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Dyslexia and English Class: Ways to Support Your Child

When it comes to dyslexia and English studies at school, it can feel like an uphill battle. Essay subjects as a whole haven’t been too friendly to those with dyslexia up until now. You need to read all sorts of texts like poems, books, plays and newspaper articles – just to name a few. Plus, often, the texts use old, archaic language that would be hard for anyone to read! So, it’s no wonder that many dyslexic students end up feeling stressed or unmotivated.

However, there’s no need to despair! We’re in the 21st century now. There have been so, so many developments when it comes to helping students who think a little differently than how we’re expected.

Please note: there are affiliate links in this blog post.

Be Positive

Dyslexia can be a very frustrating thing to have. So, you need to make sure that you’re as positive as you can be. In particular, it’s important that your child knows that being dyslexic doesn’t have any impact on their intelligence. There are tons of smart dyslexic people out there!

A person with dyslexia is just as able to achieve greatness as anyone else! As long as they are willing to work hard and work with the dyslexia rather than against it, there is no reason why they can’t do well with their lives. There are loads of people with dyslexia who live very successful lives. In fact, I’ve met one such person: a dyslexic writer by the name of Sally Gardner. She said the following words herself:

The problem with dyslexia for many young people – and I can identify with this – is that their confidence is so damaged by the negativity of their teachers and their peers that it takes a very strong character to come out of the educational system smiling.

Sally Gardner

Gardner makes a great point here. A lot of dyslexic students aren’t held back by their dyslexia. Instead, they can give up or feel stressed because of the stigma surrounding it. Really, they could do amazing things.

So, as a parent or guardian, it’s a good idea to make them know that they are still capable of great things. Encourage them to try out new skills and find out what they’re good at. Work together to find ways to help them to become more confident in their ability to do their own work. Let them know that they are still in charge of their own destiny. As long as they work hard and set realistic goals, there’s no limit to how far they can go.

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Great Amazon Products

Amazon can be a lifesaver for many reasons. They make so many innovative, helpful products for students of all backgrounds and needs. This includes students with dyslexia.

Though it might seem like some schools and teachers are afraid of technology, it is important not to underestimate the impact that some good tech can have on a student with dyslexia. If you know where to look, you can use Amazon to help your child to gain the skills that they need to become an independent learner.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only company doing its bit. There are many companies out there who are doing their bit to improve the lives of students. However, as a well-known company, Amazon has the connections and licenses to be able to provide some real, comprehensive resources and technology.

If your child is studying English Language or Literature at school, some of these resources could be of great to them. Check them out!

The Amazon Kindle

There has been a long debate about which one is better: physical books or ebooks. To be honest with you, I see both sides. I love the smell of a book and I like to flick through the pages. For me, nothing beats sitting on the grass with a good book in my hand.

However, as a disorganised person, ebooks help me to keep my notes, and thus my thoughts, in order. Then, I can go back and search for the quote, page or note that I want! I love the fact that I don’t have to think about broken spines, bookmarks falling out and running out of things to read, too.

When it comes to people with dyslexia, though, I have to say that ebooks seem to win by far. This is for two main reasons.

For one, Amazon Kindle offers you many options on font size and style, which enables you to customise your books to suit your personal needs. This includes OpenDyslexic, a font made to help people with dyslexia to distinguish between similar letters. You can set this font and make it as big as your child needs to feel comfortable in their reading abilities.

Then there’s the built-in dictionary. Students of all ages and needs come across words that they don’t understand from time to time. With Kindle, no matter whether you’re using the e-reader or an app version, you can just hover over the word and find out what it means.

If this appeals to you, the Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis are great. It’s a good idea to get a device just for reading, as there are fewer distractions like notifications, you can store more books and teachers are more likely to allow an e-reader than a phone or tablet in school.

Audiobooks

I have to say that audiobooks are my personal life saver. They can help so many students, each with their own personal needs. Students with dyslexia can definitely benefit from them!

Audiobooks help loads when it comes to English Literature in particular. That’s because it gives students with dyslexia the chance keep on track with the texts they’re reading in class in a way that suits them and gives them the independence that they deserve.

A great thing about audiobooks is that you can get through them super quickly. I’m not going to lie to you. It usually takes me about a week to read a book on my own. I tend to lose focus, life gets in the way or I just stare at a page and don’t take anything in. And that’s without Dyslexia complicating things even more! With audiobooks, though, a text tends to take around 8 hours to read.

That means your child can split their listening sessions up into manageable chunks, pause when they need to in order to take notes or look things up, and not feel overwhelmed by a bombardment of words. Plus, they can listen to the book while on the go, exercising or doing their chores. Any mindless job, really!

Of course, I recommend Amazon’s Audible. It has a huge library of books and the subscription service works out much cheaper than buying audiobooks one by one. Plus, once you use your credit, the book is yours for life!

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Combine the Two: Immersion Reading

It is great practice to read along with your audiobooks. This is known as Immersion reading, and it can help in so many ways!

For one, it can help to minimise distractions. If you’re reading and listening to the words on the page at the same time, there will be fewer sounds or sights to catch your attention. After all, it stimulates your eyes and ears at the same time! Also, for people with dyslexia, reading along can give them a sense of confidence and independence. If you don’t know how to say a word or two in a text, it can help to hear how the actor pronounces it!

A friend of mine recommended that I watch the following YouTube video. It has some great tips on how a person with dyslexia can read with confidence! I suggest giving it a read and take on board what he did: read, take notes when you need to, pause and rewind if you don’t understand and just enjoy the book.

When it comes to combining books with audiobooks, I think Amazon does it best. You have to buy the book and the audiobook separately, but there is usually a discount when you buy them at once.

Then, you just need to use the Kindle app on a phone or tablet (e-readers don’t work with this right now). It will actually highlight each and every word as the actor reads them out! This gives your child support without taking all of the work away from the. Plus, it’s so much better than most e-readers with the robotic text-to-speech! The books really come alive!

Microsoft’s Immersive Reader for Dyslexia

Microsoft Word also has some great tools to help students with dyslexia. Just like with Amazon, it has an immersive reader service that highlights words and reads them out so that your child can follow along. However, while Amazon’s tool is for copyrighted texts that you can’t usually copy and paste, this reader is for your child’s notes and word documents.

This service comes with Office 365, which gives you Word, Excel and all of the the Microsoft Office software that you could need. So, it doesn’t cost an extra penny, as long as you have Office already! If you don’t, there is a discount for students. So, make sure you check that out and see if you can get a little off for your child.

The good thing about this immersive reader is that it adapts to the words that you write. So, if you have dyslexia and you need to write an essay at home, you can run it through the immersive reader and listen back to what you wrote. That way, your child can be sure that they avoided as many errors as possible. Again, this gives them a sense of independence which will help their studies in the long run.

Recording Voice Notes

For some students with dyslexia, writing notes for English can be a bit of a challenge. So, it’s useful to find ways to get past this.

I recommend recording voice notes. All smartphones these days have a voice record function. Or, you can save notes on your computer or laptop, if that would help. Label them well so that they’re easier to find in the long run.

How does this help? Well, it takes a lot of time out of homework, note writing and revision.

For example, let’s say that your child is reading a text in English. They can read along with their audiobook and pause to record notes whenever they think of them. Then, they make sure to label these notes with the scene, chapter or page number and put them in a folder where they can get to them easily. When they then need to recap on the text for their revision or for some homework or other, they can access these notes with ease.

Personally, I recommend getting a notes app. OneNote has some great note-sorting functions and integrates with the Immersive Reader that I spoke about before. You can add audio files, photos and check boxes. Plus, most smartphones offer dictation, which means your child can speak out their notes. They can watch their voice turn to text before your eyes!

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Grammarly

Grammarly is a huge help for any word processed work that your child might need to do. This includes coursework, presentations and research projects. Whether your child has dyslexia or not, it’s good to run their work through Grammarly before they submit it to check for spelling, punctuation, grammar and tone. It’s a great help!

Grammarly works a lot better than the usual Microsoft Word spellcheck. With my own work, I find that Word often marks things as wrong when they’re really not. It also seems to miss some errors here and there. On the other hand, Grammarly is much more accurate, and you can set it to adapt to the purpose of your piece of work.

It works really well with Word, though, as they have an app that combines with Word to give you help as you write. This will give your child that all-important confidence and independence that lets them know that they can work well on their own – as long as they work hard.

Should you get the free or pro version of Grammarly? Well, I would say that the free version is fine for Key Stage 3. However, as students go up the school years, they’re going to need to understand more complex grammar ideas to do well. That’s where Pro comes in. Free will always help! However, Pro is great for GCSE and A-Level in particular.

I recommend that you encourage your child to make note of their most common mistakes. They can screenshot this or write it down. That way, they can be aware of them for any written exams!

Stationery for Dyslexia

Dyslexia can come hand-in-hand with visual stress. This visual stress usually occurs when people with dyslexia are confronted with text on a white background. They can experience glare from the page, the words can appear blurry or unfocussed, or they can even get headaches. That is just to name a few of the many symptoms that visual stress can cause. So, many people with dyslexia find that they find it easier to read when they change the colour of the text background.

Luckily, there are many ways that you can help your child with visual stress. I recommend this visual stress relief kit from Amazon, as it gives your child many different resources to change the colour of the work they’re reading. They can slot the whole page behind a coloured overlay, or use a reading ruler to highlight the specific section that they’re on. I love the reading ruler, as it helps with the common problem that many students have: accidentally reading the same line instead of going onto the one below.

As well as this, you can print your child’s work on coloured paper – especially for home learning purposes right now. Plus, there are even refill pads out there that are tinted for visual stress! I recommend sticking to pastel colours to keep things professional and make sure to chat with your child’s teacher if they need to turn the work in. You can also search for an overlay to suit your computer monitor size. That way, you help them to reduce the stress when they’re online.

Of course, there are also visual stress glasses, if that would suit you. It depends on whether your child would like to wear them or choose a colour that suits them! Or maybe they’d like to try both!

School Exam Aid for Dyslexia

If your child gets a dyslexia diagnosis, make sure that you speak to your school as soon as you can. There are many things that they can do to help you – especially where exams are concerned. They need to know as soon as you do, though, so that they can start working with you early and make sure that they sort out any exam support that your child might be allowed.

Exam support is a great way to help your child with dyslexia gets their best shot at doing well. There’s no reason why a child with dyslexia can’t get amazing results! They just need to have the right resources and support. In school, this could include:

  • Extra time in exams.
  • Exams printed in coloured paper.
  • A reader.
  • A scribe.
  • Breaks during the exam.

There are plenty of other provisions that schools may take to help. You can read about those on this great site.

This is why it’s so important to make sure that you get your child tested if you believe that they may have dyslexia. Undiagnosed dyslexia can do so much damage. It could hurt a child’s self esteem and confidence, for one. However, it could also mean that they lose out on the help that they deserve. Schools can’t work on suspicions of dyslexia! They need a proper diagnosis.

Check out the NHS website to find out how you can get an assessment for your child.

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What Shani’s Tutoring Is Doing to Help

My mission with Shani’s Tutoring is to make tutoring accessible and affordable to as many families throughout the UK as I can. I would like Shani’s Tutoring to become a safe space for children throughout the country to ask questions, get help with their home learning, homeschooling, revision and much more. Shani’s Tutoring fills in the gaps that your child might have at school by incorporating fresh technology.

After doing my research on how parents can help their children with dyslexia, I realised that I could be doing more, too. So, I wrote a tweet on 25th January 2021 announcing that I am working on creating dyslexia-friendly versions of my PDF worksheets, which will be out very soon, and will be accompanied by versions with a larger font for people with visual impairments.

I am creating these worksheets with the OpenDyslexic font and, in future, they will accompany the release of the standard versions. You will be able to print these out onto coloured paper to help with visual stress, too. I will also release dyslexia-friendly versions of the answer sheets to make sure that your child can mark their work on their own. It’s all about confidence and independence, after all!

So, from 5th February, you can be sure that all of my worksheets will have a dyslexia version on all of the Shani’s Tutoring membership tiers. If your child has any personal needs or requirements, feel free to drop me an email at hello@shanistutoring.com and I will do my best to accommodate them.

Good luck!

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