General approaches

Multisensory methods of teaching for students with dyslexia are usually advocated. These integrate visual, aural, tactile and kinaesthetic modalities to consolidate the learning experience. Lessons must be very well structured, sequential and cumulative, and all skills and concepts must be thoroughly practiced (overlearned) in order to counteract the memory problems of the dyslexic. Content generally needs to concentrate on phonic skills, as these are usually the weakest aspect in dyslexia. For a comprehensive overview of the range of approaches and materials the following book is strongly recommended: Dyslexia: a practitioner’s handbook by Gavin Reid [Wiley, Fifth Edition, 2016].

The range of available products and materials for teaching and supporting students with dyslexia is steadily growing. Well-structured phonics-based multisensory teaching is still the fundamental requirement, especially for primary-aged dyslexics, but the currently available approaches are much more flexible and more fun than the older drill methods. These can usually be backed up with computer activities, which make learning more fun (see Computer programs). Various multisensory phonics teaching schemes are recommended in Developing phonic decoding skills.

Writing often presents the hardest challenge to dyslexic students. By its very nature, writing makes heavy demands on cognitive processes, especially memory. Use of word processing enables the dyslexic student to produce a greater amount of better-quality written work because it reduces memory load and facilitates self-correction (e.g. by using a spell checker). A talking word processor (which will speak back the text the student has entered) makes the dyslexic student much more independent when writing, because they can problem-solve their own mistakes. Examples of recommended talking word processors include Clicker 7,DocsPlus, SymWriter 2 and Texthelp Read and Write.

Many dyslexic children have problems with maths, particularly basic numeracy and calculation procedures. For excellent practical suggestions on addressing such difficulties see Mathematics for dyslexics and dyscalculics: A teaching handbook by Steve Chinn and Richard Ashcroft [Wiley Blackwell, 2016] and Dyslexia, dyscalculia and mathematics: A practical guide by Anne Henderson [Routledge, 2012].

Dyslexic students may be entitled to access arrangements in GCSE and other public examinations, e.g. additional time or use of a word processor. EXACT (for ages 11–24) is a computerised assessment of literacy which can be used to test for eligibility for Access Arrangements. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) publishes regulations and guidance relating to applying for access arrangements and reasonable adjustments each academic year. When used for the purposes of assessing eligibility for exam access arrangements, JCQ specifies that the assessment must be carried out by a suitably qualified person, who could be an HCPC registered psychologist, a specialist assessor with an Assessment Practising Certificate or an Access Arrangements Assessor who has successfully completed a post-graduate course at or equivalent to Level 7, including at least 100 hours relating to individual specialist assessment. PATOSS (Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties) produces an excellent practical guide called Assessing the need for Access Arrangements in examinations: Fifth edition by Lia Castiglione.