A seated person wearing headphones looks at a tablet computer. They are holding the tablet in both hands and balancing it on their knees. The person is wearing a brown and white plaid shirt and jeans.

Students with dyslexia or specific learning disabilities have what is termed a 'peaks and valleys' profile of strengths and weaknesses, the peaks being the strengths and the valleys being areas of significant weakness. The following study tips emphasize skills that can help students succeed regardless of their profile of strengths and weaknesses—these are just plain good learning strategies!


Tips to Be an Active Listener

In order to study, you need to have gotten the information. This begins in the classroom or lecture hall. Your teachers or professors will be discussing what they think is important for you to know. You need to be present in class, actively listening in order to glean this information. Most students with dyslexia benefit from listening—hearing the information and processing it accordingly. They learn better when they hear information through lectures, videos, or on tape.

  • Be rested. You need to get a good night’s sleep to be at your best.
  • Come prepared to class. Review the day’s lecture topic ahead of time.
  • Ask your teacher or librarian for videos on the topic that you are learning and watch these prior to the lecture.
  • Look at people (teachers and professors) when they talk.
  • Take notes to stay focused. Or, if handwriting is a challenge, record the lecture, but don’t rely on that tape – take some notes, draw pictures, make a web.
  • Doodle or use colored pencils while the teacher is lecturing to help you focus.
  • Attend the lab activities.
  • Jiggle your legs or feet, or try hand/finger exercises.
  • Chew gum or suck on a piece of hard candy while listening and studying.
  • Keep something in your hand that is malleable—a koosh ball, tennis ball, or putty. Knead or tap to a rhythm as you listen.


Setting the Stage

Now that you have gotten the information, it’s time to get to work to learn it! It is very important to have your "learning space" set up in order to maximize your study time. Even if you have only a small cubby in your room, make it a place where you enjoy going to and working.

  • Make your study area visually appealing and the lighting comfortable.
  • Eliminate visual distractions.
  • Find a quiet place to study. You might prefer playing classical or instrumental music in the background.
  • Sit on an exercise ball or rocking chair while studying.
  • Walk or use the treadmill while studying.
  • Have all your materials ready to go and close at hand.
  • Plan. Do. Review. Plan your time. Write it down. Prioritize important tasks and tackle those first. Review your progress. Don’t get discouraged if you get off course. Adjust your plan as needed.
  • Take a 5-minute stretch break every 25 minutes or so. Move—a stretch break does not mean stare at a screen. Set a timer so you don’t overextend your break.


Study Strategies that Work

Research has demonstrated that engaging in conversation about a topic can help students retain information.

  • Try studying with a friend or family member so that you can talk out loud and hear the information.
  • Form a study group.
  • Recite out loud the things you want to remember.
  • Record yourself reading the notes and listen to these notes while cleaning, walking, or waiting in line.
  • Record the lectures and review your notes while listening to your tape.
  • Sub-vocalize (talk to yourself) as you read your textbooks or notes.
  • Use audio books and videos.
  • Make up songs, rhymes, or chants for remembering key information.
  • Explain what you’re learning about to a novice. Re-teaching concepts has proven to be a successful learning strategy.
  • Role-play or act out a scene in a book.


Reading Comprehension Strategies that Work

You need to know how to obtain the main ideas from the readings that you are assigned. You need to stay active while reading and engage with the text.

  • Use audiobooks.
  • Know your purpose and keep it in the front of your mind as you read and study. What does your teacher want you to learn from this material?
  • Activate your prior knowledge—what do you already know about this topic?
  • Preview the text—how will this inform your learning?
  • Ask yourself “I wonder” questions while you are reading and then answer them.
  • Make predictions—and check whether they came true.
  • Pause and check-in.
  • Underline main points in an eye-arresting color; for example, neon highlighters, or use colorful post-its and write a short summary on each.
  • Write new vocabulary words on colored index cards (or write in color on white index cards) with short definitions on the back. Carry these with you and review them whenever you have spare time; for example, before class or when waiting in line.
  • Take extra time looking at charts, pictures, and boldfaced words in your textbook.

To learn more specifics about these reading strategies see http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/professionals/dyslexia-school/reading-comprehension/helping-students-learn-how-to-learn-from-written-texts.


Hands-On Study Tips

Many learners also find it helpful to engage in hands-on learning through manipulation and experiences to help them process the information. Hands-on learning can be done through building, cooking, conducting experiments, making crafts, gardening, or going on a field trip.

  • Use manipulatives for problem-solving.
  • Take a field trip to a museum, historical site, or library.
  • Find coloring books for Geography, Anatomy and Physiology, and of other topics of interest.
  • Seek out computer games/software for a given topic.
  • Make flashcards, card games, or floor games and play them!


Tips to Demonstrate What You've Learned

Many students with dyslexia find it helpful to demonstrate what they have learned through other ways than paper-pencil (or computer-generated) tests. Talk with your teacher or professor ahead of time to determine other ways for you to demonstrate your new understandings of the topic.

  • "Volunteer" to help in class.
  • Provide a demonstration for the class.
  • Complete a craft, cooking project, experiment, or related activity for the lesson at hand.
  • Make a model or diorama.
  • Give oral reports, recite a song that you have written, act out a skit.
  • Take tests orally.