Working with dyslexic strengths
By presenting information to suit a dyslexic’s way of thinking and their strengths you can increase engagement with learning at school and at home.
This article has been written in a bullet point format to make it more learning difference friendly.
- is another way of thinking and processing information.
- it’s a language based difficulty that arises from challenges with
- auditory processing,
- short term memory and
- ordering and sequencing of information.
- it makes learning to read, writing down information and spelling more difficult to learn.
School and strengths
- Children with dyslexia may learn by themselves to read and write by applying extra effort and/or by using their strengths to compensate.
- When they are adults instead of thinking they are dyslexic they may say
- they found school hard,
- they had to put in lots of effort,
- they were not good at writing down information easily or
- have bad spelling.
- When we work with children in the classroom we still must support and manage their challenges, however if we also tap into their natural dyslexic strengths we can further increase their ability to engage with their learning.
Types of strengths
- Everyone has
- character strengths, for example, courage, loyalty, kindness,
- certain talents, for example, in sports, music, art.
- Dyslexics also have additional strengths from the way they think and process information.
Dyslexic strengths include
- Big picture thinking
- Problem solving
- Empathy for others
- Visual thinkers
How these strengths work
The big picture
- Dyslexics automatically try to create a big picture of information
- this can be getting a sense of how it fits together, and/or
- it can be creating a visual picture of how it all works together.
- Having a big picture is needed for them to know how to start a task, whether it’s
- writing a story,
- completing a maths calculation,
- reading a story,
- going somewhere new,
- learning a new skill or
- completing a task or chore at home.
- If they can’t grasp the big picture because of the way information has been presented they may
- take more time trying to work it out by over researching or asking questions,
- become distracted, day dream, give up or slow down because their brain is overloaded.
- have increased anxiety.
Using the big picture to increase engagement
- Provide information to start helping them create this big picture
- If teaching a new concept, provide a video prior for them to watch.
- If starting a new project, task or chore, explain or provide an example of what it will look like at the end
- Learning a maths calculation, give them a completed example to follow
- Giving them information to create this ‘big picture framework’ means when new information comes in it has somewhere to fit. Otherwise, it just feels like random information in their head.
- Present information so their brain does not become overloaded.
- Give them the information in chunks.
- Provide breaks so they have time to “fit the info into their big picture framework” before having to move on.
- Little and often
Problem solving skills
- Dyslexics are solution-based thinkers, connecting large amounts of information together to come up with these solutions.
- It connects in with their big picture thinking strength.
- They integrate personal experiences with acquired knowledge to create new ideas.
Using problem solving skills to increase engagement
- Connect learning to something they are interested in. They are more likely to have started developing that big picture framework when they have some prior knowledge.
- The interpersonal connection is important to them and discussing the ideas with them helps to clarify it in their mental framework.
- An example for learning math concepts is to give them the answer and an example and let them work out the steps.
- If they come up with an answer, gently question to trace their thinking.
- They connect a large amount of information together so an answer can become more in depth.
- It’s also important to ensure they are connecting correct information.
- Sometimes they may not be able to explain how they got the answer. It can be so instinctive coming up with ideas and solutions they may not be able to explain the thinking process used.
Using their natural empathy to increase engagement
- If they can master a skill have them teach others, especially younger children, to learn that skill.
- They feel good being able to help others and they can connect with others, especially younger ones (perhaps not siblings though!) with their deep empathy strength.
- They convert information to a visual format for themselves so help them with this by providing information in a visual format already.
- This can be demonstrated by giving directions,
- Instead of saying ‘down this street and turn left at Smith Street’ try ‘turn left at the street with the blue house on the corner’.
- Support verbal information with visual where possible.
- Give them time to process verbal information so they can create a visual picture of what you are explaining.
Written by Chris Cole Dec 2020