Some of the ways teachers can support dyslexic students also help students with other difficulties. The best ways are often the ones that are simplest and which have the widest impact.
Examples of how teachers support students with SpLDs include:
For younger students, 1-2-1 or small group phonics support can provide the opportunity to embed knowledge that was nearly secure when the rest of the class moved on, but not quite, sometimes leading to everything nearly learned being lost. This type of support is very effective. Teachers will provide opportunities to repeat examples of new rules learned, and to use rules in context – in a simple sentence for example. They might also teach phonic rules in a colourful, interesting way, using games. This is because people remember what they interact with, and students are most likely to interact with what they find fun or interesting.
At primary school, there may be groups which teach memory strategies. These can help students to retain what they read or hear better and can pay dividends later across all their learning. It is often a good idea for teachers to remind students of examples of memory strategies when they get to and work through secondary school. They can be very useful when trying to remember details in curriculum texts or to retain new concepts in class. (Parents can learn about memory strategies and encourage them at home, too.)
At secondary school, there are sometimes literacy support groups for students who may be significantly behind their peers with reading or spelling. Some schools have access to online phonics recovery programmes that can be followed in tutor time or reading time. There are sometimes reading recovery programmes available through the library.
Teachers also increasingly understand that small tweaks in the way they teach can make a huge difference. For students who process what they hear slower than others, the teacher pausing, leaving a gap between different points when speaking, can enable them to keep up. Even tiny pauses can make all the difference. Other teachers understand to provide as many visual prompts as possible when teaching, to help students use more than one sense when learning, and to compensate for any weakness in auditory memory. (Students are all different, so if any of these ideas work for your child, it is sometimes a good idea to mention that to specific subject teachers at parent evenings.)
Finally, teachers can provide technological solutions to help their students with SpLDs. Students with dyslexia or dyspraxia or other SpLDs can have difficult-to-read handwriting, or slow handwriting, or make so many corrections and errors that their work is poorly presented. Many schools allow those who need it, if they meet the criteria for this, to use a word processor (laptop or computer) for written work. This can help speed, legibility and organisation of work.
Schools can also now consider providing a Reading Pen (also called an Exam Pen or a Scanning Pen) to access text, if the student’s reading skills are still being developed and they cannot efficiently access text being worked upon in class. These pens use ear phones and scanners to read back text verbally. Text to speech software for reading text is also available on computer via specialist programmes in schools. There are now several free to use text-to-speech programmes available via Word and Google Documents, for example, which students can continue to use when they get home on home computers and mobile devices.
When children are young and need fairly intensive phonics support, small group intervention is often required, but later, often the best interventions are the ones described above that help students access work in the classroom and get on with their learning in the same way as their peers.
Schools could use suggestions from the page in this section on “Easy games for LSAs to make” to reinforce students’ literacy skill learning.