Dyslexia, meaning reading disorder or alexia, the learning difficulty, is characterized by trouble reading despite a normal intelligence. Facing problems in sounding out words, spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what was read – these are dyslexic symptoms often first noticed at schools.
However, the disorder does not imply that dyslexics do not desire to learn, it simply means that they need adjusted teaching mechanisms and adaptations to their learning method.
Tutors, teachers and parents have their advice, but here are some strategies from the real experts—kids with papers due, tests next week, and a project due on Friday. How do they do it when they are struggling readers themselves?
One such student, Abbie, 14, says her best homework strategy is a simple one: for dyslexics who read more slowly and who sometimes cannot even read their own handwriting, allowing enough time to do homework is a must. Here are some tips:
Break-up a big project into smaller, less intimidating pieces. Have a three page paper due in a month? Let a parent or a teacher help to set dates for working on little tasks related to the paper, like picking a topic, doing research, and writing a first draft.
Do what is due first. With a long list of short assignments, it is easy, but not the most beneficial, to just grab them and do them in random order. Take a minute to prioritize your work, not only by what is due, but also by what you need more or less time with.
Do not fall into the ‘no homework tonight’ trap. Calendar clear for tonight? Look ahead to see what is coming up (an earth science quiz at the end of the week or a math worksheet due Thursday?) and use this free time to make a start on the work that is due later.
Outline a task before you start. For a science project on plant growth, what materials will you need to gather? How many days will you have to allow for the beans to sprout? How long will it take you to write up your results? Think it through in your head and figure out what steps you will have to take so you know what you will need — and how much time to allow — to get it done.
Thirteen-year-old Eli composes written work on his computer to save time, improve accuracy, and add interest to his written assignments when he is typing them up. He, then, uses the voice-recognition program Dragon to dictate what he wants to say. Here are some other high-tech tips from Eli and other kids:
Record and listen. After completing a writing assignment, whether it is a paragraph or a longer paper, record yourself or someone in your family reading it aloud. Being able to listen to it as you read it over several times can help you to spot errors and things you would like to change, and to understand and remember what you have learned.
Listen to assigned books on tape or CD, reading along in your written copy. Bonus, is that you will feel much better prepared if you know you are going to be called upon to read out loud in class the next day.
Ask parents or a teacher to help you sign up for access to recorded books and other written materials. An organization called Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic or RFB&D) makes tens of thousands of audio recordings of literature, textbooks, reference materials, magazines, and newspapers available on CD or by audio download to anyone who has trouble reading print. Check their website, www.learningally.org, for more information.
Do written work at home and take notes in class on a laptop computer or a word processing keyboard like an Alphasmart.
Find a computer that can read to you—there are lots of software available for both Macs and PCs that read along with the you.
James gives himself plenty of breaks when he is working on a tough assignment. At 16 and in tenth grade, he has longer, more complicated assignments than he used to have earlier.
He concentrates better and remembers more if he breaks a 20-page assignment into two 10-page assignments or even four 5-page assignments, and takes a break after completing each one. Other ideas:
Do not do more than you have to. For instance, you do not have to research everything on the Civil War to write a few paragraphs on 'The Battle of Bull Run'.
Customize to your needs. For many people, studying the most important material right before bed makes it easier to remember it later. Work in a quiet place with few distractions. Ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones can help to block out noises that compete for your attention.
Give yourself models to work from. If writing the number '5', for instance, is difficult for you, take a moment to write a really good one at the top of your math paper (or ask your teacher or a parent to write one), and refer back to it every time you need to write a '5' on the page.