5 helpful strategies for Dyslexia

The Difficulties of Dyslexia

It is said that the key to success is education and to gain an education reading, writing, listening, and speaking are all vital skills. Unfortunately, not all people possess these core skills at the same level and can struggle, putting them at a distinct disadvantage to their peers.

Dyslexia brings challenges to individuals where they can encounter difficulties with reading, writing, general processing of information and more. A struggle with phonological awareness can make it difficult for someone to recognise, distinguish and memorise the sounds used in language. This can then have the knock-on effect in determining how speech is supposed look in its written form.

Some of the not so recognised impacts of Dyslexia, yet probably just as impacting, are the effects it can have on someone’s physical and mental health. It can knock a person’s confidence and their motivation, with many being embarrassed and pushing on through unaided. This often results in that person working harder and for longer on educational tasks in order to reach the same finish line. This can then create fatigue and is a daily downward spiral on that person’s health and well-being.

Dyslexia is not a disease and there isn’t a cure, but, there are strategies, aids and assistive technologies to ensure that the gaps, it otherwise generates, are bridged and anyone with dyslexia has the opportunity to learn and to not only gain their education but function in the work place as well as day to day life. Such aids could be anything from utilising patterns through to using software designed for dyslexic users. This article is intended to provide anyone with, or anyone keen to learn more about, dyslexia with useful information that may help identify signs of dyslexia and the aids that are available for dyslexic individuals.

dyslexia causing frustration

How can dyslexia impact daily life?

There is a misconception that dyslexia affects the ability to read, write, and listen. In reality, it can affect many cognitive functions including organisation, memory, concentration, communication, multi-tasking, and timekeeping,  all of which can impact daily life. Studies show that an individual with dyslexia can struggle with remembering meetings or appointments.

  1. One of the not so recognised impacts of Dyslexia, yet probably one of the biggest, is its effect on the confidence and motivation of a person, with many being embarrassed and pushing on through unaided. This often results in that person working harder and for longer on educational tasks in order to reach the same finish line. This can then create fatigue and is a daily downward spiral on that person’s health and well-being.
  1. (Better) Some of the not so recognised impacts of Dyslexia, yet probably just as impacting, are the effects it can have on someone’s physical and mental health. It can knock a person’s confidence and their motivation, with many being embarrassed and pushing on through unaided. This often results in that person working harder and for longer on educational tasks in order to reach the same finish line. This can then create fatigue and is a daily downward spiral on that person’s health and well-being.

Dyslexia can massively affect one’s life if the symptoms are not recognised and the person goes on unsupported. Our aim with Spellementary is to ensure that our software supports our users in a way that their life ambitions don’t suffer due to impacts dyslexia has on them. That is why, as well as providing helpful tips in recognising and aiding dyslexic individuals, we have developed our revolutionary dyslexia software to make the spelling of words much easier.

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Do I have dyslexia? 7 Signs of dyslexia

As mentioned previously, Dyslexia is often associated with reading and writing difficulties; however, many are not aware that it can impact other elements life. For many, dyslexia is not recognised during their childhood and can be diagnosed a lot later on in their adult life. If you suspect that you, or someone close to you, may be struggling with the impacts of dyslexia, here are some common signs that may help to confirm your suspicions.

1.  Confusing letters or words that are similar looking

Someone with dyslexia may find that they make common spelling or reading mistakes, muddling the letters ‘b’ with ‘d’ or ‘p’ and ‘q’. They may misrecognise words that share the same letters or look similar like “saw” and “was”. They may even go so far as to write letters upside-down or back-to-front.

It was initially believed that there was a difficulty with in a person’s visual processing but it is now believed that the cause is due to a phonological deficit. People with dyslexic may also struggle with direction too and this can often be associated with dyspraxia

2.  Social situations

Because a person may be worried that they could say something wrong in a social setting, they are more likely to be more reserved in those situations and display a lack of confidence. On the contrary, they could also be an extrovert and ‘go all in’. If a social situation requires writing or reading, this can make someone feel awkward and even make someone feel anxious.

3.  Writing and/or reading

It is not uncommon for someone to rely on a partner or parent to proofread everything they write; in more severe situations they may even avoid written tasks at all costs and always go for an alternative option. Writing things considered to be simple like text messages, shopping lists, or anything small that involves reading or writing proves to be difficult. An individual questions themselves every time they read or write something and seeks reassurance from someone else as “they know better than me”.

A not so common, or obvious symptom, is something know as visual stress. For a dyslexic, words can appear to float, go in and out of focus, move on the page or even the white space between words feel glary like the sun on a sunny day, especially with black print on a white page. All of these can be really challenging and tiring for someone and so they may avoid reading or not want to read for very long.

4.  Time keeping

Dyslexia can also impacts someone cognition and therefore concentration and short-term memory. Their minds are trying to process many things and it may take longer than the “average person”. This builds more of a que in their mind so other things get unintentionally forgotten or pushed to the side. Especially when in a rush or under some form of pressure, a person may spend time each morning searching for misplaced items such as a phone or keys, making leaving the house on time difficult.

Although not solely useful for dyslexic individuals, giving more time to do things and setting automated prompts and reminders helps to draw our attention when need and to stay on top of things. Relying on such strategies means that the mind can stay clearer for processing short term tasks.

5.  Self-expression

If someone presents with dyslexia they may have a racing mind. They may struggle to find the right words to express themselves or keep their speed of thought. They may know an answer but retrieving it from their memory is challenging and requires time.

If you see a person with dyslexia pause in a conversation, it does not mean they are not listening. Dyslexic individuals can need extra time to process what is being said as well as articulate how to respond; it may not be as spontaneous for them.

6.  Memory

Dyslexia can affect short-term memory making someone forget conversations, important dates, or a task they may have promised to undertake. People with dyslexia can also find it challenging to recall the names of places or people they may have met. They might have a hard time getting to places they have previously visited.

If you experience the issues above, try calendars, verbal reminders, or have a whiteboard where you can write a “do not forget” or a “to-do” list daily. You can also set reminders on a computer or telephone.

7. Poor phonological awareness

Phonological awareness refers to a person’s ability to identify, and work with, the sounds (or phonemes) in spoken language. Some examples of phonological awareness include:

  • recognising the syllables in a word and blending those parts
  • recognising words that rhyme
  • recognising repetitive sounds in a sentence (Simon says sit sideways)
  • blending

Having poor phonological awareness is one of the many possible deficits that a person could have that would mean that fit with a dyslexic profile. If the “p” in “pot” is changed to an “h”  what word would it make? What words rhyme with “cat”? If a person’s phonological awareness is poor, they may struggle to answer these questions.

If you recognise the signs above in yourself, your child or a friend what can you do? Being open about your concerns is a good starting point in most cases. People are becoming more aware of dyslexia and are likely to be understanding. Sharing your opinions and expressing feelings with your friends and family can lead to an open and healthy discussion as opposed to shying away and hiding.

Typical/Key Signs for Dyslexia at Different Ages

Dyslexia can present itself differently depending upon a person’s age. The earlier the identification the earlier appropriate interventions can be made. If a young person is recognised as having a dyslexic profile, it is possible to begin early on developing tailored strategies and mechanisms to better help them manage and work around the challenges that dyslexia presents for them personally.

The earlier it is identified the earlier intervention can occur, steering a person towards a way of learning that better suits them. As people age, they develop their own methods, and habits, so it can be harder for someone to embrace new “ways of working” at a later age. This is due to the person having found ways to do things that they find challenging, which may sometimes be quite convoluted and inefficient. They may recognise that these methods are cumbersome or long winded, but they become instilled as a trusted way to cope rather than an effective and efficient way to manage. Dyslexia can heavily impact someone’s confidence and trust, so letting go of something that is trusted, and especially trying to replace it with something new, is a hard process. The transition from old method to new can be hindered or helped by the way, and sometimes by the person demonstrating, the new strategies are explained.

No mater the age that a person is, there are always strategies that can be developed and adopted. What’s key is a person’s openness to adapt and a willingness to make the necessary changes if they really want to progress and not be held back, or defeated, by the impacts that the challenges bring.

Signs of dyslexia in pre-adolescence

Signs of dyslexia can begin to become apparent when a child starts school as they are being presented with educational based tasks and activities that, inadvertently, reveal the symptoms. A child presenting with dyslexia may read below the level of what a teacher would typically expect. They may have difficulties spelling words, muddling their b’s with their d’s or they may have difficulty in understanding or processing accurately what they hear. The child may have difficulty forming the answer to a question or articulating by not being able to find the right words to use.

Other signs include problems remembering the sequence of things, general difficulties with words and an avoidance of activities involving reading. Decoding longer words or the pronunciation of words, especially when reading, are other indicators. The child may take longer than anticipated in completing activities involving reading and writing. They may also find it difficult in hearing or seeing the differences and similarities in words and letters.

Signs of dyslexia in adolescence & adults

The signs of dyslexia identified in pre-adolescence carry through into adolescence and adults but they also go further and can become more complex. These individuals may also find it hard to read in their heads or out loud, solve algebraic problems, pronounce words or names, or may struggle with word retrieval. They can find reading and writing both labour-intensive and mentally more tiring than their non-dyslexic counter parts.

Dyslexia does not always present itself all the time. In some ways it can be considered as an effect, or reaction, to being placed within a certain condition or space. For instance, do you think that you would be able to see the effects of dyslexia whilst a person is walking or playing a physical sport? If a person is gravitating more towards a mathematical line of study would dyslexia show so much? Would we think that a person is a genius in maths or would we think they are dyslexic because they prefer working with numbers?

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5 helpful strategies for Dyslexia

Based on what we understand about dyslexia today, below are some simple and effective techniques and strategies you can try that you may find beneficial to you.

1. Using a structured phonic approach

It can be extremely helpful to understand key spelling rules and structures in language. Take 15 minutes per day to familiarise yourself with syllables, phonic sounds, suffixes, prefixes and other common rules, such as “i before e except after c…but there are some exceptions”. One way this will help is in understanding how to use sounds when constructing words. Don’t try to take on too much of this at once, build up progressively, working at your own pace and by tackling small challenges on a frequent basis, in turn building confidence.

2. Use recording facilities

If struggling with reading, using recording facilities can be an excellent aid. Try recording stories, directions, academic journals or other texts and then replay them at a convenient time for clarity. If you find that your reading is not fluent enough, or you really don’t like the sound of your voice, there are many free and paid for technologies out there that will convert text to speech with a synthesised voice; they really don’t sound that bad. Windows and Mac OS computers and Android and iOS devices have reading back functionality built into the system and can also be used to read text aloud.

3. Multisensory learning

Using multisensory learning activities can help process information in a more retainable way for that person. These activities involve using senses like movement and touch alongside hearing and touch.

Engaging in various hands-on activities can heighten engagement. Try multi-sensory activities including writing sentences and words with tactile material like sand, LEGO or beads and glitter glue. You may also try other activities such as scavenger hunts for words and letters or physical activities, like such as hopscotch, for spelling practice.

Some of these activities, such as those including glitter glue and the scavenger hunts, are targeted towards the younger individuals, however, there is no reason not to give all of these a go and see what works for you.

4. Visualise as you read

Some individuals may focus entirely on sounding out words when reading and so the concept of each word having a meaning, and purpose, gets demoted during the decoding phase. As all the energy is being focused on the decoding process the meaning of the sentence and paragraph is also demoted and often lost.

However, reading does not only mean calling out words. When reading, try stopping after every couple of sentences and visualise the words by creating pictures in your mind. It may help you to better understand what you have read and may also speed up the process.

5. Assistive tools and technology

There are many great Assistive Technologies and Tools available that aid dyslexic individuals in a variety of ways. Below are just a few examples:

Using a pocket spell checker

A phonetic pocket spellchecker allows a person to key in a word phonetically and the device should return the correct spelling of that word. For example, typing nolij should return knowledge. This could strengthen a person’s spelling and writing confidence, and better enable them to in remembering them the spelling.

Line readers

A line reader enables a person to focus on one line at a time in a number of ways. Some line readers have a magnifier that magnifies a portion of the text that it is placed on. Other line readers cover part of the page above and below a strip cut out, revealing the text to be read whilst covering the surrounding text. Another type of line reader may underline or colour the text being read, again helping with tracking and focus.

Text-to-Speech

Text-to-Speech technology resides in both mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, and computers. Using text-to-speech is a great way to listen to content as opposed to reading it. By having text read aloud, it removes many barriers caused by the task of reading, and gives the individual a much better chance in understanding what has written.

Dyslexic spell checker – an incomplete solution

Spellcheckers can be a great aid at times but can also be problematic for individuals presenting with dyslexia. Spellcheckers use algorithmic technology to guess at what is being typed when a word is misspelt. Often, the way a dyslexic induvial may spell a word will be out of the scope for the spellchecker to suggest the correct spelling. This can be very frustrating, demotivating and really drop someone’s confidence. When writing, they may have to rework a sentence because they can’t spell that one word. This means it takes more work and time to write, as well as the sentence not reflecting exactly what they wanted to say in the way they wanted to say it.

This is where Spellementary, our revolutionary word finding tool, steps in!

Spellementary – filling the gap

Spellementary offers two different word searching, or finding, strategies geared up for a different way of spelling; the “Contains Consecutive Characters” search method and the “Contains Sequential Characters” search method. Both of these systems run simultaneously allowing both ease of use and efficiency when looking for the correct spelling of a word. 

Contains Consecutive Characters Method (Description) 

The Contains Consecutive Characters search method is used when a person recognises a consecutive string of letters within a word such as cell (c e l l is a consecutive string of letters) in miscellaneous. They can type cell into the Spellementary Search box and they will be presented with all words that have cell in the spelling. 

Contains Sequential Characters Method (Description) 

The Contains Sequential Characters search method is used when a person recognises a sequential string of letters within a word such as brtsh (b1 r2 t3 s4 h5are sequential characters) in British. They can type brtsh into the Spellementary Search box and they will be presented with all words that have b1 followed by r2 followed by t3 followed by s4 followed by h5 in the spelling. 

Using Spellementary

Once the program has been opened the interface presents a single search box and the two result boxes, explained above. When struggling to spell a word, simply type into the search the letters that you know appear within the word, utilising either the “consecutive” system or the “sequential” system when you are doing so. It is important not to focus or guess letters that you are unsure about (“don’t guess at what you don’t know”) but instead “focus on what you do know”. 

Contains Consecutive Characters Method (Illustrative Example)

If you are to find the correct spelling of bureaucrat, you may recognise and know crat as a consecutive string within that word. Type crat into the search (diagram 1) and immediately results will begin to appear in both Consecutive Characters and Sequential Characters search results boxes.

Spellementery interface

What you will notice is that the Consecutive Characters results box shows all words with the string crat within the spelling, whilst the Sequential Characters results box shows all word with the sequential characters c1 followed by r2 followed by a3 followed by t4.

If the desired word does not show immediately, then it is possible to use Spellementary’s filters to help narrow down the results. The filters help if you know

  • the starting letter, or letters, of the word (prefix)
  • the ending letter, or letters, of the word (suffix)
  • the approximate length of the word

Some or all of these filters can be used in conjunction with each other to help isolate the options down to the desired result. In the illustration below (diagram 2), b has been entered into the Starts With”.

Spellementery interface

Now that the results have been narrowed down by the filter, it is easier to find bureaucratic in the list.

To further support the user in identifying the correct word, there are additional resources Spellementary offers which reinforces their selection and giving more confidence to them; these include:

  • dictionary definition
  • thesaurus synonyms (for the majority of headwords)
  • human audio pronunciation (for the majority of headwords)

 All these great features found in Spellementary work offline and aren’t reliant on an internet connection. So whether your internet temporarily goes off, or you have run out of your data allowance for the month, your functionality will without an internet connection so it is not trying to look online for the answers and won’t eat into your data.

With years of experience in working with individuals who present with dyslexia, a lot of thought has gone into the design of every function and feature. We know the frustrations that manifest for people with dyslexia or dyslexic traits so we have tried to ensure that Spellementary does not add to that frustration. An example of this is Spellementary’s “always on top” mode. The “always on top” mode allows Spellementary to sit on top of all other applications (diagram 3). So like someone may sit at their desk writing, with a dictionary at hand on top of their exercise book, Spellementary replicates the experience by being able to type into a document, whilst at the same time being able to see its interface, not having it disappear behind the page. By incorporating this functionality, it enables the user to dip between the document and the Spellementary window without losing focus or place.

Spellementery interface

There is no doubt that Spellementary is a great tool and if you would like to learn more about Spellementary and its additional features you can either get in touch or watch some of our tutorial videos.

Conclusion

Dyslexia impacts many people and a lot of those struggle with its effects silently. If you can relate to, or can recognise in others, some of the points touched on within this article there are things that can be done. If the person is in:

  • Primary or Secondary education, then a first step would be to go and speak to the educational establishment’s SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator).
  • Further & Higher Education, then a first step would be go and speak to someone in the Disability department.
  • an employed position, then a first step would be to speak to someone in the Human Resources department

If none of the above are applicable, then a first step could be to seek an official diagnosis by going for an Educational Psychologist assessment.

If the outcome is that an official diagnosis is made indicating dyslexia, or some other Specific Learning Difference, then there are many tools, including Spellementary, available to assist. There are techniques and strategies that a person can learn, use and develop to equip them in working around the challenges.

If you have found this article useful or have any advice that you would like to share, please comment below. If you would like to get in touch, you can also contact us by e-mailing info@spellementary.com .