslexics aren't impaired, they're special, unique, visionary. Their brains simply learn in a different way. What most people think of when they hear the word “dyslexia” is a reading disability. They think of backwards words and transposed letters.
What so few understand about dyslexia is that it affects writing every bit as much as reading. The newest term for written dyslexia is dysgraphia – meaning difficulty with writing.
Dyslexia also affects a person's ability to sequence, as is required for math and spelling, as well as their lifestyle in general, and the way they perceive the world.
In order to help children with dysgraphia, it is important to first understand the nature of dyslexia. According to Ronald D. Davis' The Gift of Dyslexia, this condition is not a disorder but rather a unique formation of the brain that causes a person to see the world in three dimensions rather than two.
For instance, imagine a book or any other three-dimensional object within your view. If you turn that object upside down, is it still a book? If you turn it on its side, is it still a book? Yes, because that object exists in three dimensions.
However, numbers and letters on paper are two-dimensional, so if you rotate them, they change their identity. A “p” becomes a “q,” a “b” becomes a “d,” an “m” becomes a “w” if you turn them upside down or side ways. To a dyslexic mind, this is highly confusing and frustrating.
The gift of dyslexia is being able to see the whole picture at once.
It's being able to make huge intuitive and creative leaps in thinking that lead a person to the problem's answer without having to take all the usual steps to get there.
It's having the unique perspective to see all possibilities from all angles.
It's being completely confounded by the small, mundane, rote, basic forms of learning, yet able to master the advanced, abstract concepts meant for older, more experienced students without even trying.
A dyslexic child who can't add two numbers together without a calculator, might be able to easily grasp physics.
Maybe he can't spell a four-letter word correctly, but the words that he uses in his daily language are quite advanced for his age. If able to dictate, this child might be the most poetic and verbally gifted child in school.
The world is a very exciting, colorful, multi-dimensional place for a dyslexic, until she is forced to decode or write a bunch of two-dimensional symbols on a two-dimensional surface.
(PDF) Writing in Dyslexia: Product and Process
- ■Writing in Dyslexia: Product and Process
- Frøydis Morken*and Turid Helland
- Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway
- Research on dyslexia has largely centred on reading. The aim of this study was to assess the
- writing of 13 children with and 28 without dyslexia at age 11 years. A programme for
- keystroke logging was used to allow recording of typing activity as the children performed
a sentence dictation task.
Five sentences were read aloud twice each. The task was to type
- the sentence as correctly as possible, with no time constraints. The data were analysed from
- a product (spelling, grammar and semantics) and process (transcription ﬂuency and
- revisions) perspective, using repeated measures ANOVA and t-tests to investigate group
- differences. Furthermore, the data were correlated with measures of rapid automatic nam-
- ing and working memory. Results showed that the group with dyslexia revised their texts as
- much as the typical group, but they used more time, and the result was poorer. Moreover,
- rapid automatic naming correlated with transcription ﬂuency, and working memory
- correlated with the number of semantic errors. This shows that dyslexia is generally not
- an issue of effort and that cognitive skills that are known to be important for reading also
affect writing. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- Keywords: dyslexia; writing; product; process
- The main symptoms of dyslexia are problems with reading and writing.
- Additionally, modern deﬁnitions highlight its neurobiological origin (Lyon, Shaywitz
- & Shaywitz, 2003) and underlying cognitive factors such as deﬁcits in phonological
- awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed (Rose, 2009). Furthermore,
- dyslexia is generally resistant to conventional classroom instruction, and not related
to global IQ levels (Lyon et al., 2003; Tanaka et al., 2011). In recent years, the
- ﬁeld has moved towards a view of dyslexia as a multifactorial disorder
- (Snowling & Hulme, 2012) or a part of a continuum or dimensional space
- (Bishop & Snowling, 2004). In research, focus has mainly been on the reading
- problems of persons with dyslexia. Less attention has been given to writing,
- especially at the sentence and text levels. This is particularly unfortunate,
- considering indications that problems with writing often persist even after
- reading problems have been remedied or compensated (Berninger, 2006).
- Understanding the nature of the writing problems associated with dyslexia is
- of great importance to facilitate effective support in the acquisition of functional
- writing skills, which are vital for professional opportunities and participation in society.
- The study of writing can take two main perspectives; a product perspective
- or a process perspective. A product perspective is concerned with the ﬁnal
- text, whereas a process perspective examines how that text came about
- *Correspondence to: Frøydis Morken, Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, BB-bygget, Jonas Lies
vei 91, 5009 Bergen, Norway. E-mail: [email protected]
- Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. DYSLEXIA 19: 131–148 (2013)
- Published online 29 May 2013 in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com). DOI: 10.1002/dys.1455
- (Berninger, Fuller & Whitaker, 1996). The present study sought to combine
- the two perspectives in a sentence dictation task. From a product perspective,
- we looked at spelling and semantics (omissions, additions and substitutions of
- words). From a process perspective, we investigated transcription ﬂuency, as
- well as the number of revisions made by the participants during typing. In line
- with Berninger and Swanson (1994), we distinguished between revisions that
- were made online and locally, and those that were made post-hoc and globally.
- Finally, we correlated these measures with data on working memory (WM)
- and verbal processing speed, to investigate how these underlying cognitive
- skills relate to the written product and the writing process.
- Writing is a complex activity. Hayes and Flower (1980) identiﬁed three main
- components of composition tasks; planning, translating and revising. They also
- suggested subprocesses of planning and revising. The whole process takes place
- under the inﬂuence of long-term memory and the task environment. This model
- has been highly inﬂuential in the ﬁeld of writing research. However, originally a
- model of the writing process in skilled adult writers, it has shortcomings when it
- comes to describing how younger less apt writers produce text. Revisions of
- the model have been suggested in an attempt to incorporate developmental writ-
- ing. Berninger and Swanson (1994) argued that the translation process should be
- divided into two subprocesses; text generation (the process of converting ideas
- into language) and transcription (conversion of language into written symbols).
- In light of the modern deﬁnitions of dyslexia, we would expect the main
- challenge for writers with dyslexia to lie within the transcription domain.