Reading and writing are pervasive across grades and curricula
Virtually every subject requires some reading and/or writing. Therefore, it is not a surprise that dyslexia can affect learning in all subject areas. Underlying deficits in accessing written text, reading fluency, spelling, written expression, organizing, following written directions, sequencing, using working memory (needed for problem solving), and visual processing (especially critical for worksheets, textbooks, and tests) can affect learning in different subjects in different ways.
As a consequence of their reading difficulties, students with dyslexia are forced to compensate for their weaknesses by following their peers, verbally processing information, relying on rote memorization, and using hands-on/experiential learning contexts.
It should be noted that students with dyslexia may exhibit particular strengths with regard to each subject area. Many dyslexics are exceptionally gifted in one or more of the following areas: thinking “outside-the-box” in terms of problem-solving, creativity, hands-on learning, and sports. Many have strengths in their verbal skills, visual-spatial skills, social skills, memory, and music.
Specific pitfalls related to each subject area are summarized below. (Note: Your student may not exhibit all of these difficulties.) A student with dyslexia may have difficulty in:
- Science – using a systematic step-by-step approach to the experimental method; decoding and learning novel vocabulary (particularly multisyllabic words); navigating a textbook; identifying key points or what is most important; reading fluency; or writing and spelling for homework, projects, and tests. Difficulty with word retrieval and spelling may confound students on recall tests.
- Math – learning math terminology, symbols, and directionality when solving a problem; breaking apart multi-step written directions; conceptualizing abstract concepts; estimating; evaluating answers; or using a systematic step-by-step approach.
- History/Social Studies – transposing dates or maps; decoding and learning novel vocabulary (particularly multisyllabic words); navigating a textbook; identifying key points or what is most important; reading fluently; or writing and spelling for homework, projects, and tests. Difficulty with word retrieval and spelling may confound students on recall tests.
- Band/Choir – reading music or following multistep directions.
- Gym – following oral directions; following written directions and diagrams; learning specific vocabulary if they do not have prior learning or experience with it; using directionality; or remembering directions.
- Art – following step-by-step, sequential directions to complete a project; following diagrams; following oral directions; or keeping organized.
- Foreign Languages – spelling; learning vocabulary; knowing where to divide or segment words that are presented auditorily; implicitly learning grammatical rules; or fluently reading.
You can mitigate a student’s difficulty by using a multi-dimensional approach to teaching, one that incorporates verbal, visual, and hands-on learning strategies. The good news is such an approach will bring out the best in all your students! Success starts here!