Dyslexia is a Learning Difference: Tips, Tools and Apps for Helping Dyslexic Students

Every classroom has students who find learning a little more challenging than others. But for some, the struggle extends beyond the basic comprehension of what's being taught. Students coping with dyslexia may find simple memorization or reading out loud to be difficult, or even impossible.

As an educator, there are a number of ways you can provide assistance to your students challenged with dyslexia and lessen its impact on their success. Here are several teaching tips, tools and apps you can use to help level the playing field for your dyslexic students.

Keep Instruction Simple

  • Single step directions that aren't overly complex are easiest for students with dyslexia to follow. Complicated instructions, with multiple steps to remember and follow aren't easy for dyslexic students to remember and follow through with. Be brief and always give written instructions that can be used as a reference.
  • Don't let your students with dyslexia coast through without having to participate and get involved. Having regular interaction with students gives you the opportunity to give immediate feedback.
  • Before moving along to a new topic ensure that everyone has a firm grasp on what's already been covered. Integrate regular reviews into your schedule.

Reading

  • Phonics is an integral component for new readers to learn and understand, so ensure that you're teaching this vital topic.
  • If you've got a student struggling with reading, a referral for assessment won't hurt. Perhaps that student has not yet been assessed for dyslexia, and they've been needlessly struggling through school. Identifying it can have positive impacts on their future learning experiences.
  • Be a role model by reading aloud to your students and showing your love of reading and books.
  • Unless the student volunteers, never call on a dyslexic student to read aloud in front of classmates. Making them read aloud won't help lessen the impact of their learning disability and will only serve to shame and embarrass them.

Writing

  • Graphic organizers are a great alternative for students to use when they're having trouble clearly stating their thoughts in writing. Well-constructed graphic organizers could even be an option for the entire class to use.
  • Speech-to-text software can assist in getting those thoughts down on paper, bypassing problems that may arise with handwriting or with spelling.
  • It's been shown that students who learn to write legibly are able to create better and longer written works, so ensure you're including handwriting as a part of your regular lessons.

Math

  • Something as simple as using graph paper can do wonders in improving the learning experience of dyslexic kids, when it comes to math. Many of these students find it difficult to line up numbers properly, so the graph paper can help them do this.
  • Math doesn't just have to be about the numbers – there are alternative ways to teach math, like the popular Schoolhouse Rock songs, that help students understand through music.
  • Remember: time is one of the best gifts you can give to dyslexic students. Don't issue timed tests, because that only serves to elevate the anxiety dyslexic students are likely already feeling.

Social-Emotional

  • Just because a student is struggling with a learning disability does not mean that individual doesn't have other incredible strengths. Try to discover where each student's strengths are, and help him or her to nurture those strengths.
  • Hearing something positive from their teachers always has a powerfully uplifting effect for students. Call home to let their parents know about the great progression they've made in your classroom.
  • Students swell with pride when their work is featured as an example for the rest of their class. Make sure you're using each of your student's work and highlighting the positive aspects of it.

New Tools and Apps

Academized
This tutoring resource offers help through online courses, e-library and videos, so students can get the information they're looking for in a variety of ways, depending on what way is best suited to their learning. Plagiarism checkers can help students ensure they haven't lifted any ideas from another source.

Big Assignments
Editing and proofreading services can help dyslexic students identify the errors within their work before handing anything in for grading.

ClaroSpeak
Excellent as both a basic text-to-speech app, as well as a text-in-image recognition tool, ClaroSpeak lets users save their documents as audio files to listen and learn anywhere.

Easy Word Count
When students need to stick within a certain word limit, this simple online tool can help keep them on track.

Flashcards Deluxe
Flashcards are great for students with dyslexia, but electronic flashcards are even better. That's because they've got the ability to read out loud the words contained on the cards.

Franklin Speller
This children's speller and dictionary helps break down difficult words with their phonetic spelling correction, along with a list of confusable words and even an arithmetic tutor for those struggling with math.

Naturally Speaking
Voice recognition software makes is possible for students to dictate their work to the computer, letting them get their thoughts down without having to struggle with typing and spelling. After they've finished with their work, this program can then read back what they've got down.

NaturalReader
The dedicated internet browser in NaturalReader takes just the text from websites, then turns them into easy to understand audio files. This platform also allows users to paste text right into it, and get a text-to-speech readout.

Keeble Keyboard
This onscreen keyboard is equipped with accurate word prediction software that only increases in its abilities over time, as a student uses it more, lessening the instances of spelling errors and helping to make typing faster and easier.

KNFB Reader
It is at a much higher price point than most of its competitors, but there's just no comparison in the quality and accuracy of translation in image-to-speech reading that you'll get. Users can take a photo of the page they need read, and almost instantly they will start getting their text read to them.

Pocket
Online news can now be transferred from text-to-speech with Pocket, an online app that lets users collect news articles, then read or listen to them.

Pulse SmartPen
Although they are writing down what they're hearing in class, this SmartPen is actually recording everything at the same time. It can help reassure dyslexic students that, even though they may not be able to process what they're hearing fast enough to write it all down, their Pulse SmartPen is making notes for them, helping keep track of everything being said in class.

Quizlet
This companion app to the web-based one allows students to take their learning on the go. Download flashcards to any mobile device or create your own decks within the app.

Spell Better
An advanced word processor with incredible word prediction capabilities, Spell Better lets students hear out loud the words it's predicting on their behalf, before they choose the one they were working towards.

Shakespeare in Bits
Shakespeare is typically an inevitable component in everyone's education at some point. This program makes a selection of Shakespeare's plays more easily accessible to those with a learning disability, by offering a multisensory format for students to absorb.

Talk – Text to Voice
For students with Android devices, the basic Talk app transforms the text they're interested in into speech, allowing them to increase their informational resources to websites and email.

vBookz PDF Voice Reader
Recognizing and reading text from images means that vBookz PDF can help students access information from PDFs and other images. This voice reader also provides guidance with synchronized highlighting to help students follow along.

WhisperSync
When a student has trouble reading, the process can be a long and tiring one. But, with WhisperSync, that student can move between reading and listening to their book.

About the Author
Sharon Conwell has been a content manager and ghost writer at over 20 online projects, now she is an editor at Ukwritings and part-time educator. You can find her at LinkedIn.