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6 Writing Strategies for Students with Dyslexia

Amy Endo

Does Dyslexia Affect Writing?

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, and research shows that there is a reciprocal relationship with reading and writing . In other words, instruction in reading helps support students’ writing skills, and attending to students’ writing helps improve their reading. Reading and writing share underlying processes, so students with dyslexia who struggle with reading oftentimes show difficulty in writing as well. Some characteristics of difficulties exhibited in their writing may entail poor spelling, poor handwriting, lack of organization in their writing, and lack of a robust vocabulary.

What Is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a condition that impairs one’s ability to write letters by hand (or handwriting) and is characterized by students’ difficulties in writing. Dysgraphia can occur in students with or without dyslexia and may co-occur with other learning disabilities. Because students may not always receive a dysgraphia diagnosis, they may not receive the instructional support needed to improve their writing difficulties that manifest itself in poor handwriting, spelling, and overall writing skills. Therefore, providing explicit instruction and scaffolded support to students with dyslexia who exhibit writing difficulties and those with dysgraphia throughout the course of their writing development is crucial.

Early Indicators

In the early years, as students become emergent readers and are learning how to crack the alphabetic code, effective reading instruction incorporates students writing and forming each letter and letter patterns to build words. Sometimes, we begin to see difficulties in students’ forming the letters correctly, and handwriting difficulties may emerge. Words can sometimes run together as long strings of letters in a sentence, are illegible, or sentences are written above or under the writing lines. Oftentimes, students only practice with tracing letters one letter at a time. It is beneficial to extend the practice and have students trace whole words while providing scaffolds such as guided tracing activities and reference models for whole sentences. As the tracing and copying scaffolds are removed, have students put one finger between each word for proper spacing, and two fingers at the end of each period. This also reinforces to the students that words are distinct, that each carries a meaning or function, and that they can take longer pauses at the end of the sentence when reading.

Having writing paper that has a bolder line at the bottom with two lighter lines colored differently for the middle and top lines allow students to bring their attention to form the letters on the appropriate line. As students get older and use loose leaf paper, highlighting every other line as writing lines is helpful for those students who continue to write off the lines.

In addition, spelling difficulties may persist throughout elementary and into secondary school for many students with dyslexia. First and foremost, providing evidence-based phonics instruction is essential to teaching students how to decode and encode words. Teach spelling rules in an explicit and systematic manner. Reinforce the letter-sound correspondences with complex vowel and/or consonant combinations, the six syllable types , and lessons on morphology that teach students prefixes, suffixes, root words with various Latin and Greek meanings.

Writing Strategies for Your Classroom

1. Provide explicit instruction on good writing .

As with any good instruction, begin with explicit teaching of what good writing entails. Provide students with good models using a relevant or high-interest topic. Have students highlight and notate what makes the model example a good paragraph or essay. As students identify the elements of good writing, show an example of a writing piece that needs improvement. Work through the paragraph or essay together, identifying where and why it needs improvement.

2. Begin by writing sentences.

Before writing longer paragraphs or essays, begin on the sentence level. Practice writing sentences that distinguish sentences from sentence fragments. More words do not always entail a complete sentence. Then, build those sentences so students can write different types of sentences, such as compound, complex, or compound-complex sentences. Have students practice both writing these sentences and identifying them. In addition, have students practice adding descriptive words to short sentences. For example, students can change a simple sentence (e.g., It was sunny ) to a more illustrative one (e.g., The sun’s rays glistened on a humid summer afternoon .).

3. Write paragraphs one sentence at a time.

As students begin to write various genres (e.g., informational, narrative, and persuasive writing), instruct students on how to write each paragraph sentence by sentence. In other words, what does an effective introductory sentence look like? How does a conclusion sentence restate the main idea? What elements should each sentence in the body entail? Break down the paragraph one sentence at a time, and then have the students piece them together. In addition, include a list of transition words that help tie the sentences together.

4. Teach writing compositions as a multi-step process.

As students transition to longer 3-paragraph or 5-paragraph essay writing, teaching the writing process as a multi-step process is essential. In this way, reading and writing skills are distinct. For example, one goal of reading is fluency with the aim of having students read at an appropriate rate on their first read. However, sometimes students erroneously think that the writing process should also be an easy process that they can complete on the first draft. Explicitly teach the steps of writing, which often entails writing one piece over several days and sometimes several weeks.

  • Select your topic. Have students choose their topic of writing from a selection of writing prompts. Depending on the genre of writing, this may also require conducting some research on the topic.
  • Organize the ideas. As students gather information on the topic, it is essential to organize these ideas, thoughts, or factual information in a cohesive manner. Use various graphic organizers appropriate to the writing type. For example, an O.R.E.O. graphic organizer can be used for opinion writing (Opinion, Reason, Evidence, Opinion). Students can use Venn Diagrams for compare and contrast writing. Particularly for students with dyslexia, this phase of arranging ideas into graphic organizers is essential so that students can visually see how the sentences and ideas piece together.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

  • Write . Once all the ideas are written down and organized cohesively, have the students bring all the sentences and paragraphs together. Include a writer’s checklist or a rubric so that students can determine whether they have all the elements of the writing assignment.
  • Revise and edit. Have the students re-read their writing multiple times with a specific purpose in mind. During the first review, check to see whether any mechanics of their writing needs improvement (e.g. spelling, sentence fragments, punctuation, etc.). Then, have the students re-read the writing to see if any words can be replaced with stronger academic vocabulary (e.g. replace good book with an intriguing novel ). Ensure that transition words are appropriately used so that the sentences and paragraphs are effectively woven together. Provide additional text evidence or citations to make the writing more compelling.

5. Practice writing frequently. As with reading, students with dyslexia need ample writing practice in order to become masterful writers. Therefore, provide frequent, if not daily, opportunities for writing. Have the students keep a writing journal so that they can see their progress from the beginning to the end of the year. Shorter but frequent writing practice allows students to get into the sheer habit of expressing their thoughts on paper, which entails a more laborious process than speaking. Provide a variety of writing types and offer open-ended, engaging writing prompts so that students are exposed to the different characteristics of each genre of writing and can improve their writing skills.

6. Provide writing supports and accommodations using technology

For students whose writing difficulties or handwriting and spelling issues persist throughout elementary school, encourage them to type their assignments becomes critical. Writing an essay by hand may take some students longer than others, and students begin to lose their train of thought as a writer because they are expending more energy on the physical act of writing. Also, there is an expectation that students and many careers require efficient keyboarding skills. Therefore, providing effective keyboarding instruction after second grade when writing assignments begin to get longer will become important.

Various editing software such as spell-checks and grammar-checks that help correct students writing also plays a critical role in helping improve their mechanics of writing. Students can instead concentrate on the higher-order skills of how their ideas flow and transition from paragraph to paragraph. Additionally, in some cases, using various text-to-speech software capabilities embedded in the computer or available as add-ons can help students get their thoughts on paper in order to formulate their writing into a polished final piece.

As we develop fluent and proficient readers through evidence-based reading strategies, it is just as essential to nurture students with dyslexia with evidence-based writing strategies to become capable writers who express and craft their thoughts in an engaging, persuasive, and compelling manner.

To take a deeper dive into topics such as structured literacy , oral reading fluency and optimizing fluency instruction for students with dyslexia, read more on HMH’s blog, Shaped.

Check out the AI-powered Amira Dyslexia Screener , an intelligent reading assistant that can screen an entire group for dyslexia in less than five minutes. Get a free demo here .

Support all readers on a path to proficiency with our dyslexia curriculum .

Get our free Reading Intervention eBook today.

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Why Children With Dyslexia Struggle With Writing and How to Help Them

Michael hebert.

a Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Devin M. Kearns

b Department of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Joanne Baker Hayes

Pamela bazis, samantha cooper.

Children with dyslexia often have related writing difficulties. In the simple view of writing model, high-quality writing depends on good transcription skills, working memory, and executive function—all of which can be difficult for children with dyslexia and result in poor spelling and low overall writing quality. In this article, we describe the challenges of children with dyslexia in terms of the simple view of writing and instructional strategies to increase spelling and overall writing quality in children with dyslexia.

For spelling strategies, we conducted systematic searches across 2 databases for studies examining the effectiveness of spelling interventions for students with dyslexia as well as including studies from 2 meta-analyses. To locate other instructional practices to increase writing quality (e.g., handwriting and executive function), we examined recent meta-analyses of writing and supplemented that by conducting forward searches.

Through the search, we found evidence of effective remedial and compensatory intervention strategies in spelling, transcription, executive function, and working memory. Some strategies included spelling using sound-spellings and morphemes and overall quality using text structure, sentence combining, and self-regulated strategy development.


Many students with dyslexia experience writing difficulty in multiple areas. However, their writing (and even reading) skills can improve with the instructional strategies identified in this article. We describe instructional procedures and provide links to resources throughout the article.

Students with dyslexia often also have writing difficulties. This is not surprising, as reading is theorized to be a central component of writing in some cognitive models of writing development (e.g., Graham, 2018 ; Hayes, 1996 ). The writing difficulties of students with dyslexia can be partially attributed to their reading difficulties and can manifest in many ways in their writing, such as poor spelling, poor legibility, lack of diverse vocabulary, poor idea development, and/or lack of organization.

Dyslexia and writing difficulties co-occur for two overarching reasons. First, reading and writing rely on related underlying processes ( Graham & Hebert, 2010 , 2011 ). For example, dyslexia involves difficulties related to processing phonological information needed for decoding words, whereas writing requires encoding phonological information when writing words. Because the disability impacts the underlying process for both the reading and writing systems, the prevalence of writing difficulties for students with dyslexia is not unexpected. Second, reading is a subskill required throughout the writing process. Writers often need to read source materials before writing their own text and also need to read and reread their own writing to diagnose text problems, such as spelling errors, grammar errors, and disorganization ( Hayes, 1996 ). The presence of reading difficulties complicates this task, especially if students have poor handwriting skills that make it even more difficult for them to read their own writing.

The focus of this article is to address the various types of writing issues children with dyslexia may have and to provide information about research-based practices that can work toward remediation of these difficulties. First, we use the simple writing model to provide an overview of the skills needed for writing. To illustrate some of the writing difficulties students with dyslexia have, we then provide a case study of a student with dyslexia (Jordan) and discuss how some of his writing errors indicate difficulties related to reading challenges. Next, we provide theory for why students with dyslexia may struggle with writing by presenting research and theory about some of the links among their reading and writing difficulties. Finally, we identify instructional strategies shown to be effective for improving writing skills (and related reading skills) of students with reading and writing disabilities.

Conceptual Framework: Simple View of Writing

One way to characterize the skills involved in writing is to use the simple view of writing ( Berninger & Amtmann, 2003 ). This theoretical model includes the subskills that are essential for the writing task and provides a framework for showing how those skills are interrelated. The model includes skills in four overarching categories: transcription, executive functions, working memory, and text generation (see Figure 1 ). We use the model as a heuristic, meaning that it is useful as a basic framework for understanding the components of writing, but we do not use it as a comprehensive description of how writing occurs. Researchers have proposed more comprehensive cognitive models of writing development (e.g., Graham, 2018 ; Hayes, 1996 ; Hayes & Flower, 1980 ; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986 ), but we decided to use the simple view of writing because it focuses on important aspects of writing skills that are relevant for teaching students with dyslexia. As we discuss various reasons students with dyslexia may have difficulty with writing, we will reference the simple view of writing to help explain how these difficulties may impact their writing. We will then link suggested interventions with the model as well in order to illustrate why the interventions are likely to be effective.

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Object name is LSHSS-49-843-g001.jpg

A model of the simple view of writing.

The simple view of writing is represented by a triangle, with each of the vertices linked to a specific writing skill or outcome. The two vertices at the base of the triangle represent (a) transcription skills (e.g., spelling, handwriting) and (b) executive function skills (e.g., self-regulation, planning, organization). Berninger, Abbott, Abbott, Graham, and Richards (2002) provide evidence that these skills enable (c) text generation, which is represented by the top vertex of the triangle. Because of the complexity of writing, the center of the triangle is used to illustrate that all of these skills are constrained by (d) working memory. 1

When more working memory resources are needed for any individual component of the process, fewer resources are available to manage other components of writing tasks. For example, a writer with poor spelling skills may need to rely more on his or her working memory when spelling words, which leaves fewer working memory resources available for generating ideas for his or her writing or holding them in memory throughout the writing process. All too familiar is the anecdote of the student who stops to ask a teacher how to spell a word, only to return to his or her writing and state, “I forgot what I was going to say.”

Because all of the writing components operate in working memory and require considerable resources and attention, it is postulated that, when transcription skills are sufficiently automatic, more working memory space and resources are available for self-regulation strategies such as goal setting, planning, monitoring, and revising, allowing writers to generate text more similar to that of skilled adult writers ( Berninger et al., 2002 ).

Writings Difficulties of Students With Dyslexia in the Simple View of Writing

As we discussed previously, many students with dyslexia also have related writing difficulties. These difficulties can occur in many areas of writing related to the simple view of writing model and can manifest in many different ways. For example, the writing of students with dyslexia may suffer from one or more of the following issues: a high percentage of misspelled words, difficult-to-read handwriting, poor organization, a lack of fully developed ideas, and/or a lack of diverse vocabulary.

It is important to note that the causes of some of these writing difficulties may not be obvious. For example, it might be assumed that the cause of poor handwriting is poor motor control. Although this may be true, it could also be that the true causes of handwriting difficulties are more complicated than it first appears. Some researchers (e.g., Berninger, Nielsen, Abbott, Wijsman, & Raskind, 2008 ) have demonstrated that poor handwriting skills may actually be the result of poor spelling skills. These researchers hypothesize that students with poor spelling skills hesitate more often when writing words, leading to less fluent letter writing ( Berninger et al., 2008 ). When writing a single word, this may not make much difference to a writer's overall handwriting skills, but consistent hesitation and dysfluent word writing may not allow students to improve their handwriting skills. Similar to how spelling may contribute to poor handwriting, poor handwriting may sometimes contribute to poor organization in the writing of these students. We will explore some of the research behind these issues in more detail later in the article, but first, we illustrate some of the writing challenges a student with dyslexia might experience using a writing sample from Jordan, a fourth grader with reading disability.

Jordan: A Writing Case Study for a Student With Dyslexia

Jordan (a pseudonym) is a 10-year-old fourth grader. He participated in a research study led by the first author, and his scores indicate a level of difficulty that would qualify him for special education services based on a diagnosis of dyslexia. His scores on the word reading subtests of a standardized test, the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test–Third Edition, indicate a level of reading difficulty—below the 17th percentile—that is often used as an evidence of dyslexia (see the scores in Table 1 ).

Reading and writing scores for our example student with dyslexia (Jordan).

Note.  Scores at the 16th percentile are 1 SD below the mean. Scores at or below this often result in qualification for reading disability based on word reading difficulty, that is, dyslexia. WRMT3 = Woodcock Reading Mastery Test–Third Edition; WIAT4 = Wechsler Individual Achievement Test–Fourth Edition.

Jordan also shows difficulty with writing. He was given the Essay Composition Subtest of the Wechsler Individualized Achievement Test–Fourth Edition. For this test, children have 10 min to write about a favorite game and three reasons they like it. Jordan's essay writing places his performance at the 25th percentile compared with other fourth graders. Jordan's writing sample (see Figure 2 ) illustrates some of the writing difficulties of children with dyslexia.

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A writing sample from Jordan, a fourth-grade student with reading disability as identified by performance on word reading tests. The transcribed text follows (misspelled words followed by asterisks): The game is battelships*. I like it because I get to play with frinds* and I like ships beause* their big. Plaing* with frinds* are fun to play with them But I ushal win .

His difficulties map onto the dimensions of the simple view of writing. First, Jordan has some difficulty with transcription skills. In terms of handwriting, Jordan appears to form letters in unconventional ways. For example, he appears to start and end the lowercase o on the bottom of the line. His handwriting also impairs the reader's ability to follow because he omits spaces between words and extends letters below the line, such as the L in battelships* and the A in play on Line 2. For spelling, he appears not to have memorized the spellings of frequent but irregular words such as friends (written frinds* ) and has an incomplete understanding of the “drop the E” convention that results in plaing* for playing (he overgeneralizes and drops the final Y ).

These difficulties appear to strain his working memory, as the simple view predicts. Jordan spells because in two different ways—one of them correct. So, he knows the correct spelling of because . His handwriting also appears to degrade as he writes (the third line has many more letters below the line than the first). These transcription difficulties indicate difficulty balancing transcription accuracy with the expression of ideas that requires strong executive function. Overall, he may be struggling with transcription simply because transcription is hard and also because the need to focus on other aspects of writing taxes his executive control. He has difficulty remembering the spoken word he intends to write (suggesting challenges retaining information in the phonological loop) or has difficulty retaining his visual representations of the letters (perhaps difficulty within the visuospatial sketchpad) in the face of other demands.

Turning to the other base of the simple view, the content of Jordan's paragraph suggests difficulty with executive function. The content of the paragraph is quite limited: He repeats his primary reason for enjoying Battleship (“I get to play with friends,” and “Playing with friends are fun to play with them”). Perhaps, these ideas are subtly different (first, the game is an excuse to spend time with friends, and second, he enjoys the gameplay), or he may simply have repeated himself. Either way, this confusion suggests he probably wrote his ideas as he thought of them, rather than creating an organizer first. In addition, the sentence “Playing with friends are fun to play with them” also has a circular logic that suggests he did not monitor his writing as he went.

On the basis of the simple view of writing model, it is likely that Jordan's difficulties with transcription skills and executive function skills are linked, due to constraints of working memory. Because Jordan has difficulty with transcription skills, more working memory resources are allocated to those tasks when he is transcribing his sentences. This decreases the available working memory capacity for holding ideas and organizational plans in memory while writing (even at the sentence level), leading to incoherence. Conversely, Jordan's lack of executive function skills for goal setting and planning (e.g., making a list of ideas before writing) places a burden on working memory resources, leaving fewer resources available for monitoring spelling and conventions.

In addition to the interrelationships among the difficulties with writing skills, Jordan's difficulties can also be shown to be related to his reading disability (i.e., dyslexia). We will explore these connections later, but we first provide theory and research evidence for why dyslexia and writing difficulties co-occur. Then, we will return to Jordan's case study based on the research evidence.

Theory and Research Evidence Linking Dyslexia and Poor Writing Skills

Data indicate that there is a strong relationship between dyslexia and writing difficulty, and we explore these data within the simple view. First, we focus on transcription, particularly spelling and handwriting. We then follow this up with a discussion of relationships between dyslexia and writing in both executive function and working memory skills.

Spelling Skills and Dyslexia

Spelling and reading involve reciprocal parts of one task—connecting letters and sounds. As a result, people with dyslexia often exhibit similar levels of spelling difficulty ( Scarborough, 1998 ), and children with dyslexia often show spelling difficulty into adolescence ( Ehri, 1997 ). The source of difficulty is in phonological processing ( Ramus & Szenkovits, 2009 ). People with dyslexia show impairment in the ability to encode, retain, and access phonological information. This makes it difficult to read unknown words (decode them): Readers must produce a grapheme for each phoneme, retain each in memory, combine them into a single pronunciation, and connect this pronunciation with a word in memory ( Kearns, Rogers, Koriakin, & Al Ghanem, 2016 ). Spelling unknown words (encoding) requires a complementary process, listening to an unknown spoken word, breaking it into phonemes, selecting the appropriate grapheme for the phoneme, repeating this process for each phoneme, and then checking the result to make sure it looks like a real word (see Figure 3 for an example of the reciprocal processes). For this reason, children's spelling abilities predict their later reading abilities ( Ouellette & Sénéchal, 2017 )

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A representation of the difference between decoding (pronouncing written words by linking graphemes to phonemes and combining them) and encoding (writing spoken words by parsing the words into graphemes and writing each using knowledge of grapheme–phoneme correspondences and spelling conventions). In the spellings, the good reader has overapplied the spelling convention that ay is the spelling of /eɪ/ at the end of a word. If the written word looks incorrect, the spelling might be adjusted to writing the letters and adjusting the spelling as needed afterward. The good reader might realize that staiers looks incorrect and rewrite it correctly. Problems with encoding are particularly pronounced in people with dyslexia because encoding requires the ability to process the sound information correctly and represent it on the page. The reader with dyslexia in Figure 3 does not include the T —probably because of difficulty processing sound information.

Because reading and spelling skills both require phonological skills, spelling and phonological skills are strongly linked ( Furnes & Samuelsson, 2010 ). People with dyslexia are likely to make spelling errors that indicate some sounds were not adequately processed ( Bruck, 1993 ; Cassar, Treiman, Moats, Pollo, & Kessler, 2005 ; Pennington et al., 1986 ). For example, a child with dyslexia might spell jump as jup * or blind as blid * ( Bourassa, Treiman, & Kessler, 2006 )—suggesting that the child did not distinguish the two bilabial sounds (/m/ and /p/) in jump or the alveolar ones (/n/ and /d/) in blind . It also appears that people with dyslexia use different sources of information to spell words than their peers with typical achievement. College students with dyslexia appear to rely on words' meaningful parts (morphemes) to support their spelling ( Bourassa et al., 2006 )—more so than their typical peers ( Bruck, 1993 ; Frith, 1978 ). It is also noteworthy that spelling difficulty continues to be associated with word reading difficulty into the upper elementary and middle school grades. Studies generally suggest that the link between word reading skills and reading comprehension declines as children age, but the association with spelling remains very strong ( Badian, 1999 ).

People do not always spell using encoding. Eventually, they develop a representation of the word in which the letters, sounds, and meanings are very tightly connected ( Ehri, 2005 ). When that happens, spelling a word does not really involve encoding. The person simply remembers which letters to use and writes them. In many cases, people may use encoding and memory together. For example, Jordan's misspelling of because —after spelling it correctly earlier in the writing sample—probably suggests that he has much of the word memorized. The ause part is pronounced /ʌz/ so the correct pronunciation of that must be from memory. Missing the C probably indicates he failed to use encoding for that part.

Part of the challenge for children like Jordan is that English has a remarkably complex orthographic (letter) system. English has just 26 letters but about 40 phonemes, so some sounds must be spelled with multiple letters (e.g., /ʧ/ spelled with CH ). In addition, sounds sometimes have multiple spellings (e.g., /ʧ/ spelled with TCH as in batch ). However, the system has many “exemplary regularities” ( Perfetti, 1992 , p. 18) and helpful spelling conventions (a selection is given in Table 2 ). Jordan's writing suggests that he does not have a firm grasp on these. For example, battelship* should have LE instead of EL at the end of battle , a convention for spelling /əl/ or /l̩/ at the end of words, one used in more than 4,000 English words readers might encounter in first through eighth grades (analysis based on data from Fitt, 2001 , and Zeno, Ivens, Millard, & Duvvuri, 1995 ). He used plaing* for playing (but spelled play correct), potentially indicating that he has partial understanding of the convention to drop the E at the end of a word before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel (e.g., place to placing ). The good news is that children like Jordan can improve their spelling and reading by learning about English spelling conventions (also sometimes called patterns or [perhaps inaccurately] rules). 2

Examples of regular spelling patterns.

Learning to spell can also improve the quality of written compositions ( Berninger & Richards, 2010 ; Sanders, Berninger, & Abbott, 2017 ). Put differently, this means that learning to spell better results in children writing better overall. In short, the value of teaching spelling to children with dyslexia extends beyond reading into written composition.

In summary, people with dyslexia have difficulty with spelling because reading and spelling are related abilities. The errors people with dyslexia make when spelling are similar to the errors they make when reading. In addition, English spelling makes the task somewhat challenging anyway—although this does not mean children with dyslexia should be taught that English is a mess or totally confusing. There are many ways in which the system works well, and children with dyslexia can be taught to use it to improve their spelling.

Handwriting. Handwriting problems are often associated with dyslexia, although researchers and practitioners do not always consider them together (cf. Pagliarini et al., 2015 ). 3 However, children with dyslexia show persistent difficulty with handwriting ( Sumner, Connelly, & Barnett, 2016 ). As a result, it is important to consider handwriting on its own within the transcription dimension of the simple view.

Data appear to be clear that children with dyslexia experience handwriting difficulty, often showing difficulty writing quickly with correct letter formation. It is easy to conclude that these difficulties are the result of poor motor function, but studies have indicated that this may not be the case. Across all types of children—that is, when you consider a wide range of learners including those without dyslexia—there is a relationship between motor function and writing composition quality. However, this is not the case for children with dyslexia ( Graham, Berninger, Abbott, Abbott, & Whitaker, 1997 ). For example, Stanley and Watson (1980) examined the performance of children with and without dyslexia on a composition and figure drawing task. Both groups of children drew figures with similar speed and accuracy, whereas the students with dyslexia wrote more slowly and with more spelling errors. If handwriting difficulty was the result of motor problems, differences would occur in drawing and writing. This is not what the authors observed, suggesting that handwriting problems are related to spelling—not graphomotor—difficulty.

There is support for the connection between handwriting and spelling. Research on composition has found that some of the best early predictors of success have been the speed shown when writing the alphabet and coding orthographic material in spelling ( Berninger, 2004 ; Montgomery, 2008 ). To examine this further, Berninger et al. (2008) evaluated the role of non-handwriting graphomotor planning in dyslexia and showed that it did not have a significant relationship with the quality of written compositions. However, handwriting and spelling are themselves strongly linked ( Tarnopol & Feldman, 1987 ). Although the reason for this connection is not clearly established, poor letter formation may result from the working memory demand of retaining the correct phonological information in memory while producing the correct letter form. If children are focused primarily on spelling, they may struggle to simultaneously coordinate the handwriting task.

That does not mean that poor motor control should be ruled out of handwriting difficulties but instead suggests that the poor motor control exhibited by students may be the result of hesitations and lack of rhythmic movements due to uncertainty in spelling. In one study examining handwriting movements, Pagliarini et al. (2015) found that handwriting is controlled by two principles of organization: (a) isochrony , or the speed or timing of the movement in relation to the trajectory length, and (b) homothety , or the relative duration of the movement. The researchers also found that handwriting difficulties have a direct association to dyslexia and these difficulties can be characterized in terms of compliance with the rhythmic principles of writing. The dyslexic group was found to be slower in average writing speed and wrote less fluently than the typically developing group. Children who wrote less fluently turned out to read more slowly, make more errors, and have poorer receptive vocabulary. Overall, the study showed the individuals with dyslexia displayed rhythmic motor difficulties in handwriting.

To summarize, the data on handwriting suggest that handwriting difficulties may result from difficulty with spelling in children with dyslexia. Even those data indicating motor difficulties still suggest that this may result from spelling uncertainty. As a result, children with dyslexia have poor handwriting. It is possible that improved spelling will lead to improvements in handwriting, but the reverse is also true. On this basis, recent interventions for students with dyslexia have included both types of support (e.g., Berninger, Richards, & Abbott, 2015 ), and the very good news is that handwriting can be improved as the result of structured teaching focused on handwriting specifically ( Christensen, 2005 ).

Reversals . People with dyslexia appear to show a tendency to reverse letters and words when spelling ( b and d or saw and was ). This is one reason people have a fundamental misunderstanding that dyslexia is a visual processing problem ( Orton, 1925 ). It cannot be overstated: Dyslexia is not a visual processing problem. Reversals in spelling do not indicate that it is.

However, this topic is somewhat complex, and there are confusing nuances about apparent cases of reversals. Here is a brief summary of data on this point:

  • Most children sometimes transpose similar letters such as b and d , and the percentage of reversals is similar between children with and without dyslexia. The reversals stand out in children with dyslexia because there are more reversals in their writing overall (although not in relative terms) and because they confirm our own biases ( Fischer, Liberman, & Shankweiler, 1978 ; Moats, 1983 ).
  • When children with dyslexia perform visual tasks that do not involve letters, they perform as well as children with typical achievement. When visuals are paired with sounds, children with dyslexia mix them up ( Vellutino, Pruzek, Steger, & Meshoulam, 1973 ).
  • When they reverse letters, children write the left-facing version ( b ) more often than the right-facing one ( d ). Right-facing letters are more common in English, so they may be using the more common pattern ( Treiman, Gordon, Boada, Peterson, & Pennington, 2014 ). What is important to understand is that reversals do not occur in both directions with equal frequency, so reversals are not arbitrary—as we would expect if it is a visual problem.
  • Almost all people with dyslexia have phonological difficulties, but a very small minority also may have visual deficits. Some people with dyslexia do have problems with visual attention, that is, how much visual information they can process ( Goswami et al., 2002 ; Valdois, Bosse, & Tainturier, 2004 ). However, studies do not show that reversals specifically occur more in people with dyslexia.

Taken together, these data validate the idea that dyslexia is a phonological deficit, and reversals are not part of what is a visual processing deficit in some people. As a result, spelling instruction should not focus on reversals, although strategies to help children associate the correct letter with the correct sound are almost certainly important (see Intervention section).

Overall, data suggest that children with dyslexia have spelling difficulty that is strongly related to their reading difficulty. The data also indicate that the spelling problem originates in difficulty processing sound information, similar to the problem with reading. Children with dyslexia also appear to use morphemes to support their spelling. These data provide some clues about how we can provide effective spelling instruction for children with dyslexia.

Executive Function

As discussed in a recent Institute of Education Sciences report, research findings have suggested that children with dyslexia have difficulty with executive function skills, such as inhibition control and switching attention ( Zelazo et al., 2016 ). For example, Altemeier, Abbott, and Berninger (2008) found that students with dyslexia have difficulty inhibiting prepotent responses. When reading an unknown word, they often overrely on their first instinct and guess at the word before sounding out all of the letters, not inhibiting their response before confirming it is accurate. Similarly, Brooks, Berninger, and Abbott (2011) found evidence that difficulty switching attention may impact learning to read, due to momentary breakdowns in efficiency of cross-code integration of phonological and orthographic information.

According to the simple view of writing model, executive functioning in writing involves the ability to plan, organize, set goals, self-regulate, and self-monitor. Inhibition control and other executive functions are correlated with writing tasks in normally developing populations ( Hooper, Swartz, Wakely, De Kruif, & Montgomery, 2002 ), influence handwriting ( Berninger et al., 2006 ) and overall written output ( Hooper et al., 2002 ), and add unique variance to models of integrated reading–writing tasks such as notetaking and report writing ( Altemeier et al., 2008 ). Individual differences in executive function for self-regulation of the writing process may affect high-level composing and lower level transcription processes (spelling and handwriting). For example, handwriting automaticity depends on executive control to integrate the multiple processes (e.g., motor planning, orthography). Thus, for students with dyslexia, some handwriting issues may be related to poor executive function skills that contribute to poor coordination in time of phonological codes with serial finger movements in letter formation and production ( Berninger, 2009 ). Although more research needs to be conducted in the examination of the relationships among the reading, writing, and executive function skills of students with dyslexia, this work demonstrates that deficits in executive function can impact both reading and writing skills for these students.

The attention required for handwriting and other transcription skills may also detract from students' ability to plan and organize text at higher levels of language. Deficiencies in these areas could be addressed by providing students with strategy instruction aimed at improving planning and organization before writing. When students plan and rehearse their ideas before writing, it mitigates the impacts transcription difficulties might have on the quality of ideas and organization of a student's text. In other words, taking notes to plan and organize ideas before writing can act as an external memory, reducing the cognitive load during the writing task ( Graham, 2018 ) and allowing students to switch their attention between writing functions more readily.

Working Memory

Some researchers include working memory within the constellation of executive functioning skills. However, in the simple view of writing, working memory is separate from executive function and is represented as a constraint for the writing task. Working memory is made of three components: central executive, phonological loop, and the visuospatial sketchpad. Each of these components is linked to specific reading and writing skills, and deficits in any working memory are likely to lead to related deficits in both. Kellogg (1996) explored the heavy demands placed on working memory by writing tasks and how each of the components is used to support different components of the writing task.

Because dyslexia is primarily a phonological awareness deficit, the phonological loop is the most obvious aspect of working memory that might impact both reading and writing. The phonological loop helps students hold acoustic and verbal information in memory while manipulating it, a skill that is needed for reading. Information held in phonological memory decays over time but can be refreshed through rehearsal. However, if students have difficulty representing phonological information accurately, due to a phonological awareness deficit (such as those exhibited by students with dyslexia), they may also have difficulty holding the information in memory or rehearsing it correctly. Deficits in phonological memory compound this problem, because students with poor working memory skills may not be able to hold as much phonological information in their short-term memory. This can lead to difficulties in decoding longer words when reading, or spelling longer words and writing longer sentences in writing.

Comparable with how the phonological loop is used to hold and manipulate auditory information, the visuospatial sketchpad is used to hold and manipulate visual information, such as shapes of letters, but is also important for conceptualizing organizational diagrams, visual plans, and relationships among ideas. As we have already discussed, dyslexia is primarily a phonological processing problem, not a visual processing problem. There is some evidence that students with dyslexia have difficulty remembering orthographic patterns and that this difficulty is caused by an inability to process the phonological information and link it with the visual components of the orthography (i.e., letter order). This may also be related to deficits in visuospatial memory, as students who cannot hold a sequence of letters in their visual memory may have difficulty when writing those letters during spelling and writing tasks. In addition, it may be that, due to fewer reading and writing experiences, students with dyslexia also have difficulties visualizing organizational patterns for ideas.

The central executive is a system that regulates and controls information in working memory, including how information is used in the phonological loop and visuospatial sketchpad. The central executive helps in retrieving information from long-term memory, task switching, and determining how to allocate and switch attention resources. Students with deficits in working memory may have difficulty regulating their attentional resources, such as determining how much attention to allocate for phonological loop resources when manipulating sounds and words when reading and writing, or visuospatial sketchpad resources when planning and organizing ideas for writing or reading comprehension tasks. Research shows a relationship between dyslexia and deficits in central executive. For example, Montgomery (2008) found that handwriting difficulties were frequently comorbid with attention disorders such as those found in students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Revisiting Jordan's Writing Difficulties Through the Dyslexia Lens

Earlier in the article, we examined Jordan's writing in relation to the simple view of writing model and showed the potential relationships among his writing skills. After exploring how writing skills and dyslexia co-occur, it is clear that some of Jordan's writing difficulties stem from his reading disability in several ways. First, Jordan is having some difficulty with transcription skills, including spelling and handwriting (refer back to Figure 2 ). The research is clear that spelling difficulties co-occur with decoding difficulties for students with dyslexia, and it may be that his handwriting difficulties are partially related to those spelling and decoding difficulties as well. Second, we illustrated that students with dyslexia often have difficulties with working memory (including the phonological loop and visuospatial sketchpad), which may be exacerbating Jordan's transcription difficulties. Because he has incomplete phonological representations for words, for example, Jordan must devote a considerable amount of working memory resources to the writing task, and any potential deficit in working memory will leave even fewer resources available for executive function tasks. Third, we illustrated that students with dyslexia often have difficulties with executive function skills, such as goal-directed behavior, planning, and organization. Jordan's difficulty with sentence level grammar and clarity show that he either (a) did not have working memory resources available to reread his writing and identify errors, (b) had difficulty rereading his own writing due to transcription difficulties and his reading disability, or (c) both. It is also probable that Jordan did not set goals or develop a plan for his writing, which may show deficits in executive function related to his dyslexia. Despite the difficulties Jordan faces in writing, there are effective interventions available to help him, and knowing the relationship between his reading and writing problems can help teachers develop an appropriate instructional plan.

Interventions to Improve the Writing Skills of Children With Dyslexia

The co-occurrence of dyslexia and writing skills leads to questions about how to approach writing for these students. As we illustrated by examining Jordan's writing, the writing difficulties faced by students with dyslexia can vary, and the difficulties in one area may be related to difficulties in other areas. In other words, stress on one part of the complex writing system can impact a student's ability to use another part of the system, impacting text generation and writing quality. Because of that, a multifaceted approach to instruction, with multiple interventions, is likely to be more effective than a single intervention.

In this section, we provide an overview of instructional strategies, organized according to components of the simple view of writing model that are addressed by the intervention (transcription or executive function). Next, we discuss the interventions in terms of whether they are aimed at (a) remediation of a skill or (b) compensation for a skill deficit. Remediation involves directly addressing a student's skill deficit in an attempt to improve the skill, whereas compensation involves providing students with strategies to reduce the cognitive demands of writing and make the writing task more manageable. The decision to focus on remediation or compensation in a particular lesson may depend on the purpose of the writing task, and teachers may sometimes include both compensation and remediation strategies within a single intervention. Table 3 classifies strategies into remediation or compensation categories.

Strategies to help children with dyslexia write better.

To identify strategies, we conducted systematic searches (see Appendix ), examined meta-analyses for studies used with students with reading and writing disabilities, and conducted forward searches to identify studies of additional strategies. When identifying and recommending strategies, we include strategies that have been shown to be effective for students with both reading and writing difficulties, who struggle with writing for a variety of reasons.

Interventions to Address Poor Transcription Skills

There are a variety of remediation and compensation strategies for transcription skills. For some skills, there are both remediation and compensation strategies that teachers can use flexibly to meet students' needs.

Strategies That Support Spelling Development

The nature of English itself gives us some hints about the kinds of instruction that may be effective for improving spelling. We located 19 studies that (a) used experimental designs that support causal inference (randomization or single-case methods) and (b) had positive effects on spelling achievement. We examined the instructional components of all the interventions and counted how often each of these components was used in those studies. Four instructional components were present in at least four studies, data that we think suggest these components may be useful parts of a spelling program for students with dyslexia. We describe each of these here (see Table 4 for a number of studies supporting each strategy).

Instructional components in studies with positive effects on spelling.

Phonics. Phonics instruction was by far the most frequent of the instructional components related to spelling achievement, the focus in eight of the 19 studies. These studies included multicomponent phonics interventions and involved teaching students to (a) recognize and pronounce grapheme–phoneme correspondences (e.g., T = /t/, also called sound-spellings) and phonograms (the spellings of rhyming parts of words like OAT = /oʊt/), (b) decode words using sound-spellings and phonograms, (c) practice pronouncing and spelling high-frequency words, and (d) practice encoding using sound-spellings and phonograms (see Figure 4 for examples of these activities). Most programs also include reading words in sentences and texts with words chosen to focus on new and review skills. In our review, there were eight studies that used these types of phonics programs and found that they positively affected spelling outcomes: Guyer, Banks, and Guyer (1993) ; Lim and Oei (2015) ; Morris et al. (2012) ; O'Shaughnessy and Swanson (2000) ; Savage, Carless, and Stuart (2003) ; Schlesinger and Gray (2017) ; Schneider, Roth, and Ennemoser (2000) ; and Vaughn et al. (2010) . Phonics instruction has been very effective in improving the reading achievement of children with dyslexia, so it is no surprise that it has a similar effect on spelling in children with dyslexia ( National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000 ). Phonics instruction helps children solidify the relationships between letters and sounds and helps them to identify each sound in a word. For example, reading jump would involve providing a sound for each letter, so this would reinforce the connection between /mp/ and mp . After extensive phonics practice, readers will be unlikely to make the jump – jup* error anymore. This knowledge will almost certainly translate to spelling because spelling unknown words involves encoding the sounds to write letters, just as reading unknown words involves decoding the letters to produce sounds. Moreover, many of these phonics programs deliberately include encoding practice. There are many programs available that include most or all of these skills. Databases that provide information about programs with evidence of effectiveness come from the What Works Clearinghouse, the National Center for Intensive Intervention, and the Best Evidence Encyclopedia, among others.

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Examples of activities in phonics lessons that improve reading and spelling.

Learning sound-spellings and phonograms. In effective spelling-focused programs, one important feature was instruction on sound-spellings ( Berninger, Lee, Abbott, & Breznitz, 2013 ; Darch, Kim, Johnson, & James, 2000 ; Hart, Berninger, & Abbott, 1997 ; Santoro, Coyne, & Simmons, 2006 ; Shippen, Reilly, & Dunn, 2008 ; Vadasy, Sanders, & Peyton, 2006 ). Obviously, learning sound-spellings is part of phonics instruction, but it can also support spelling even if they are not taught as part of a phonics program. Conrad (2008) even showed that practicing spelling words benefits word reading—even more than reading benefits spelling.

In addition, children with dyslexia may benefit from learning how to select spellings when there are multiple possible options. For example, /ʧ/ can be spelled with CH or TCH , if a reader would be able to read a word either way. However, they might have less luck spelling unfamiliar /ʧ/ sounds because either spelling could be correct: For example, cach* and catch both say catch . However, there is a pattern children can learn: The TCH spelling is used after a short vowel (a lax vowel sound, usually spelled with a single A , E , I , O , or U ; refer back to Table 2 for examples of this and other short-vowel patterns). The point is that some spelling patterns support spelling accuracy but would have little additional impact on reading ( Caravolas, Hulme, & Snowling, 2001 ). Learning such spelling patterns still has value because they support transcription accuracy and therefore text generation.

One way to reinforce spelling patterns is to have students complete a dictation activity. In dictation, teachers have students examine words in sound-spelling or phonogram units. Students spell the word one unit at a time. See Figure 5 for an example.

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An example of a spelling dictation activity. In spelling dictation, the teacher has children systematically spell words by breaking them into phonemes and writing the associated graphemes one at a time after the teacher's cues. In this example, the teacher has a set of cards where each card represents an English phoneme (or associated phonemes, as in r -controlled vowels). The image on each card contains the target phoneme and serves as a reminder of the pronunciation. Each card contains the most common spellings of the phoneme. For /ʧ/, the card includes both CH and TCH . The spellings sometimes include devices to help with spelling, such as the blank before TCH that indicates it cannot come at the beginning of a word. In this example, the teacher reminds the children of this pattern before they write the word to support them in selecting the correct one of the two.

Analysis of the morphemes in words. The phonological challenges children with dyslexia experience can make it difficult for them to use phonological information. In some cases, even the best phonics instruction may not result in adequate word reading improvement. One way to circumvent this problem is to teach children to recognize a different kind of unit, a morpheme. Morphemes are meaningful units in words, including affixes and base words. Replacement has the prefix re- , the base word place , and the suffix -ment . The problem with morphemes is that they are less efficient than sound-spellings because fewer words can be spelled correctly using morpheme information than using sound-spellings alone. English has many more morphemes than sound-spellings. For example, there are only 70 affixes with at least 100 occurrences in English words, versus 224 for sound-spellings. However, many words have more than one morpheme ( Nagy & Anderson, 1984 ), and readers at all ability levels appear to use morphological information ( Kearns, 2015 ). In short, there are good reasons for teaching students to spell using morphemes. To that end, five studies with positive spelling effects included instruction on using morphemes to spell words ( Darch et al., 2000 ; Kirk & Gillon, 2009 ; Shippen et al., 2008 ; Vadasy et al., 2006 ; Vaughn et al., 2010 ). These programs usually involved teaching both the spelling and meaning of affixes, with a greater emphasis on their spelling and pronunciation. Another valuable activity involves teaching base-word families, emphasizing how a base word changes when one or more affixes are attached to it (e.g., happy, happier, unhappy; Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003 ; O'Connor, Beach, Sanchez, Bocain, & Flynn, 2015 ).

Orthographic analysis and word memory. Three studies indicate that children's spelling improves when they are taught strategies to remember the exact spellings of words ( Berninger et al., 2013 ; Fulk, 1996 ; Hart et al., 1997 ). For example, Berninger et al. (2013) taught students two strategies to remember the written forms of words, the Photographic Leprechaun and the Proofreader's Trick. The strategies both involved visualizing a word and answering questions about its spelling. For example, in the former, a reader like Jordan would look at a word, close his eyes, and answer questions such as “What is the second to last letter?” Then, he would open his eyes to check the answer. The latter was the same except that the children spelled the word backward with their eyes closed.

It is important to note that only three studies included this kind of instruction. In addition, two of these were in studies by the same research group, and the instruction in both included other components. However, the results were positive overall, so we included this study.

Spell-check. Spell-check has been available for quite some time, although evidence of effectiveness is limited ( Morphy & Graham, 2012 ) and (similar to the caveat for keyboarding skills) the effectiveness of spell-check will likely depend on students' ability to use it. Use of spell-check is also limited to computer-based writing and assumes that students can approach a reasonable approximation for the words they want to spell and identify the correct spelling for the word when options are provided.

Strategies to Help Students Improve Handwriting

Although there are ways to compose texts that do not require handwriting, it is still one of the most prevalent forms of writing in school, and some research shows that teaching handwriting can help improve reading outcomes for students with dyslexia. In a recent meta-analysis, Santangelo and Graham (2016) found that teaching handwriting instruction can improve legibility and fluency of students' writing and lead to improvements in writing quality and length of students' writing. Many studies involved students with significant handwriting difficulties, which we have demonstrated is a common attribute of students with dyslexia. It is important to note that Santangelo and Graham found that studies involving motor instruction did not produce better handwriting skills. However, individualizing handwriting instruction and using technology were effective. We identified some of the individual handwriting strategies from studies that included students with significant reading and writing difficulties.

Multicomponent interventions. By far, the most common and effective approach to teaching handwriting to students with handwriting difficulties has been the use of individualized approaches involving multiple components (e.g., Berninger et al., 1997 ; Christensen, 2005 ; Denton, Cope, & Moser, 2006 ; Graham, Harris, & Fink, 2000 ; Jones & Christensen, 1999 ; Peterson & Nelson, 2003 ; Sovik, Arntzen, & Thygesen, 1986 ; Veena, Romate, & Bhogle, 2002 ; Weintraub, Yinon, Hirsch, & Parush, 2009 ; Zwicker & Hadwin, 2009 ). Every study identified in Santangelo and Graham's (2016) meta-analysis as using a multicomponent intervention for handwriting instruction was found to be effective. Such interventions often group letters by shared characteristics (e.g., Christensen, 2005 ; Graham et al., 2000 ) and include some combination of teacher modeling (e.g., Jones & Christensen, 1999 ), assistance to correct specific errors, use of models or tracing letters' tracks (e.g., Weintraub et al., 2009 ), specific feedback (e.g., Denton et al., 2006 ), self-feedback (e.g., circle your best letter; Graham et al., 2000 ), and practice and repetition (e.g., Peterson & Nelson, 2003 ). See Figure 6 for an example of several tasks from a multicomponent intervention developed by the Center on Accelerated Student Learning; we have provided the URL in the reference list ( Graham & Harris, n.d. ).

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Examples of handwriting activities in a multicomponent lesson.

Use of models to teach handwriting. A few studies with students with disabilities suggested that the use of models is effective. Specific strategies include copying letters from models ( Berninger et al., 1997 ; Walser, 1981 ), matching letters to models ( Walser, 1981 ), or use of visual cues ( Berninger, 1987 ). Some of these strategies were shown in the multicomponent interventions but were also shown to be effective on their own.

Technology for developing handwriting skills. Using technology was also found to be effective in two studies involving students with handwriting problems ( Carrieres & Plamondon, 1994 ; Sovik et al., 1986 ). In both studies, the researchers used a digitizing tablet, and students traced letters. This approach seems promising, as technology can provide instant feedback, providing the teacher more flexibility in how practice is applied. However, we suggest incorporating the use of technology into a multicomponent intervention.

Keyboarding. There is some literature that shows the impact of using keyboarding to compensate for poor handwriting skills, but this should be approached cautiously. In a meta-analysis, Graham and Perin (2007) examined studies comparing students' writing when they were allowed to use a word processor with when they used paper and pencil. They found an effect size of 0.50, indicating that students wrote higher quality texts when typing. However, a more nuanced examination by Graham, Harris, and Hebert (2011) indicated that this is only effective for students who have experience using a word processor/keyboard and that it can underestimate the writing skills of some students if they do not have experience in typing. In these cases, teachers would want to provide instruction in keyboarding before expecting it to be an effective way to compensate for poor handwriting skills. This presents the teacher with a choice to (a) teach keyboarding skills to help students circumvent handwriting difficulties, (b) remediate handwriting skills, or (c) both.

Technology Strategies to Help Students Compensate for Both Handwriting and Spelling Difficulties

Technological developments continue to provide new ways to compensate for writing difficulties and reduce the complexity of writing. The number of these technology solutions and the pace at which they improve and change make it difficult to evaluate the efficacy of their use. Therefore, we limit our recommendations to three approaches with some research behind them that are also recommended by dyslexia experts (see Table 5 ).

Technology solutions to help students compensate for poor transcription skills.

Interventions to Address Poor Executive Function Skills

We present three interventions for improving poor executive function skills in writing: sentence combining, text structure instruction, and self-regulated strategy instruction. These interventions reduce the cognitive load for executive function tasks by breaking down complex skills into more manageable components for the beginning writers and/or incorporating compensatory strategies that help students focus on higher level skills.

Importantly, these skills also address language-related components of writing, including grammar, syntax, discourse structure, and organizational features of text. The use of these strategies compensates for the primary difficulties students with dyslexia face (e.g., spelling difficulties), allowing them to focus on higher order language skills related to text construction. Practitioners are encouraged to employ these strategies with a focus on the intersection of oral language and written expression, to emphasize language components of writing and executive function skills simultaneously.

Sentence Combining

Sentence combining has been shown through meta-analysis to be effective for improving writing skills of adolescents ( Graham & Perin, 2007 ) and elementary grade students ( Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara, & Harris, 2012 ) and has also been demonstrated to improve reading fluency skills ( Graham & Hebert, 2011 ). We include sentence combining under executive function rather than transcription skills, because the goal of instruction is to help students plan and organize ideas at the sentence level. Sentence combining is a general intervention that involves providing students with two or more simple sentences (called kernel sentences ) and teaching them to combine those kernel sentences into a single, more complex sentence, while keeping the original ideas intact. The following example illustrates how sentence combining exercise works:

Kernel Sentence 1: Jellyfish have hoods and tentacles. Kernel Sentence 2: Their tentacles are numerous. Kernel Sentence 3: Their hoods are gelatinous. Combined sentence: Jellyfish have gelatinous hoods and numerous tentacles.

As shown in the example, providing the kernel sentences for students reduces the cognitive load during sentence writing instruction by (a) eliminating the need for students to generate ideas for the sentences, (b) providing content and vocabulary for students, and (c) providing students with the spelling of complex (and not so complex) words. This allows the students to think about how the ideas are related and develop plans and goals for writing better sentences, improving executive function skills, text generation, and writing quality.

Moreover, sentence combining exercises can be utilized in a myriad of ways to focus on particular language skills and make connections between oral language and writing. The focus of the previous example was adjective use, but sentence combining exercises can be used to teach a variety of grammatical structures, including compound sentences with connectors, compound subjects, compound predicate phrases, prepositional phrases, dependent clauses with because, and adverb clauses, to name a few. A nonexhaustive set of example exercises are included in Figure 7 .

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A nonexhaustive set of example exercises to illustrate how sentence combining can be used to teach and facilitate higher order language use in students' writing.

As students gain more experience and facility with sentence combining exercises composed of two or three kernel sentences, practitioners can use more complex exercises to help children develop more complex language skills related to writing. Exercises with five or more kernel sentences can be used to facilitate the use of complex elements that can be combined in multiple ways. Several sentence combining exercises might be grouped to help students connect ideas across sentences or in paragraphs. Practitioners can also develop de-combining exercises that require children to break more complex sentences into simpler ideas units. These kinds of exercises can help students develop flexibility in their language use when writing. See Figure 8 for examples of more complex sentence combining activities.

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Examples of complex sentence combining exercises that can be used to teach sophisticated language use in writing within and across sentences.

For Jordan and other students with dyslexia, these exercises are critical for improving writing skills. Jordan's writing included attempts at combining multiple ideas within a single sentence but included sentence level grammar errors that show a lack of sophistication in using dependent clauses. It may be that students with dyslexia either lack skills for complex sentence writing or have difficulty utilizing these skills when they write. Either way, this deficit is likely due to difficulties with transcription skills associated with demands on working memory during writing. Sentence combining instruction is an effective approach for remediating sentence construction of students with dyslexia because it reduces the demands transcription skills have on working memory. In turn, as students with dyslexia improve their sentence construction skills, it frees up cognitive resources that can be devoted to other executive functions and transcription.

Teachers can implement sentence combining intervention at a low cost, as they can create their own sentences using content and skills from class. A valuable resource for teachers looking who would like to learn to more about sentence combining is the Teacher's Guide to Effective Sentence Writing (What Works for Special Needs Learners) , written by Bruce Saddler (2012) .

Teach Children to Self-Regulate

One of the most effective approaches to improving the writing skills of students with writing difficulties is self-regulated strategy development (SRSD). The effectiveness of SRSD has been demonstrated in meta-analyses of group-design experimental research ( Graham & Harris, 2003 ; Graham, McKeown, et al., 2012 ; Graham & Perin, 2007 ) as well as single-subject–design research ( Rogers & Graham, 2008 ). It has been shown to be effective for students with reading and writing disabilities across the full range of grade levels. Students who have dyslexia may especially benefit from SRSD, as they often have fewer opportunities to learn how to use executive functions targeted by the intervention, including self-regulation skills, goal setting, self-speech, and self-monitoring. Students are taught to use these self-regulation skills through self-instruction involving defining the problem, focusing on attention and planning, engaging in writing, error correction, coping, and self-reinforcement, for example, when students might be taught to say things such as “My goals for this persuasive essay are to include three reasons,” or when self-evaluating, they might be taught to say, “Am I following my plan?” The teacher models specific self-speech, acting as an external voice for the student, and then the student practices using the self-speech until he or she internalizes it and come up with some of his or her own self-instructions.

These self-regulation strategies are often paired with planning, organization, and revision strategies specific to writing and are taught in six stages: (a) develop background knowledge, (b) discuss it, (c) model it, (d) memorize it, (e) support it, and (f) independent performance. Some features of SRSD help to simultaneously improve and reduce the demands of executive function skills, by sequencing them in a way that chunks the writing task and makes it manageable for the writer. This allows the writer to dedicate more working memory resources to text production. For example, many SRSD strategies include a mnemonic that helps remind students of important steps for completing the writing task (see Figure 9 for examples of SRSD mnemonics). A useful web resource for educator training in SRSD is https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/srs/ .

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Examples of self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) strategy mnemonics.

Teach Children Text Structures

Text structure instruction has been identified as an effective strategy for improving the expository reading and writing skills of students, especially those with learning disabilities ( Duke & Pearson, 2002 ; Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001 ; Roehling, Hebert, Nelson, & Bohaty, 2017 ). Hebert, Bohaty, Nelson, and Brown (2016) found that these strategies were particularly effective when writing was involved and also found larger effect sizes for students with learning disabilities. For teaching students with dyslexia writing skills, text structure instruction may be particularly beneficial because it can simplify the writing organizational choices for students, based on the structure needed for their purpose. There are five basic text structures: description, compare/contrast, sequence, cause/effect, and problem/solution.

A promising approach to teaching these text structures is the Structures Writing program, which has been shown to be specifically effective for improving the informational writing skills of students with reading and writing disabilities ( Hebert, Bohaty, Nelson, & Lambert, 2018 ; Hebert, Bohaty, Nelson, & Roehling, 2018 ). In this approach, students are provided information to write about, which reduces the cognitive load of the students by providing them with ideas, vocabulary, and spelling within an information frame (see Figure 10 for an example). This approach is designed to improve executive function skills in writing by reducing cognitive demands of transcription skills and idea generation, focusing students' attention on learning a step-by-step approach to organizing and writing information according to the text structure chosen. More information and resources for Structures Writing can be obtained by contacting the first author of the current article.

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An example information frame used in the Structures Writing program to teach students how to organize and write a simple description passage.

Students with dyslexia suffer from reading difficulties that co-occur with writing difficulties for a variety of reasons. We presented one writing sample of a student with dyslexia (Jordan) to help illustrate the writing difficulties these students face as well as research on the underlying relationships. We then presented several interventions for remediating writing difficulties and/or helping students compensate for skill deficits. Although we attempted to provide a set of recommended strategies that target skills that students with dyslexia may struggle with, this list of interventions is far from complete. Meta-analytic efforts over the past 15 years have revealed a compendium of effective strategies for improving students' writing skills. These include effective strategies for teaching writing skills to adolescent writers ( Graham & Perin, 2007 ) and elementary writers ( Graham, McKeown, et al., 2012 ); strategies for using writing to improve learning outcomes ( Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004 ); strategies for using writing to impact reading ( Graham & Hebert, 2011 ); strategies illustrating the impacts of writing assessment on writing outcomes ( Graham et al., 2011 ); strategies targeting specific skills, such as handwriting ( Santangelo & Graham, 2016 ), spelling ( Graham & Santangelo, 2014 ), and SRSD ( Graham & Harris, 2003 ); and strategies that have specifically been effective for students with learning disabilities ( Gillespie & Graham, 2014 ). In addition to these meta-analyses, we point the reader to two additional useful resources developed by the Institute of Education Sciences: (a) a practice guide for teaching elementary school students to be effective writers ( Graham, Bollinger, et al., 2012 ) and (b) a practice guide for teaching secondary students to write effectively ( Graham et al., 2016 ).

We also encourage educators to use a combination of interventions to address the specific writing needs of their students with dyslexia. To illustrate how a teacher might approach this, we look one more time at the writing of our case study student, Jordan. We noted that Jordan had some difficulty with transcription skills, specifically some minor handwriting and spelling issues. Jordan's handwriting difficulties would not rise to the level of referral to an occupational therapist. Therefore, we would suggest targeted handwriting instruction for specific letters, such as circular letters like o and a , along with regular distributed practice. The spelling issues might be best addressed with a combination of phonics instruction and dictated spelling instruction targeting high-frequency words, in addition to regular classroom spelling instruction. Finally, Jordan has difficulty constructing sentences and holding onto ideas. To address these issues, we might recommend incorporating sentence combining instruction to improve sentence-level writing skills as well as teaching Jordan a planning strategy to compensate for working memory challenges; SRSD instruction would be a good choice for this. In this way, Jordan's complex writing challenges are addressed using a combination of interventions targeting an array of writing skills.

Finally, use of the instructional strategies we described can improve the writing skills of students with dyslexia, making it easier for those students to express their ideas. However, instruction should not stop with improvements in basic skills alone. Practitioners must help children use their improved skills to tell stories, teach others interesting information, and share their opinions and make arguments to address issues they care about ( Graham et al., 2017 ). In this way, targeted writing (and reading) interventions will help children with dyslexia exercise the immense power of communication by the written word.


Support for this research was provided by the National Institutes of Health Grant 1R37HD090153-01A1 (awarded to Haskins Laboratory). The content herein does not represent the views of the agency.

Search Procedure

To locate articles on intervention to support spelling, we searched ERIC and PsycINFO using four keyword categories, namely, that the studies involved (a) children or adolescents, (b) dyslexia in the title or abstract, (c) spelling in the title or abstract, and (d) instruction or intervention. We initially identified 196 studies that contained the required target words. We read them to make sure that they involved instruction for people with dyslexia and related difficulties, had research designs that would allow us to state confidently that the instruction is likely to be effective, measured spelling skill, and concerned reading in English. We decided to eliminate studies of other languages because of the unique characteristics of English orthography. We also examined meta-analyses by Galuschka, Ise, Krick, and Schulte-Körne (2014) , Goodwin and Ahn (2013) , Scammacca et al. (2007) , Wanzek et al. (2013) , and Williams, Walker, Vaughn, and Wanzek (2017) . We read each article to ensure they met inclusion criteria. We then removed studies where the authors did not observe significant improvement in spelling. The result was a set of 19 articles, those reported in this article.

Funding Statement

Support for this research was provided by the National Institutes of Health Grant 1R37HD090153-01A1 (awarded to Haskins Laboratory).

1 It should be noted that the simple view of writing separates working memory from executive function, although it is more often included under the umbrella of executive function skills, along with cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control (see Zelazo, Blair, & Willoughby, 2016 ). For the purposes of this article, we also discuss working memory and executive function skills as separate, in order to situate our discussion within the simple view of writing, which provides a straightforward framework for considering the links between dyslexia and writing.

2 Some studies (e.g., Moll & Landerl, 2009 ) have shown a dissociation between reading and spelling skills because reading is more strongly associated with rapid naming than spelling. That is, good spelling does not require the processing speed required for good reading. However, it is likely that this is a greater concern in more transparent orthographies than English. Moll and Landerl's study was conducted in German, and other studies have shown that English readers process words differently from their peers in more transparent orthographies (e.g., Rau, Moll, Snowling, & Landerl, 2015 ; Torppa, Georgiou, Niemi, Lerkkanen, & Poikkeus, 2017 ). As a result, we focus on the strong association between reading and spelling but acknowledge that there may be a dissociation between reading speed and spelling as English-speaking children with dyslexia become more accurate and better able to spell.

3 Difficulty with handwriting, particularly in the absence of word recognition or language comprehension difficulty, is sometimes called dysgraphia ( Berninger et al., 2015 ; Thompson et al., 2018 ). However, researchers have not agreed on common measures for identifying this difficulty, and it is not clear whether dysgraphia includes cases where children have fine motor problems beyond handwriting. Moreover, handwriting difficulties are frequently associated with other academic difficulties, so it is difficult to separate a specific dysgraphic profile. As a result, we do not use that term here, but we acknowledge that others do.

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Studying with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties

  • Tips for studying with dyslexia, dyspraxia and AD(H)D

Why is writing difficult for students with Specific learning difficulties?

Tips for writing, our guides and videos on writing.

  • Tips for reading and note-making
  • Tips for getting organised
  • Tips for lectures and seminars

Useful links for students with specific learning difficulties

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Maths Support A guide to Maths Support resources which may help if you're finding any mathematical or statistical topic difficult during the transition to University study.
  • Information for users with disabilities (Library) Making the Library's resources accessible to all students.
  • Disability Advisory Service Support and guidance for students with disabilities and specific learning difficulties.
  • Dyslexia Foundation Includes targeted guidance for university students.
  • British Dyslexia Association General information and advice.
  • Dyspraxia Foundation General information about living with dyspraxia.
  • ADDERS ADD and AD(H)D information.

Writing is perhaps one of the most important skills to develop at university.  Writing for assignments (and exams) is a principle means of assessment and of deepening subject-knowledge and understanding.  Writing also helps to foster transferable skills such as research-, critical thinking- and communication- skills.  Developing writing takes time, practice and perseverance, particularly if you are a student with an  SpLD - but it is well worth the effort as it will save you time, and enable you to achieve better grades in the long run. 

According to Price (2007), writing is difficult for students with dyslexia/SpLD because:

It involves planning and working interchangeably between large- and small-scale levels of writing. (Large scale refers to the  overall structure of the text, its form or genre, and the writing process as a whole. Small-scale, on the other hand, refers to the components of text, such as paragraph and sentence structure.) 

  • The writing process is not linear, but the outcome looks linear;
  • It involves multi-tasking,
  • Changes to one aspect require changes to be made elsewhere.

This complexity is especially challenging for students with dyslexic/SpLD's.  For example, a fragile working memory can make it difficult to hold in mind and manipulate large amounts of information at any one time. Processing differences may also make multi-tasking and sequencing difficult. According to Godwin (2012) if you are dyslexic:

  • Getting ideas down on paper may seem impossible,
  • You may avoid writing by reading a lot;
  • Ideas may flash or tumble in and out of your mind, or compete for your attention;
  • You may be unsure how to order or develop ideas;
  • Your work may lack structure and/or analysis.​· 

Writing at university can take many different forms, from discursive essays to informative reports, brief summarising paragraphs to dissertations of ten or even twenty thousand words.

Whatever the genre, the topics you are writing about are always likely to be more complex than any previous writing you have done. So it's even more important that your writing is focused, clear and controlled if you want to successfully communicate your understanding to your reader.

Tips for focused, clear and controlled written communication:  Make a plan: ​Even in exams, you will find that spending a little time on planning will make a big difference to your writing. You won't have to stop and think what to write about next and you'll make sure that you don't forget anything important. Plus you'll have a chance to consider how to make your strongest argument.

Note that in university essays, it is best not to use an 'all the arguments for, then all the arguments against' structure. To properly discuss more complex topics, you need to use a thematic structure. Look for themes or headings to group your points under, and choose no more than four to give you enough space to develop your ideas properly.

Write in paragraphs: A paragraph is a unit of information, at least three sentences long. It should develop your discussion of a single point. Start with a sentence that states the point and shows its relevance to the overall topic. Then develop this point with analysis that shows:

  • how it links to the overall topic
  • how it helps us to understand the overall topic
  • any other information and arguments relating to it or criticising it.

Make sure you have references to show where you got your ideas from. Any idea that comes from your reading needs to be referenced, even if you don't use a direct quote.

Write shorter sentences : Use plain language - you don't have to search for a more "academic-sounding" word when a simple one will do. Markers are looking for clear and accurate expression of ideas, not jargon or confusing language. Shorter sentences are usually clearer than long complex ones, but make sure it is a whole sentence and not just a clause or phrase.

Keep a list of referencing examples : Referencing can be confusing and difficult to remember. But it's tedious to have to keep looking up how to reference things. Early in the term, before you have a lot of assignments to do, make a list of examples. Choose one example of each of these most common formats:

  • a journal article
  • a chapter in an edited collection

Check the style of referencing you are expected to use for each department you have modules in (it will be in the Course Handbook on Blackboard). If they are different, make more than one list of examples but mark them up clearly so you know which modules they apply to.

Look out for common mistakes : If there's a word you know you often get wrong, or something you frequently get comments on from markers, make a note. Keep a list and use this as a first checklist when you are proof reading.

Proof reading and editing:

  • Identifying your own mistakes and correcting them is an important part of academic writing: this is what you do when you proofread.
  • Ideally leave a day between finishing your essay and proofreading it. You won't be so close to your work, so you will see your errors more easily.
  • Try reading your essay aloud, as this will slow you down, make you focus on each word, and show you when your sentences are too long.
  • If you often get comments on your sentences, try working on one paragraph at a time, and putting each sentence on a new line. This will make it much easier to spot common errors, for instance, sentences which depend on another sentence for their meaning, or are missing parts. Once you've checked it, you can join all the sentences back up in the paragraph again and move on to the next.
  • It can help to have a friend read through your work but developing your own proofreading skills is better. Your friend won't always be available!
  • While you're proof-reading, also check that all your references are complete, accurate and consistently formatted.
  • Academic writing guide Guide to what you need to know about writing appropriately and correctly for UK higher education, including information on effective proof-reading.
  • Essay writing LibGuide Our guide to planning, writing and developing your essays.
  • Video tutorials on essay writing Video tutorials by Study Advice on writing essays at university
  • Report writing LibGuide Our guide to writing different kinds of reports at university.
  • Finding a structure for your report (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Dissertations and major projects guide
  • Video tutorials on dissertations A suite of video tutorials by Study Advice on different aspects of dissertations and major projects.
  • Literature reviews LibGuide Our guide to researching and writing literature reviews at university.
  • Doing your literature review (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
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Recommended Reading | Empowering Writers with Dyslexia

10 Tips for Teaching Writing to Your Dyslexic Students

Read Time 4 mins | Mar 26, 2020 12:03:49 AM | Written by: Toolbox

You would think that someone who struggled to learn how to read, would struggle even more to learn how to write, right? But, as a person with dyslexia, I have to say, I found learning how to write much easier than learning how to read. This is probably because writing requires some skills, like vocabulary and general knowledge, that are unaffected by dyslexia. (Even when I was reading on a below first grade level at the end of third grade, my vocabulary tested at grade 9+ and my fund of general knowledge tested way above grade level too.)

This is not to say that learning how to write was easy. It wasn’t, but here are some tips that helped me and will probably help most dyslexic students:

1. Use pictures.   Most people with dyslexia minds are highly visual. Pictures will help us describe something in words and add details.

2. Expect inconsistency.   Probably the most frustrating thing about being dyslexic is that one day you feel like you’re making good progress and keeping up with the rest of the class, but the next day, nothing makes sense and you are baffled by stuff that you understood yesterday. This happened to me all the time, especially in elementary school. Please don’t tell me I am not trying my best today because I was able to do better yesterday. It’s not true and it’s very discouraging.

Click to read about the Before and After student sample from this student with dyslexia


3. Be flexible about topics.   My favorite way to learn is to research and write about a topic that fascinates me, but writing about a topic of no interest to me is pure drudgery. Please give me as much freedom as possible to choose my own topic.

4. Don’t let the aide hover over me.   One of the things I hated most about school was when an aide told me what to do every step of the way. I’d rather do it my way and be wrong than just do exactly what somebody else says, especially with my writing. One aide told me that I had to use sentence starters, which I know are helpful to a lot of students, but always made me feel like I was taking an easy way out, almost cheating even.

5. Give me specific feedback.   My favorite teacher used to make checkmarks in light pencil beside sentences that I needed to revise and then talk to me about how to do so. She’d also make stars in places where I needed to add more information. I was always able to improve my writing this way.

6. Let me use audiobooks and videos when doing research.   Researching from books alone gets tedious, especially for people with dyslexia who usually read at a slow pace. I’ll get more writing done if you let me gather information from audiobooks and videos as well as printed sources.

7. Use consistent vocabulary.   Is there a difference between a topic sentence and a thesis statement? I think so, but I’m still not sure. I had a teacher who used the terms interchangeably which confused and frustrated me.

For more information on teaching writing to students with dyslexia and activities to use in the classroom click here . 

8. Always, always, always allow me to use the keyboard.   SpellCheck is really, really important to me. (And if a spelling mistake gets past SpellCheck, please don’t count it against me.)

9. Don’t just correct my punctuation but review the rules of punctuation with me.   If I ever learn how to use punctuation marks correctly it’s going to be the result of extensive review. I know this is boring for teachers. It’s boring for me too but it’s the only way.

10. Please don’t confuse inattention with lack of interest.   I take pride in my work, but I do have trouble staying focused for long periods of time. Remember: a dyslexic brain makes 5X more neural connections than a nondyslexic brain when engaged in language-based tasks. This is a fact that’s been proven over and over again by scientific research. So, of course, those hard-working brains get tired 5X faster and need to take breaks 5X as often.

I hope what I’ve written here helps you teach the dyslexic kids in your class. Please don’t lower your expectations for us. Just respect us, and give us the time and help we need. It might take a long time and it’ll definitely take a lot of effort, but we are capable of becoming great writers.

If you’d like to learn more about dyslexia, there’s tons of great information at the website for the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Just check out dyslexia.yale.edu

The Peer Review

Dyslexia in the Writing Center: Multimodal Strategies

Sarah Murphy, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

This  article  is meant to serve as a  practical  guide for  writing center practitioners and provide  strategies to help make writing centers more accessible for all learners. These strategies specifically focus on ways to increase accessibility for dyslexic  individuals , regardless of  whether  the  writer has  disclosed their disability or not. 


One challenge that writing centers   should confront more explicitly   is how to navigate   working with  and providing resources for  disabled   individuals .  In my experience s as a tutor , students often do not disclose their di sability/disabilities  until we have  established significant rapport and  met for multiple sessions. Even then, once t utees  tell me they have a diagnosed learning  disability , they do  not  always share the specifics of their di sabilities  with me.  Kerri  Rinaldi  ( 2015 ), a deaf writing center consultant,  argues that disclosing  what type of disability a person has is not necessary . She writes “ My disability does not impact my knowledge of myself. I will tell you what I need, and you don’t need to know my disability so that you can make that decision for m e . ”  I agree with  Rinaldi  here that tutors do not need to know  a  student’s specific diagnosis   or disability to still have a successful session .  For example, I have been working regularly with one student for about two years who informed me after our first few sessions that she has both physical and learning disabilities. While she never specified which disabilities  she has, she did communicate that she needs a quiet place to concentrate ;  it is helpful when I read documents out loud to her ;  and that she has difficulty with handwriting so it is best if we type notes. Knowing which strategies work best for her proved to be significantly beneficial to our sessions.

It can be difficult to tell exactly how many students in college, let alone the writing center, have learning di sabilities  since “it is  estimated that only half of college students report their disabilities, and many forego   accommodations for fear that they will be treated  differently  by their instructors and peers” ( Hitt , 2012 ).  Disclosing a learning  disability  is a personal and individual decision.  If up to half of  disabled students  are not comfortable sharing that information with their universities, it is likely that a n equal or  higher percentage of students are not comfortable disclosing their  disabilities  to their tutors.   Effective  writing center practice , however, means being  able to balance  writer s ’  preferences while fostering an inclusive environment ,  regardless of the ir   abilities .    

Brief Literature Review:  Disability as Identity  and Universal Design

When I first began this  article , my younger brother was applying to college. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in the seventh grade and was placed on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that seriously helped improve his academic performance. While his IEP gave him the focus and attention he needed to be at grade level, I worried about how he would manage the reading and writing college demands. It made me think critically about how I, as a writing tutor, could help someone with dyslexia like my brother.

Dyslexia is defined as “difficulties in various aspects of writing skills making the individual unable to develop age-appropriate and ability appropriate functional skills.” ( Tariq and Latif , 2016, p. 151). Difficulties can occur in everything from handwriting to differentiating letters. However, dyslexia  does  not affect general intelligence. It is likely that a student with dyslexia may not disclose that information, and it is not appropriate for the tutor to assume or ask. Assuming or asking a student about potential learning disabilities crosses a boundary that may make them uncomfortable and damage rapport.

My  brother’s experiences ,  as well as the lack of  accessible, practical  resources on approaching dyslexia in a writing center space ,  contributed to my desire to write this article .   I wish I had a guide like this one when I was training to become a tutor that gave an overview of disabilities in the writing center with specific techniques that may be beneficial.   While m any  students  know which techniques help them best, I believe it is important for tutors to have as many strategies to pull from in   case the session hits a roadblock . I t is  essential , however, to  also  provide some background on this topic from scholars working in both writing centers and disability studies .

Tutors can best balance students’ preferences by being adaptive and open – minded.  Individuals  experience their disabilities differently  and so there cannot be  just  one way to tutor disabled students.  It is  very   important  to acknowledge that many people who  work in  and use the writing center, including faculty, administrators ,  and tutors, might also be themselves disabled. As  one such   consultant   Rinaldi ( 2015 )  offers a  critical  perspective within this conversation. She  discusses the danger of following a specific procedure when working with disabled students. This approach treats the student’s disability “as an obstacle or shortcoming instead of a contributor to her agency.” When tutors view disabilities as something that must be  “ fixed, ”  it shifts the power into the hands of the tutor .  Rinaldi calls for writing centers to  “ refuse to treat sessions with disabled students as different, and if we refuse to consider students with disabilities as outside the bounds of normality, then we refuse to uphold the social construction of disability as a problem to be fixed.”   Instead of seeing disability as something that needs to be  addressed  before the  session can begin , tutors should focus on disability as an  aspect of a person’s  identi ty  rather than a difference.

Karen Nakamura  (2 018 )  extends this conversation by focusing on   the intersectionality between race and disability.  She mentions how there is very little study on disability and race, but that race  can have  a significant impact on a person’s disability. An example Nakamura  cites  comes from Wanda Blanchett who talks about the “disproportionate representation of African-American students in special education… They’re being labeled with particular labels that don’t get them services while being prevented from being labeled appropriately in ways that might actually get them services that they might actually be able to use. ” Institutional racism often prevents non-white students from being correctly diagnosed and receiving the  appropriate  services for their needs. Race is just one example of the many types of identities  individuals   embody . However, it is important to consider how a student’s race, gender, sexuality, religion ,  etc. might impact how they view their disability  and what role these i dentities  might play within a writing center space .

As individuals  working in writing centers , we should be aware that our language choices matter and this absolutely extends to how we choose to refer to disabled people.  The specific language with which we use to discuss disability is  contingent upon  how and the extent to which a person chooses to identify . Many see “person-first language” (PFL) as the  preferable  way to talk about disability.  With PFL, we would refer to tutees as “a tutee with disabilities ”  as it   acknowledges their humanity  first . However, disabled scholars have challenged PFL as the only way to talk about disability. Some prefer to use “identity first language” (IFL) because they see their disability as an important aspect of their person.  With IFL we would refer to tutees as “a disabled tutee.”  For  Emily  Ladau   (2015 ), her disability is not only a fact of her life, but it is a source of pride.  While  Ladau  prefers IFL, she does note that each person has a different relationship with their disability and some people still prefer PFL. Therefore, in a tutoring session, if a student discloses their disability to their tutor, the tutor should ask how the tutee chooses to identify, PFL or IFL, to ensure the student is comfortable during the session.  It has become increasingly more common to ask people how they prefer to identify  (e.g., requesting or making visible preferred  pronouns )  and so writing centers should work to incorporate  similar  practice s  when working with  an  individual  who  has chosen to disclose their disability .

Using  language  the student is comfortable with is only one of the ways tutoring appointments can be adapted to fit the needs of disabled students. A tutoring appointment should ultimately be a conversation between equals, although it is the tutor’s responsibility to create a way for the tutor and tutee to effectively interact. Rinaldi ( 2015 )  claims that writing centers cling to this idea that we  have to  accommodate disabled students. While this practice is well – intentioned, it inherently treats disabled students as different. My goal in creating this guide for tutors is to help break away from the “accommodation model” Rinaldi refers to. The simple fact is that every student who visits the writing center is different. Therefore, there is no one right way to tutor because different strategies may or may not be helpful for different students. This guide is meant to provide  writing centers  with multiple strategies that can be adapted to all tutoring appointments based on the  writing center user’s  preferences.

My  article  aims to utilize principles of  universal design that  Jean  Kiedaisch  and  Sue  Din itz   ( 2007 )  advocate for. Universal design is not the same as a one-size-fits-all approach  because it  assumes  individuals  will come to the  writing center with a wide range of abilities and needs.  It  is an adaptable and flexible approach with “design principles for conducting all sessions that make them accessible to the widest audience possible ” (p. 51). Adopting a universal design approach to tutoring can help fit a broad range of students.

A universal design can be especially helpful because t here are countless forms of learning  disabilities  and it would be  very difficult  to cover  strategies for  them all.  Every student, even those without  disabilities , still  has  highly individualized learning preferences. Tutors need to   adapt  sessions to how the student works best ; d ifferent strategies may be more helpful to some students than others.   Many of the s uggestions  I discuss in this  article  can be useful for assisting students with a variety of disabilities and learning preferences. While I specifically focus on strategies for tutees who may or may not disclose as dyslexic, according t o   Rebecca  Babcock  ( 2015 ),   many of these same strategies, such as  the  use of visuals, use of computers/computer programs, enhanced tutor training, tape recording sessions, and reading out loud, can be beneficial for students with disabilities including deafness, visual impairment, dyslexia, and those with multiple disabilities. In addition to making the writing center more accessible  to all disabled individuals who use the center , the following strategies may also be beneficial to visual and auditory learners. Therefore, I am proposing that tutors work to include these strategies in their sessions because they have the potential to make our centers more accessible to not only dyslexic  individuals  but also to students with a variety of learning styles and preferences.

Multimodal Strategies

Incorporating listening strategies.

Leslie  Anglesey and  Maureen  McBride  (2019) argue   that  tutors must actively listen to the needs of the tutee .   The key to accommodating all students is “focusing on listening practices that are inclusive to all individuals…thus helping us make our centers usable for all”   Anglesey and McBride refer to this type of listening as  listening to shelter  which they define as  “the process of providing shelter to another person’s ideas .” In other words, they are challenging tutors to listen to understand, rather than listening to respond . It is unlikely a student will walk into a tutoring  appointment and immediately begin explaining what conditions they work best in. Therefore, it is important to ask questions about a student ’ s   preferences  and then actively listen to their response.   What I am describing here in this piece are ways for tutors to respond as an active listener by drawing on resources that can help make writing centers more accessible because l istening to students’ preferences and needs helps keep the session running smoothly. This can be especially helpful for students with  both disclosed and  undisclosed learning di sabilities  because tutors can , by listening actively, learn  adaptive  strategies .

Babcock ( 2015 ) contributes to this conversation of asking and listening to students’ preferences. She cites a survey Jennifer  Wewers  conducted in which  Wewers  interviewed an unidentified number of writing tutors and five dyslexic students. Her findings showed that many writing tutors are misinformed on the specifics of dyslexia.  Misconceptions about disability can negatively impact a tutoring session , especiall y since Babcock found most tutors’ misconceptions came from “ folk knowledge gleaned from the media, most of it stereotypical and unscientific such as dyslexics switch letters around when reading . ” It is important to combat these stereotypes  in the writing center  because dyslexia  is  much more than simply switching letters around when reading or writing.  Dyslexic individuals may have difficulty with decoding words, organization, lateness, and handwriting mechanics.  Based on her interviews with dyslexic students,  Wewers  suggested that tutors be flexible to students’ needs.  In order for  tutors to ensure they do not accidentally contribute their own interpretations or misconceptions about a student’s disability, tutors should ask the  student question s  th at will help guide the session.   The following questions can be incorporated into the beginning of every session regardless of if the student has disclosed a disability or not. Tutors may consider asking any variation of these questions:

  • What part of the assignment do you want to focus on?   
  • Where in our space would you most prefer to work?   
  • What tools or technologies do you tend to use most frequently when you write?   
  • Are you comfortable reading your paper out loud or would you prefer if I read it?   
  • How do you learn best (i.e. Do you learn best by doing, seeing, or hearing)?   
  • What are your goals for our session?   

In addition to this short list, there are many other questions tutors may wish to ask at the start of the session. Taking a few minutes at the start of the appointment to ask a student about their preferences and then actively listen to their responses can ensure that both the tutor and tutee have the same expectations for a productive session.

Technologies  and Techniques

Technologies can  make it easier for writing centers to be accommodating to all students’ needs , including  individuals  with dyslexia . Centers  should  incorporate, and train tutors  to  us e ,  a variety of technologies   to increase accessibility —in other words, to encourage  tutors to develop   multiliterate practices . Multilitera cy  is a broad term that includes  developing awareness of  more tha n  simple black and white text on a page. Multiliteracies are “ an opportunity to move beyond the dominating limitations of print- and word-based literacies, to reach other modes of representation such as visual, aural, gestural, spatial, and multimodal” ( Hitt , 2012).  Individuals  with dyslexia may find print and word – based sources inaccessible, but with   increased  attention to  multiliteracies, writing centers can help  more  students access academia in  ways they might not have previously been exposed to .   T he  following  multimodal  techniques , drawn from psychology and education  to assist  dyslexic students ,  c ould  also  be incorporated into  and useful for  session s  with  diverse  types of learners .

1. Let the  S tudent  C hoose the  F ont

For an appointment to run smoothly, tutees should have their paper formatted how they work best.  If it appears that a student may be struggling with their paper based on its format, t utors can suggest that tutees change the font, color, or size of the words.  For example, I was recently working with a student who had to respond to a discussion board. The assignment required  her  to write a response to an article  she  read and then  comment on two classmates ’  posts.  When she opened another student’s post, the font was  tiny,  and she was squinting to read it. I suggested she copy and past e  the post into a word document and make the font larger.  Once she was comfortable with the formatting, we were able to read the post and craft a response .  S uggestion s like these  may help a student who never considered reformatting their work in a less traditional manner , beyond just  using default word-processer fonts .     Afterwards, the tutee can easily switch the font  back  to the designated requirements.

While it is appropriate to use any  fo nt  the student feels comfortable with, s tudies show that certain font types  are  easier for  dyslexic people  to work with. Generally, a sans-serif font group in black ink is best, with a fourteen to sixteen-point font size (Tariq and Latif , 2016 ).   There are  also  free online programs  that  will change a text to a more readable font  for dyslexic people . One of these programs,  OpenDyslexic , created a typeface  specifically for dyslexia.    On their website, they describe the  OpenDyslexic  font type: “ OpenDyslexic  is not supposed to be a cure, a complete solution, or something you should apply uniformly to everyone: it was intended to address: contrast/blindness, letter confusion or rotation, and crowding (open dyslexic website).”   OpenDyslexic  is modeled after the font Dyslexi e, which was designed to negate many of the problems with traditional fonts because “ typical effects of dyslexia – the mirroring, swapping, rotating and crowding of letters – are only enhanced and magnified by most fonts” ( King, 2018). Unfortunately, neither  OpenDyslexic  nor Dyslexie are available in Word. The closest font style Word has is Comic Sans, which is generally  –though perhaps wrongly—often  seen as an  “ unprofessional ”  font choice. Writing centers may  then consider having  OpenDyslexic  pre-downloaded on their computers so students can work with this font  and then convert their work to their professors ’  guidelines.  M any  professors require the final product be set up in Times New Roman, twelve-point font. This is a small, serif font which  may  make it more difficult to work with .

In addition to font,  the color of the paper impacts its readability.  Wh ite, light pink and light green color ed paper   are  the easiest to read  from  (Tariq and Latif , 2016).   W riting center s  should consider having colored paper to assist students who need it.  Any available handouts should also be printed on these colors so that all students can access them equally.

The tutee should work under the best conditions for their own productivity and this will vary for each student.  For some students ,  this may simply include moving into a quieter room and for others ,  it can be reformatting the  entire  paper. In either case, tutors can understand tutees’  preferences   by  asking and  listening to the tutee  to ensure  their comfortability with their current working conditions.

It is equally as necessary for tutors to work in conditions they are comfortable with themselves. This may be especially true for disabled tutors. Tutors are as diverse as the tutees who use our centers. However, as   Valles  et al .  ( 2017 ) point out, there are no comprehensive reports on tutor diversity across  universities as a whole . I know in my own center, we have a diverse staff in terms of race, sexuality, religion ,  and disability. In order to address this diversity among tutoring staff, it is important for writing centers to have a variety of resources to not only make their centers more accessible to tutees, but also for tutors. Disabled tutors  may choose to  use many of these same strategies to help them with their job. For example, a dyslexic tutor may wish to temporarily change the font of a paper if they are having difficulty  reading it in the original format (although they should be aware that they may need to explain to the tutee why they are changing the format).

2. Avoid  H andwriting

Handwritten words  are often  challenging for  m any reader s to  understand :   e verything from incongruous letters to sloppy style can make it difficult for readers to decipher handwriting.  In  Tariq and Latif’s piece, they cite Mart í nez-Marrero and Estrada-Hern á ndez (2008) who   “indicated that dyslexic children often experience difficulties in mechanical aspects (letter formation, capitalization, spelling and punctuation) as well as contextual aspects (organization and consistency) of writing”   (151). While this source explores handwriting in children, I have worked with adults who also have difficulty with the mechanics of handwriting.  Other disabilities, such as dysgraphia and ADHD, may also  result in  difficulties  processing  handwriting  ( Adi- Japha  et al.,  2007) .  The writing center should ,  therefore ,  try to make computers consistently available, so students always have the option to type.  Notes can be typed on the tutee ’ s computer ,  a  G oogle  D oc, or other easy to share file. If typing is not an option, the next best format is print handwriting (Tariq and Latif , 2016 ). Tutors should avoid cursive because the loopy style is difficult to read.

Another effective alternative for note taking is  through the use of  a tape recorder  ( Babcock, 2015) .   Tutees may choose to record their sessions on their phone or another device. This strategy  can be beneficial because it allows tutees to go back and hear exactly what was discussed in the session.  In the event that  a student, or tutor, wishes to record their session, both the App Store and Google Play have multiple free tape recorder apps  that tutors should be aware of.  Quicktime  which is built in  to  or  can be downloaded to many computers allows users to record, edit, and share audio and video files. Writing centers can make sure this program is downloaded on their computers and that tutors are trained to use it.  The App Store  also  has a free Voice Recorder & Audio editor app available for iPhone and iPad. This app allows for an unlimited number of recordings provided that the device has enough storage. The advantages  of  this app  are  that  the user can organize their recordings into multiple folders ,  and it has a feature that will transcribe audio recordings using speech recognition software. For Android devices, the Google Play Store has the app Voice Recorder. While this app does not have the ability to transcribe recordings, it has the other benefits of untimed, high – quality recording sessions. It is important for tutors to be aware that recording sessions, with both the consent of tutor and tutee, may provide students with a beneficial alternative to traditional note taking on the computer or by hand.

However, if the student feels comfortable writing, they should hand write the information themselves in  the  absence of a computer. This ensures that the tutee takes notes in a readable format while avoiding accidental plagiarism.  It ’ s  also important to let the student write suggestions so they avoid confusion when going back to read notes from the session.   While these are good practices for any session because it allows the student to think for themselves, it will be especially helpful for a student with dyslexia when they  refer  to their notes.

3. Reading  O ut  L oud

It is  common practice  in writing centers  for either the tutor or tutee to read  a writer’s  assignment out loud.   Having the tutor read an assignment out loud  can  help a  dyslexic student  because they can internalize their work in a new way  (Tariq  & Latif, 2016) .  Some writing centers , however,   require tutors to encourage  every writer  to  read their  own work  out loud. While tutors can suggest students read their papers, it  is worthwhile considering the ways that  requir ing  that all students read their own paper aloud  can be inaccessible .  One-size fits all approaches like this can make some students uncomfortable in our centers. Forcing a student with dyslexia to read their paper out loud may be very difficult for the student and they are less likely to benefit from this practice.   With  the student’s consent,  I  generally   read  the writers’ work  out loud in my sessions. I believe it is beneficial for all students because, in my experience,  tutees  are more likely to catch and fix  their mistakes  when they hear their paper .  For example, I will often have students stop me while I am reading and say something along the lines of “that sentence doesn’t make sense. What if I said this instead?” or “ that’s  not really what I meant to say. What  I’m  trying to say here is…” Reading out loud is also a great way to be responsive to the students’ needs. I will start off a session by asking the student what they want to work on. If they tell me they want to make sure their paper is organized, I will tell them  to focus on the organization and flow while I am reading.   This  also  helps keep the  student engaged during the session because they are actively following along .

There are many technologies that can simulate reading out loud as well. These are known as text-to-speech software, which  a re  valuable tool s  to help anyone with reading difficulties  or   who prefers to process content aurally . It  is  beneficial for  dyslexic tutees  because it allows them to read the text in front of them while simultaneously hearing it spoken. Platforms that read documents aloud increase reading accuracy in people with dyslexia ( Woolf , 2013 ). Some of the best free  text-to-speech pr ograms are  Balabolka , Natural Reader  (has dyslexic font) , and  WordTalk .

Balabolka  is a downloadable program that works with a variety of file types. It has customizable font and background colors so students can set the text to their preferences.  Balabolka  also has a setting in which students can save th eir text and audio files as MP3 which will allow them to refer to the text once the session has ended.

Natural Reader  is an online program that does not need to be downloaded to the computer. Files can be pasted, typed, and edited within their text box.  Natural Reader comes with several different voices so students can choose which voice works best for their understanding.  The free version of Natural Reader provides unlimited use of their Free Voices and up to 20 minutes a day of their premium voices. There are payment options that allow for more features, but the free version will  still  read any text aloud. Natural  R eader also has a   font option  specifically for individuals with dyslexia  so students can select to work with a font  similar to   OpenDyslexic  and Dyslexie.

Finally,  WordTalk  is a free text-to-speech plug in for Microsoft Word. Writing centers can download  WordTalk  to their computers so students working with Microsoft Word documents can  hear their papers out loud.  WordTalk   will create a spoken version of the document and read it back while highlighting the words.  This is  useful  to help students follow along with the spoken words.   Writing centers  can have  any combination of  these  programs available for students to use during a session.  Hearing documents or webpages out loud  can be helpful to  dyslexic  individuals  as well as any  person  that  might benefit from having material read out loud.

4. Multimedia

If  an assignment permits students to utilize multimodal resources  ( audio, visual, text, images, etc. ), s tudents can  have the opportunity to  process  information  in ways that traditional “print” sources often do not permit . Like  text-to-speech , multimedia stimulates different parts of the brain which  can be  beneficial for   dyslexic individuals . A student with dyslexia  may have  difficulty absorbing information through reading and then relaying what they know through writing. Multimedia sources have been shown to “get individuals’ attention, improve their understanding and boost their confidence” (Tariq and Latif,  2016, p.  153).

If a student comes to an appointment to brainstorm for a paper, the tutor may suggest  referring to  multimedia sources such as audiobooks, videos, podcasts, pictures, etc. This way, the student can find more about their topic  without having to rely purely on written sources .  For someone with dyslexia, consuming information presented through different platforms may make  certain aspects of their topic more accessible.   It can also make the research stage of a paper more enjoyable and engaging  because students have a variety of sources to look at . Many students may even be  required  to include videos or podcasts into their research in addition to more traditional sources like articles and journals. Additionally,  some  writing centers  might also  need to be prepared to assist students with  multimodal projects like PowerPoints, presentations, and video projects  because they  are becoming more comm on.   Writing  c enters  should  consequently  incorporate multimedia sources in their spaces because it increases accessibility to information and education for  disabled students  ( Hitt , 2012 ).

Conclusion:  Incorporating these  T ools into  P ractice

My goal in writing this  article  was to create an easily applicable guide for tutors. In my own training, I wished I had something like this to apply to my  tutoring practice. Therefore, I specifically sought out techniques that can be incorporated into  many  sessions , and  might even be helpful for tutors in their own writing processes as well .  I n  addition to this guide, I created a  video  which discusses and showcases many of the programs and strategies I mention.  Within the introduction to this video ,  I mistakenly refer to disabled students as students with learning differences.  Throughout the process of writing this article, I have become more aware of disability studies and the language we should use to talk about  disabilities :  I have been introduced to scholarship that fully explains the implications of  differently – abled  language. Although it was not my intention,  differently – abled  language and other euphemisms marginalize disabled people and imply that disability is an offensive word when ,   in reality, it   is  something that millions of people navigate  on a daily basis .  The video, and transcript, are posted on YouTube for accessibility.  Most of the techniques in this paper  and video  can be beneficial for all students while being especially useful for  dyslexic  individuals .

Dyslexia can go undetected because it  primarily  impacts a person’s ability to read and write.  Along with this, many students are hesitant to disclose any learning di sabilitie s because they fear being treated differently.  The  writing center  can  still be accessible  to these students  with   these practices .  It ’ s   the  responsibility of the  writing center  to be  as  inclusive and helpful for all students  as possible .   Tutors should use these tips because they have the potential to help students with  disclosed and undisclosed disabilities .  Directors should also ensure their tutors are properly trained to  incorporate  these strategies  and  advocate for any programs or technologies that   can be  vital to ensuring accessibility .  I hope this piece can serve as a training tool for  writing centers  to develop their flexibility  and explore these  strategies  and technologies  as they can be helpful for anyone who visits or uses the center . The best way to be accommodating to all students is to listen to their needs and preferences.  These strategies can make the writing center accessible to students with di sabilities  while also staying within the appropriate boundaries between tutor and tutee.

Ultimately, there needs to be more research conducted on disabilities in the writing center. As Babcock (2015)  notes , there are few articles on the most common types of disabilities among college students.  Fostering  more research, especially from disabled tutors and tutees themselves, will help writing centers become more accessible. When we listen to the needs of disabled individuals, we allow ourselves to challenge  our preconceived  ideas about  disabilities  which can transform how we  respond to   all users of  our centers .

Adi- Japha , E., Landau, Y. E., Frenkel, L.  Teicher , M.,  Tsur , V. G., & Shalev, R. S. (2007). ADHD and dysgraphia: Underlying mechanisms.  Cortex, 43  (6), 700-709.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70499-4 .  

Anglesey, L .,   &  McBride , M .  (2019).  Caring for  s tudents with   d isabilities: (Re)defining  w elcome as a  c ulture of  l istening.  The Peer   Review   ( 3 ).  http://thepeerreviewiwca.org/issues/redefining-welcome/caring-for-students-with-disabilities-redefining-welcome-asa-culture-of-listening/      

Babcock, R. D.  (2015).  Disabilities in the writing center.  Praxis: A Writing   Center Journal , 13  ( 1).   http://www.praxisuwc.com/babcock-131  

Hitt , A.  (2012).  Access for  a ll: The  r ole of  d is/ability in  m ultiliteracy  c enters.  Praxis: A Writing Center Journal,  ( 2 ). Retrieved from  http://www.praxisuwc.com/hitt-92

Kiedaisch , J., & Dinitz, S. (2007). Changing notions of difference in the writing center: The possibilities of universal design.  The Writing Center Journal,   27 (2), 39-59. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43442271

King, S. (2018). “Sir! it works!”: The  dyslexie  font.  The School   Librari an,  66 (2), 72-74.  http://libproxy.umassd.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.umassd.edu/docview/2056860250?accountid=14573  

Ladau , E.  (2015, July 20).  Why person-first language  doesn’t  always put  the person first . Think inclusive.  https://www.thinkinclusive.us/why-person-first-language-doesnt-always-put-the-person-first/

Nakamura, K. (2018, February 16). Karen Nakamura speaks on disability    studies and race [Video]. You T ube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b7PXCYK79A&feature=emb_logo

Rinaldi, K. (2015). Disability in the writing center: A new approach (that’s  not so new).  Praxis: A Writing Center Journal ,  13  (1) ,  http://www.praxisuwc.com/rinaldi-131 .

Tariq, R ., &  Latif , S .  (2016).  A  m obile  a pplication to  i mprove   l earning  p erformance of  d yslexic  c hildren with  w riting  d ifficulties.   Educational Technology & Society ,  ( 4 ).   Retrieved from  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310773732_A_Mobile_Application_to_Improve_Learning_Performance_of_Dyslexic_Children_with_Writing_Difficulties  

Valles, S. B. Babcock, R. D. & Jackson, K.K. (2017). Writing center  administrators and diversity: A survey.  The Peer Review, 1  (1)  http://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/issue-%201/writing-center-administrators-and-diversity-a-%20survey/

Woolf, C . M. (2013) . Lit- f it  c hallenge  a udio  b ooks  p roject.   National  Association of School Psychologists ,  ( 8 ). Retrieved from   https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.umassd.edu/docview/ 1412863471?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo  

Teaching Writing to the Dyslexic Student

by Marianne | Jul 23, 2014 | By The Subject | 8 comments

Dyslexia is known as a reading disability but it also impacts writing ability. Let’s look at some ways we can teach writing to the dyslexic student .

Before we look at how to find a good writing curriculum for the dyslexic student, we need to identify the areas of writing that are most impacted by dyslexia.

Teaching Writing to Students With Dyslexia

Dyslexia is known as a reading disability but it also impacts writing ability.  There is often a huge difference between what the dyslexic student wants to say and what he or she actually writes.

Besides spelling errors, which we will talk I talk about here , other areas affected by dyslexia are:

Grammar:  Remembering to capitalize and use punctuation while writing is common for dyslexics.

Organization:  Dyslexics often have trouble organizing their thoughts and sequences are often out of order.

Dysgraphia:  The physical act of writing can be difficult.  Handwriting can be poor or illegible.

Overcoming Difficulties With Writing

As with reading, people with dyslexia can spend so much time and effort writing words that the meaning and organization can be lost.

Writing Tips:

  • Grammar should be taught to dyslexic students one rule or two at a time can help.  And as with reading rules, grammar rules should be practiced, practiced, practiced.  It can also be helpful to grade a dyslexic student’s papers on content and give more leeway with grammar until these areas are mastered.
  • The use of computer programs with spelling grammar checkers can be helpful however many spell checkers cannot decipher the phonetic spelling of dyslexic writers.  See our Resource Page for our recommendations on spelling and writing apps that are particularly useful for people with dyslexia.
  • Teaching kids to organize their thoughts before writing them can be very helpful  Some kids do well with mind mapping where the main idea is in a bubble in the center of the page and supporting details are written around that in their own bubbles or circles.   This visual representation of their ideas really helps them to remember and order their thoughts.
  • Allowing the use of a simple tape recorder, recording app or better yet, speech-to-text app can help a dyslexic to say their thoughts without the burden of remembering spelling and grammar rules.  This also helps tremendously with dysgraphia where handwriting can be painfully slow and inaccurate.
  • Teachers can allow their students to write their first draft, or sloppy copy, without concern for punctuation and grammar.  Allowing the dyslexic student to focus on content alone at first can be helpful.  After this first draft is complete, you can sit with your child and go through the paper together, editing and organizing as needed.

Studies have shown that students with dyslexia have a lot of trouble with the pre-writing stage.  Having a systematic plan of action for writing will help them overcome this obstacle.

Writing:  Step-by-Step

1.  Discuss writing assignment with parent or teacher. Be certain that the point of the assignment is clear and begin to develop thoughts on the subject.

2.  Mindmap your thoughts.

3.  Outline your paper.

4.  Write the first draft without concern for grammar, spelling and punctuation.   (This can be hard for the perfectionist student by the way!)

5.  Sit with teacher/mom and go through paper line by line for grammar, spelling, punctuation and organization of ideas.

6.  Rewrite assignment with corrections.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Curriculum Suggestions

When my dyslexic kids were young and still learning to read, I used large amounts of copywork where they would copy a passage from a good book or a verse or what ever else appealed to them to write.  This helps with eye hand coordination and handwriting in general.  Gradually we transitioned into dictation where I would read the passage and they would write to the best of their ability.  We also practiced narration, thought to be the precursor to good grammar usage, during history and science instruction.  Narration is where the student tells back what was just read or learned.  To learn more about the use of copy work, dictation and narration, read A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

When our kids were reading on a third grade level and able to write sentences on their own without tears of frustration, we transitioned into a formal writing program. Lots of hands-on activities really help the kids remember what they are learning.

Write Shop Junior     Write Shop Junior is written for grades 3-5 and includes pre-writing (organization) activities, writing skills through guided instruction.  The format of each lesson is systematic and cumulative: exactly the same for each topic covered.

Middle School & High School

Write Shop 1 & 2     Like Write Shop Junior, Write Shop 1 & 2 teach composition skills in a step-by-step manner.  Students learn brainstorming, writing, editing and revising with engaging lessons.  This is an ‘ungraded’ program and can be used at your own pace.  Requires a fair amount of panning and organizing by the parent and is somewhat teacher intensive.

Fortuigence   Essay Rock Star  An online course geared for high school level composition.  Students learn 5-steps to master non-fiction writing.  Each of the 4 essay types, The Personal Statement, The Persuasive Essay, The Expository Essay and The Textual Analysis are completed at your own pace.  Lesson are taught in a multimedia format.  Students can read the lesson or listen and watch the course instruction via video.   (Our kids loved this aspect!) Assignments are broken into very manageable, small chunks and turned in (emailed) to the teacher who grades the assignment and returns it to the student for corrections or with instructions to move to the next lesson.  Be sure to take their FREE Top Teach Course for parents to gain confidence in learning to teach our kids to write.  For more information on Fortuigence:  Essay Rock Star Composition Course, read my complete review here .

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Writing & Spelling Apps For Dyslexia

Part of educating dyslexic kids is teaching them to make accommodations for their reading, writing and spelling weaknesses.  We live in an age of amazing technical advances that allows dyslexics to get the help they need when and where ever they are.  Below are some of our favorite apps for writing and spelling.

Web Reader HD     Text-to-speech app that can read web page content.  Super easy to use and mostly effective.

Dragon Go!  (FREE)  Allows you to speak what you are searching for on the web so Google, Wikipedia and YouTube are defaults.

Dragon Dictation  (FREE)  This is a voice recognition app that allows the user to see the text generated through speaking instead of typing.  Can be used with some popular social networking sites.

Soundnote  ($4.99) A note taking app that basically turns your iPad into a Livescribe pen.  (See above under Compensation Tech)  Records lectures and then syncs the audio to what you type or scribble in.  The audio recording is time-locked to your typing and drawing.  You may want to use a keyboard or stylus for this app to be more functional.

PaperDesk   ($2.99)  Another notetaking app like Soundnote but that has more options like inserting photos, importing pdfs, organizing pages into notebooks, and an option to export.  More complicated to use than Soundnote.

American Words peller   ($4.99) Allows you to type in a word phonetically (based on how it sounds) and it will come up with the actual spelling of the word.  It also provides definitions to help you understand the meaning of the word.

Reading Trainer   ($1.99)  Helps improve reading speed with fun exercises.

Idea Sketch  ( FREE)  lets you draw a diagram (mind map, concept map, or flow chart) convert it to a text outline and vice versa/  It can be used to brainstorm ideas, illustrate concepts, make lists and outlines, and more.  Great for visual thinkers.

ModMath : Designed for individuals with dyslexia and dysgraphia for whom the mechanics of writing math problems causes a barrier. ModMath takes care of the construction of, for example, the long division problem. After that, solving that problem is up to you.

VoiceDream : Text-to-speech to aid in reading. This app also allows for screen, font and text size customization and highlighting. It has a built-in dictionary and works with text from lots of sources (PDF, ebooks, email). If you’ve looked into text-to-speech apps, you’ll agree that the power of VoiceDream does sound dreamy in comparison.

Notability : Takes “handwritten” notes on documents to allow for adding sketches to PDF or graphics or editing student work (!!). Notability also has an audio recording feature for auditory learners, photo capability and it coordinates with sharing platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox.

StoryVisualizer : Creates storybooks for students using their words and images. From Lego Education.

UsTyme : Allows two people to remotely read a story together by coupling FaceTime-like software with reading. Would be great for traveling parents or faraway relatives. I’m thinking about using this as a formative assessment to check-in with students who are using iPads for reading either in the classroom or for homework.

DyslexiaQuest : A series of games designed to “assess working memory, phonological awareness, processing speed, visual memory, auditory memory and sequencing skills.” Gamers are encouraged to keep practicing to master skills.

Read2Go  (iOS) or  Go Read  (Android): Makes books accessible to people with print disabilities. Developed by  Bookshare .

Co:Writer : Word prediction software aids writing in real-time or later when editing. Text-to-speech feature reads letters, words, sentences, documents, which is great because not many have this thorough level of read-aloud. Produced by Don Johnston and features the grammar-smart word prediction that his company is famous for. Opt for the SOLO Suite and get Co:Writer; Read:Outloud; Write:Outloud and Draft:Builder.

Get Educated

If you are looking to get educated about dyslexia and how to educate, encourage and empower your kids with dyslexia, you have come to the right place.

For more information on getting started homeschooling your child with dyslexia, download my free ebook Homeschooling With Dyslexia 101  that covers things like understanding learning styles and teaching methods, how to create a positive learning environment and schedule, or how to set goals and get it all done.

For more information on specific strategies to teach your dyslexic child the way he or she learns, consider taking one of our Parent Dyslexia Classes .  Classes now available are:

Understanding Dyslexia

Teaching Them How They Learn

Teaching Reading:  Methods That Work

Teaching Spelling

Building Fluency and Comprehension

Or buy all 5 classes in our Foundation Bundle and receive a free download of my book, Dyslexia 101:  Truths, Myths and What Really Works.

This post:   Teaching Writing to the Dyslexic Student is part of a 5-day series on Finding Curriculum for the Homeschooled Student with Dyslexia .  To read the series from the beginning, click here.

For more information on Teaching Writing to Kids With Dysgraphia, see our parent class:


Find the Help Your Child With Dysgraphia Needs

The way to help your child to become a competent writer is:

  • to understand what dysgraphia is
  • learn what causes dysgraphia
  • learn proven methods for teaching, and mastering handwriting

You will find all of that in this online course, Teaching Writing to Kids With Dysgraphia .

Visit the our courses page for information on our other parent classes or here for complete information on our brand new dysgraphia class:   Teaching Writing to Kids With Dysgraphia .

Dyslexia is known as a reading disability but it also impacts writing ability. Let's look at some ways we can teach writing to the dyslexic student.

I tried Write Shop Jr., not a good match for us.


Do you have any opinion/experience with using IEW with dyslexic kids?


Hi Merri! We used IEW this year with our 10 and 11 year olds. We did this through our Classical Conversations Essentials class. I liked it very much. My kids found it to be a lot of work, however, I know that it was not too much work. Does that make sense. My kids didn’t LOVE it because they had to work hard but it was very beneficial. Both girls have been writing stories on the computer all of last week for fun. I think that it opened up a world of possibilities for them. They also are naturally more descriptive in their writing. I bought the IEW program for early elementary but haven’t started it yet. I may improvise with it since I now know the IEW program so well. I worked with the girls to help them with every outline and then had them write their paragraphs on their own. Also, I did allow my 11-year old (because of her dyslexia) to dictate her papers into the iPad. Hope this helps! We also really like Write Shop Junior. We did that last year and found it very helpful!

Thank you! Just trying to make a decision for next year that might work for both my non dyslexic and dyslexic kids that won’t be too painful for me (I am not a natural writing and this makes it a difficult subject). I have been looking at IEW and though it looks like it may be a lot of work, maybe it will make more sense to me than our current program.


What is your opinion on Time4writing.com for a dyslexic?


While we didn’t use time4writing we did use time4learning for half a year for 9th grade before cancelling it because of the amount of reading involved. Despite the program being advertised for dyslexia students it did not work in our case. We were not seeing retention of the material taught. A lecture followed by a quiz, then on to the next topic. English at that grade level revolved around literature. So a reading passage would be given after a teacher video lecture. You read it, another video lecture discussing key points of the passage, then a quiz. The problem we had was that I had to read all the passages to my child because there was no “read to me” function available for their software. They told me to use some freebie online website to do the reading but it did not work. I tried copying and pasting the passages into a reader, but it wouldn’t always read the words correctly. Finally in utter frustration, I ended up reading the literature passages to him instead. So basically I had to sit with him while he did his lessons every day to help with reading, note taking, etc and we still didn’t get retention of any of the material. I found the high school platform very much like public school instruction so it did not work for us. (I can’t vouch for the elementary school levels as they might work differently)

Michael Kingston

I use sentence starters with dyslexic middle years students in Northern Australia. I find they often work surprisingly well – especially for paragraph writing. I’ve collated my classroom work into a free downloadable pack: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-Paragraph-Scaffold-PEEL-to-PEARL-3370676


Excellent advice. I’d add to this, if you don’t have a tech solution, just letting your child dictate the writing to you can work. This also helped my child learn to keep something in his head long enough for me to write it, which, even though he writes slower than me, helped him learn to keep something in his head longer when he was writing himself.

Separating the “content writing” from the “writing it down/grammar/spelling” was world changing for us. He started liking writing in stead of hating it, and both his dictated writing and the shorter writing I had him write himself improved.

I will say, when using outlines/brainstorming, I would encourage writing down as little as possible (or going through a “crossing out stuff” stage). If there’s too much, it becomes very hard for someone who has trouble skimming or who finds reading taxing to use it. Brainstorming, and moving that to a very simple outline we found helpful, but much of the longer pre-writing assessments we found a total waste of time and even counter productive (they used all his energy up and weren’t useful for him to use).


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Reading and Writing Strategies for Students With Dyslexia

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Help for Children with Learning Disorders like Dyslexia to Succeed in the Classroom

As researchers increase their understanding of the causes and dimensions of dyslexia , the toolkit of effective strategies for teaching such students continues to grow. Students with visual processing disorders have very individual needs, so teachers must have a range of techniques ready to use. Here is an overview of some approaches that researchers have found that provide help for dyslexia.

Keep Work Spaces Uncluttered

This concept includes simplicity in the visual and auditory realm. Keep desks and tables uncluttered by asking students to put away all materials not actively in use. Teachers need to leave plenty of blank space between words and lines when they write on the blackboard or prepare worksheets. Classrooms and personal study spaces should also be kept as quiet as possible.

Establish Academic Routines

Almost every outline of effective dyslexia strategies involves careful structuring of new material. This includes presenting each step of a lesson in graphic and spoken order, and proceeding step by step. The National Center f o r Learning Disabilities (NCLD) points out in its teacher tips that daily classroom routines are very important, as is repeating directions and presenting new words in small sequential steps.

Use Color and 3D in Writing Exercises

Since different areas of the brain come into play when recognizing shape and color, writing letters in different colors helps students to distinguish between them. One effective strategy for writing with dyslexia combines a color scheme with phonics so that syllables are differentiated by color. With younger students, letter shapes can be traced in sand, or the letters themselves can be three-dimensional objects that are picked up and positioned.

Encourage Speaking and Listening

Yale researchers have found that “the phonological deficit masks what are often excellent comprehension skills.” A classroom assistant can transcribe the dictation of a student with learning disorders. This aids the student in separating intellectual content from the effort of writing, instilling confidence in his or her ability to think. Listening to story tapes can build a love of literature that is separate from the task of reading with dyslexia.

Nurture Reading Pleasure by Presenting Easier Books

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity suggests engaging the entire class in books that combine rich storytelling with simple words. This technique enables dyslexic students to finish books, appreciate humor and articulate opinions on par with their peers. It short-circuits the usual competitive anxiety about being able to keep up and enables a sense of competence.

Help for Dyslexia

You can be an advocate for your child by working together with their teacher to discuss the range of classroom strategies for dyslexia. Developing a sense of teamwork with school staff can relieve your concerns and encourage a peaceful integration between school and home. If you’re seeking resources outside the classroom, you and your child can join together in the Brain Balance Program . This integrated drug-free approach, based on neurological research, provides a rich supplement to the classroom experience.

If your child struggles with learning or has been diagnosed with a Learning Disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.

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7 Engaging Writing Activities For Students With Dyslexia

Writing is a crucial part of an individual’s life! From writing tests to doing homework to signing papers in adulthood, penmanship is crucial in various instances. 

But is learning this trait, which might seem like a cakewalk, the same for every student?

Researches point out how children with dyslexia often struggle with writing. This is mainly due to substandard traits like transcription skills, working memory, and executive function.  Therefore additional practice through apps , colour coding , and various activities might be advantageous for them.

To make your task easier, we listed out crafted activities for better writing for learning disabled individuals

Why do people with dyslexia need writing activities?

Individuals with learning difficulties may need to make additional efforts to make their writing skills better especially on the grounds of language comprehension and presentation too. 

Writing activities can help them make words, their association with objects, letters, and other relevant factors. Rody Politt highlighted the importance of writing for dyslexics in his book, “Day to Day Dyslexia in the Classroom” 

Children with dyslexia face a hard time remembering the orientation of letters. Doing various writing activities has multiple advantages,

  • Writing activities help them to identify the proper alphabet and numbers.
  • These activities hold a pivotal role in understanding the proper orientation of letters. 
  • They may assist in associating words with objects.
  • It helps them to write straight and avoid bumping lines.
  • It helps to teach them the proper use of punctuation. 
  • It improves phonological reception.

Writing activities – Assisting pupils with language skills!

Comprehending the edges and the need for activities, we have carefully crafted out some pitching activity ideas you may employ for learners with learning disabilities to write better.

1. The Graph Activity

The Graph Activity

Things You need to perform this activity are a few pencils  & graph Sheets. This activity helps students who face a hard time writing the alphabet in a straight order. 

  • To start, Take the first sheet of graph paper and tell them to write a letter on the entire sheet with a pencil. For example, let us assume “P”. On the next page, draw a line with a pencil that divides the graph sheet into two now, and tell them to write the letter in two spaces. 
  • Now On the next page, divide the page into four equal squares and ask them to write the same letter into those spaces. 
  • Then, on the next page, make smaller boxes and ask them to write.
  •  Repeat this process until the child can write the letter in the 2×2 and 1x1size boxes. Practice this activity with more letters on graph paper. 

It will help the child remember the letter and how to write them in smaller spaces. This activity will eventually make the writings more straight and in line.

2. Write and Draw

Write and Draw

Associating a picture to a word can make retaining these easier for special children. This activity ensures to make such links to ensure an effective practice session. The teacher needs to arrange a few markers with different colors and a whiteboard.

  • To start with, the teacher writes a word on the board and draws a picture related to it with different colors. For instance, if the word is Guitar, the teacher can draw the image of a guitar beside it. Once the learner makes connections between these, the mentor erases them. A similar process is followed for four other objects. 
  • Now, the teacher draws 5 things that were previously taught. 
  • The student is called upon and is asked to write words looking at each image. 
  • The teacher evaluates these spellings and can give feedback to improve. 

3. Writing on a Vertical Board

Writing on vertical board

Special individuals face problems writing in a straight line. For performing this activity you just need a whiteboard and two different coloured markers.

  • Divide the board into three equal parts with the help of a marker.
  • Ask them to write a few sentences in all three sections. 
  • Now draw lines on a vertical board like a ruled sheet. 
  • Again place some blank space followed by the ruled section. 
  • Ask them to write referring to the line and repeat the same text in plane space.
  •  Repeat this activity with the group of students.

This writing activity is often simple and effective. As the learner learns to take the assistance of the straight line, they gradually learn to compose text organized without a reference line later. This way, the formatting skills of students on white paper improve while the writing skills are addressed. 

4. Coloured Letters

Colored letters

You will require some markers and a few white sheets. This activity targets better phonetic reception. 

  • Tell them to write down words with separate syllables on different sheets, and you may help them.
  •   Now jumble the sheets and ask them to find them based on the spelling you speak. 
  •  Tell them to recite the proper word followed by writing the complete word on their sheet. 

This activity will help them to get a proper phonetic reception and write accordingly.

5. Word Association with Puzzle

Word association with puzzle

Learning disabled may feel it arduous to perceive the sequence of letters in a word. For this activity, you need various sheets of the “Find the Word ” puzzle, pens, and a notebook. The word puzzle can be in form of a simple paragraph or a crossword arrangement of different words. 

  • In a group of two or three students, give one puzzle sheet to each student and ask them to find various words and write them down in a notebook.
  •  After 15 minutes, check each puzzle sheet, and find out the words deciphered. 
  • Ask each of the students to form a few sentences on the words they found on the puzzle sheet.
  •  Help them while forming sentences. This will enhance their reasoning and writing skills in one activity.

For instance, if the word is satellite, they can write sentences like “The USA is going to launch a new satellite this week.” To make this more complicated for adults, they may choose the latest news and write it. 

6. Read and write

Special learning individuals can make words by associating them with some other cue- be it visual or audio. The teacher arranges multiple pens of different colors and a piece of paper.

  • To start with, the mentor narrates a short story. They may take assistance like slides for visual help. 
  • Later, the learners are asked to write the story in their own lines. 
  • Now, their writing is made easy by letting them speak the same while putting it down on paper. Further, multiple color pens may be used to demonstrate multiple emotions. 

Through this activity, students can make better use of audio and visual cues to increase the speed and accuracy of their writing.

7. Handy Pen Trio

Take a few ruled sheets and three different coloured pens before performing this writing activity. Now, mention a verse on board or on a piece of paper. 

  • Ask the student to write the first line in a different color pen, give a space of one line and write the next line with another color. 
  •  Then, start the second line with another color pen. 
  • Again for the third line, use a different one. 
  • Finally, ask them to write the entire page in the same order while switching colors. 

This writing activity helps the child from bumping from one line to another. This activity stipulates learners write across a linear line and not deviate in another direction. Also, writing into each second line creates an appearance that they have written a lot more than they have.

Are writing activities ample to enhance writing?

Be it activities or any other learning strategy, when they are implemented properly may be assisting in better penmanship. With multiple options already available in the above lines, these may be good take-ins. Nonetheless, having additional sources can be a bonus. Here are some other strategies the pupil may check out along with activities:

  • Worksheets: Having a set of printable worksheets can let the pupil practice writing in leisure time as well. These are free to download and can be procured easily. For little learners, these worksheets can be a good strategy to practise penmanship. 
  • Books: To ensure a complete package of training, certain books dedicated to writing are available in the market. Serving multiple users like schoolers and also adults, these can assist overall learning of writing tips and hacks. 
  • Digital resources: Apart from paper-based options, individuals can also choose among options like apps, games , and websites. The handwriting apps make it easy to access on phone and practice straight away.  Handwriting websites often create a digital alternative to paper-based practice to make penmanship smoother.  
  • Manipulatives: Pupils especially those with learning disabilities may often like creative ways of learning. For writing, manipulatives may be chosen. These often increase grip on letters and alphabets, thereby improving writing skills drastically.

For individuals with dyslexia, writing activities help by letting them indulge physically to do something along with paper-based practice. Also, These activities provide visual prompts and help the writer focus on the writing task. With multiple scenarios being created, pupils can have diverse options to check and practice writing.  The choices given above are implementable for students of all ages with minor changes. Check out these and see which can be a better fit for your classroom.

Manpreet Singh

An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having  just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of  Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’, 

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Yale Dyslexia

Tips From Students

Nobody can fully appreciate what it’s like to be a student with dyslexia as well as another student with dyslexia. Here are some strategies we compiled from conversations with the real experts — dyslexic kids with papers due, tests next week and books to read.

Use Time Wisely | Embrace Simple Tools | Make the Most of Technology | Ask for Help | Embrace the Power of Dyslexia

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Use Time Wisely

If you’re dyslexic, you already know that extra time on tests is critical to demonstrating your actual knowledge of a subject. But don’t stop there. If you need extra time for tests, there’s a good chance you need extra time on homework assignments as well. These tips should help:

  • Break up big projects into smaller, less intimidating pieces. Have a three-page paper due in a week? Set dates for working on little tasks related to the paper, like picking a topic, doing research and writing a first draft. Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher, parent or tutor to assist you.
  • Give yourself enough time to work slowly and carefully. You don’t want to rush or end up skipping part of a task.
  • Do what’s due first. If you’re faced with a long list of short assignments, it’s easy to just grab them all at once and start working in random order. But that’s not the most effective approach. Take a minute to prioritize your work according to what’s due first and what is likely to take you the most or least time to complete. Study tonight for the French test you have tomorrow, not the vocabulary test that’s coming up next week.
  • Don’t fall into the “no homework tonight” trap. If your calendar is clear, look ahead to see what’s coming up: an earth-science quiz at the end of the week or a math worksheet due Thursday? Use this free time to get a head start on the work you need to turn in 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’ll have to take so you know what you’ll need — and how much time to allow — to get it done.
  • Don’t do more than you have to. For instance, you don’t have to research everything on the Civil War to write a few paragraphs on the second Battle of Bull Run.
  • Preview reading to identify words you can’t pronounce and talk through the material with your teacher or tutor on a one-to-one basis. Avoid multiple choice-tests; instead request tests that are based on short essays.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Embrace Simple Tools

  • Make flash cards to help you remember everything from math formulas to historic facts to vocabulary words. Breaking down content into these smaller chunks rather than trying to tackle everything on an entire sheet or in a book chapter will make studying far less overwhelming. And you can use your flash cards as a portable study guide to keep on hand and quiz yourself whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
  • 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 visuals and models to work from. Examples: Use diagrams for capturing the structure of a story or for remembering the animal kingdom; use highlighters or color-coding to bring out the main ideas in your notes, drafts or worksheets; create symbols, initials or doodles to help you remember concepts.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Make the Most of Technology

  • Create a PowerPoint presentation of the material you’ll need to know for a test. (Think of it as a high-tech version of flash cards.) Some computers, like Macs, also have a computerized voice that can read your PowerPoint slides back to you.
  • Compose written work on a computer, which can be more efficient and easier to read than messy handwriting. Using a computer allows you to focus on the content rather than your handwriting so you can get your thoughts out in the first draft. And when you make edits, you won’t need to write the entire essay over again.
  • Consider using dictation programs like Dragon dictatation software . Alternatively, on many newer computers with a microphone, you can enable the “start dictation” feature directly in Microsoft Word. Some students find that dictation allows them to be more creative and capture the details all at once.
  • After you complete a writing assignment, whether it’s a paragraph or a longer paper, read it aloud and record it on your cell phone. (You can also have a member of your family read it to you.) Several free apps make recording easy and convenient. Listening to what you wrote as you read it over several times can help you spot errors and identify edits you’d like to make. Listening as you read your notes also helps you understand and remember what you’ve learned.
  • Listen to assigned books in audio form, reading along in the hard copy. As an added bonus, you’ll feel much better prepared if you know you’re going to be called on to read out loud in class the next day.
  • Ask your parents or a teacher to help you sign up for access to recorded books and other written materials.  Bookshare , Audible and Learning Ally are just a few companies that make tens of thousands of audio recordings from text. Each service offers different types of literature, textbooks and reference materials, so if you can’t find what you need on one site, chances are it will be available through another service. Additionally, Amazon has teamed up with Audible to link up audio recordings with Kindle books, so you can read along with the text. The program is called Whispersync.
  • If you have access to a newer computer, tablet or other electronic device, set it up to read your papers, notes and a range of other materials back to you. Macs do this within their accessibility settings, but there are many other options for software and apps that read text for both Macs and PCs. One of the oldest and most popular is Read & Write Gold .
  • Consider investing in a Livescribe SmartPen if you take a lot of notes in class and are stressed about not getting it all down on paper. The device can eliminate note-taking anxiety because it captures everything the student hears and writes. You can transfer notes and recordings to a computer, and easily search and organize them for homework study. The audio recording can be slowed down or speeded up as needed, and a specific section of any recording can be played back simply by tapping that part of your written notes.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Ask for Help

  • If you’re a college student struggling with a paper, take advantage of your campus writing center. If you’re not in college, ask your peers, teachers or parents to help you talk through your ideas and get them on paper. If you already have a draft written, the extra pair of eyes is helpful to catch typos, spelling mistakes, or incomplete details and ideas.
  • Your teachers and peers can be great resources for solidifying topics you are learning. Talk with your teachers to be sure you understood the material, and talk through the main ideas of the lectures with your peers to help form your own thoughts and understanding.
  • Request extra time on tests. Extra time on examinations is a necessity. The amount of extra time cannot be determined from testing but should be based on your own experiences. The first time you request this accommodation, you might want to request double time.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Embrace the Power of Dyslexia

  • Believe in yourself. Dyslexia teaches you to budget your time and work hard, and that work ethic will help you no matter what you decide to do in life.
  • Talk to others who are dyslexic and listen to success stories from other dyslexic individuals. They will inspire and encourage you. If they did it, you can, too!
  • Remember that just because something takes you longer to do, doesn’t mean you can’t do it well. And sometimes because it takes you longer, you remember it better.
  • While it’s hard to feel different or singled out if you need extra help or tutoring, try to remember that you’re learning the skills to overcome dyslexia—and that you are smart and have abilities no one else does!

Optimizing Learning for Dyslexic Students: Effective Teaching Strategies

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how do dyslexic students learn best

Dyslexia affects millions of students worldwide, making it crucial for educators to optimize learning strategies. By understanding the challenges and individual needs of dyslexic students, creating an inclusive environment, and implementing effective teaching methods, we can help these students succeed. This blog explores key strategies, including multisensory teaching, assistive technology, building phonological awareness, enhancing writing skills, developing study strategies, and collaborating with parents.

Assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software, can greatly enhance learning for dyslexic students.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding dyslexia is crucial for optimizing learning strategies.
  • Assessment and diagnosis help identify individual needs and guide interventions.
  • Creating an inclusive learning environment is essential for dyslexic students.
  • Multisensory teaching engages all senses and enhances learning outcomes.
  • Assistive technology can be a powerful tool for dyslexic students.
  • Building phonological awareness is key to improving reading skills.
  • Effective writing strategies and support benefit dyslexic students.
  • Developing study strategies tailored to individual needs promotes academic success.
  • Collaboration with parents and support systems strengthens student support.

Understanding Dyslexia: Key Facts and Challenges

Dyslexia, a common learning disorder affecting both children and adults, is characterized by difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling. It is important to understand the key facts and challenges associated with dyslexia in order to optimize learning for dyslexic students through effective teaching strategies.

Key Facts about Dyslexia:

  • Prevalence: Dyslexia affects approximately 10% of the population, regardless of intelligence or socio-economic background.
  • Neurological Difference: Dyslexia is a result of atypical brain development, primarily affecting the areas of the brain responsible for language processing.
  • Hereditary Trait: Dyslexia tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Persistent Condition: Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, although individuals may develop coping mechanisms and strategies to manage their difficulties.
  • Diverse Manifestations: Dyslexia can vary in severity and may manifest differently in different individuals. It can also co-occur with other learning disabilities or conditions such as ADHD.

Challenges Faced by Dyslexic Students:

  • Reading and Decoding: Dyslexic students often struggle with phonological awareness, making it challenging for them to accurately decode words and read fluently.
  • Spelling and Writing: Difficulties in recognizing and reproducing letter sequences accurately affect spelling and writing skills.
  • Working Memory: Dyslexic students may have limitations in their working memory, making it harder to retain and manipulate information.
  • Organization and Time Management: Planning and organizing tasks can be challenging, leading to difficulties in prioritizing and completing assignments.
  • Self-esteem and Confidence: Dyslexic students may experience frustration, anxiety, and a decline in self-esteem due to their struggles in traditional learning environments.

To optimize learning for dyslexic students, effective teaching strategies should be employed. These strategies include multisensory instruction, explicit and systematic phonics instruction, assistive technology, providing extended time for assignments and assessments, and fostering a supportive and inclusive classroom environment.

By understanding the key facts about dyslexia and the challenges faced by dyslexic students, educators can tailor their teaching strategies to optimize learning and provide a nurturing environment for these individuals. by implementing effective strategies, dyslexic students can overcome their difficulties and thrive academically.

→   Language Learning for Dyslexics: Easiest Languages

Identifying Individual Needs: Assessment and Diagnosis

When it comes to optimizing learning for dyslexic students, identifying their individual needs through assessment and diagnosis is of critical importance. This initial step helps educators understand the specific challenges each student faces and tailor teaching strategies accordingly.

Assessment and diagnosis involve a comprehensive evaluation of the student's reading, writing, and language skills. Various assessment tools such as standardized tests, observations, and interviews are utilized to gather information about the student's strengths and weaknesses. This process helps identify the specific areas of difficulty, such as phonological awareness, decoding, or comprehension.

The assessment should consider the student's cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and executive functions. understanding these factors is crucial in developing effective teaching strategies that accommodate the unique learning style of dyslexic students.

Once the assessment is complete, the findings should be shared with the student, their parents, and the teaching team. This collaborative approach ensures everyone is on the same page and can work together to create an individualized education plan (IEP) that addresses the student's needs.

Effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students should be multisensory, structured, and explicit. This means incorporating visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements into lessons, providing clear and consistent instructions, and breaking down tasks into manageable steps.

Teachers should also provide ample opportunities for practice and reinforcement, using a variety of materials and techniques to engage students. Additionally, assistive technology tools, such as text-to-speech software or dyslexia-friendly fonts, can further enhance learning experiences for dyslexic students.

By identifying individual needs through assessment and diagnosis, educators can optimize learning for dyslexic students by implementing effective teaching strategies that cater to their unique strengths and challenges. Through a collaborative and supportive approach, dyslexic students can thrive academically and reach their full potential.

What is the importance of identifying individual needs in optimizing learning for dyslexic students? Identifying individual needs is crucial in order to provide tailored and effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students. By understanding their specific challenges and strengths, educators can create a supportive learning environment and implement targeted interventions that address their unique learning styles and difficulties.

How can assessment help in identifying individual needs of dyslexic students? Assessment plays a key role in identifying the individual needs of dyslexic students. It helps educators gather information about their cognitive abilities, reading and writing skills, and other areas of difficulty. Through various assessment tools and techniques, educators can gain insights into students' strengths and weaknesses, which in turn guides the development of appropriate teaching strategies and interventions.

What are some effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students based on assessment and diagnosis? Effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students should be based on the assessment and diagnosis of their specific needs. These may include multisensory approaches that engage multiple senses, structured and sequential instruction, explicit phonics instruction, assistive technology, and accommodations such as extra time for assignments or alternative assessment formats.

Individualized support and ongoing monitoring of progress are also essential components of effective teaching for dyslexic students.

→   What is multisensory learning dyslexia?

Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment

Creating an inclusive learning environment is vital in optimizing learning for dyslexic students. By implementing effective teaching strategies, educators can create an atmosphere where all students, dyslexic or not, can thrive and succeed.

One key strategy is to promote a multisensory approach to learning. Dyslexic students often benefit from engaging multiple senses in the learning process. For example, incorporating hands-on activities, visual aids, and auditory materials can help reinforce concepts and improve retention. This approach not only benefits dyslexic students but also enhances the learning experience for all students.

Another effective teaching strategy is to provide clear and concise instructions. Dyslexic students may struggle with processing information quickly, so it is crucial to break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Using simple language and providing visual cues can also support comprehension and reduce anxiety.

Creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment is equally important. Educators should foster a sense of belonging and acceptance, encouraging students to embrace their unique strengths and challenges. Group activities that promote collaboration and peer support can create a positive and inclusive atmosphere for all students.

Differentiation is also key in meeting the individual needs of dyslexic students. Offering a variety of learning materials, such as audiobooks or alternative reading materials, can accommodate different learning styles and preferences. Additionally, providing extra time for assignments or assessments can alleviate the pressure and allow dyslexic students to showcase their knowledge effectively.

Creating an inclusive learning environment is crucial for optimizing learning for dyslexic students. by implementing effective teaching strategies such as a multisensory approach, clear instructions, a supportive classroom environment, and differentiation, educators can ensure that all students, including those with dyslexia, have equal opportunities to succeed.

→   Learning Styles in Dyslexia: Finding the Ideal Approach

Multisensory Teaching Approaches: Engaging All Senses

Multisensory teaching approaches are vital when it comes to optimizing learning for dyslexic students. By engaging all the senses, educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment for these students.

One approach is to incorporate visual aids into the teaching materials. By using charts, diagrams, and images, dyslexic students can better understand and retain information. Visual aids provide a different way of processing information, allowing students to make connections and grasp concepts more easily.

Another important aspect is incorporating auditory elements into the teaching strategies. Dyslexic students often struggle with phonological awareness, so utilizing audio recordings, speech exercises, and interactive activities can help them develop their language skills. By hearing the sounds and patterns of words, they can improve their reading and spelling abilities.

Tactile and kinesthetic activities are also crucial for engaging dyslexic students. By involving hands-on experiences, such as manipulatives, models, and sensory materials, students can reinforce their learning through touch and movement. This multisensory approach helps them to better understand abstract concepts and enhance their overall comprehension.

Moreover, incorporating technology can greatly benefit dyslexic students. Educational software, apps, and assistive devices can provide interactive and personalized learning experiences. These tools can offer visual and auditory feedback, adaptive learning options, and individualized instruction, catering to the specific needs of dyslexic students.

By utilizing multisensory teaching approaches, educators can optimize learning for dyslexic students. by engaging all the senses, incorporating visual, auditory, and tactile elements, and leveraging technology, teachers can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment. these strategies enable dyslexic students to better comprehend and retain information, improving their overall academic performance and self-confidence.

Implementing Assistive Technology: Tools for Success

When it comes to optimizing learning for dyslexic students, implementing assistive technology can be a game-changer. Assistive technology refers to devices, software, or tools that help individuals with disabilities overcome challenges and improve their learning experience. For dyslexic students, assistive technology can provide a range of benefits, supporting their reading, writing, and organizational skills.

One of the most effective assistive technology tools for dyslexic students is text-to-speech software. This technology converts written text into spoken words, allowing students to listen to texts instead of struggling to read them. By providing an auditory alternative, text-to-speech software can help dyslexic students better comprehend and retain information. It also reduces the cognitive load associated with reading, freeing up mental resources for comprehension and analysis.

Another valuable tool is speech recognition software. This technology allows dyslexic students to dictate their thoughts and have them transcribed into written text. By bypassing the challenges of spelling and handwriting, speech recognition software enables dyslexic students to express themselves more easily and efficiently. It can also enhance their writing skills by providing real-time feedback on grammar and sentence structure.

In addition to these software-based tools, there are also physical assistive technology devices that can support dyslexic students. For example, digital reading pens can scan and read printed text aloud, helping students follow along and understand the content. Similarly, portable word processors offer a distraction-free writing environment with features like spell-check and word prediction.

When implementing assistive technology for dyslexic students, it is crucial to provide appropriate training and ongoing support. Teachers and educators should be familiar with the chosen tools and be able to guide students in their effective use. It is also important to collaborate closely with students and their parents to ensure the chosen assistive technology aligns with their individual needs and preferences.

By embracing assistive technology, educators can empower dyslexic students to overcome their challenges and maximize their learning potential. These tools not only provide practical support but also boost confidence and motivation. With the right tools and strategies in place, dyslexic students can thrive in the classroom and beyond.

Building Phonological Awareness: Strategies for Reading

Phonological awareness is a crucial skill for reading and is particularly important for dyslexic students. It refers to the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds in spoken words. By developing phonological awareness, students can improve their reading abilities and overcome the challenges associated with dyslexia.

  • Rhyming Games: Engage students in rhyming activities to help them identify and manipulate the sounds in words. Play games like "Rhyme Time" where students have to come up with words that rhyme with a given word. This helps them develop their phonemic awareness.
  • Sound Segmentation: Help students break down words into individual sounds. Start with simple words and gradually increase the complexity. For example, ask students to identify the sounds in words like "cat" (c-a-t) or "frog" (f-r-o-g). This strategy enhances their ability to isolate and manipulate sounds.
  • Syllable Counting: Teach students to identify the number of syllables in words. Use clapping or stomping to make it more interactive. For example, ask them to clap twice for words like "sunflower" or once for words like "cat". This helps students develop their phonological awareness and improve their decoding skills.
  • Phoneme Substitution: Encourage students to substitute sounds in words to create new ones. For example, ask them to replace the /m/ sound in "mat" with /p/ to create "pat". This activity enhances their ability to manipulate sounds and strengthens their phonemic awareness.
  • Multisensory Approaches: Engage students in activities that involve multiple senses, such as using manipulative letters or colored blocks to represent sounds and build words. This multisensory approach helps dyslexic students reinforce their phonological awareness and improves their reading skills.

By incorporating these strategies into the classroom, teachers can effectively build phonological awareness and optimize learning for dyslexic students. Remember, creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment is essential for their success.

Enhancing Writing Skills: Techniques and Support

Techniques for enhancing writing skills.

Improving writing skills is crucial for all students, including those with dyslexia. Here are some effective techniques to enhance writing abilities:

  • Multisensory Approaches: Incorporate multiple senses like touch, sight, and sound to engage dyslexic students in writing tasks. For instance, using tactile materials such as sandpaper letters or letter cards can help them better understand letter formation and improve their writing.
  • Chunking and Pacing: Breaking down writing tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can make them less overwhelming for dyslexic students. Additionally, allowing them to work at their own pace ensures they have enough time to process information and produce quality written work.
  • Explicit Instruction: Providing explicit instruction on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure is essential. Dyslexic students may struggle with these aspects, so clear explanations and examples can help them understand and apply the rules effectively.
  • Use of Assistive Technology: Leveraging assistive technology tools can significantly support dyslexic students in their writing. Features like text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and spell-checkers can assist them in generating ideas, improving accuracy, and editing their work.

Support Strategies for Dyslexic Students

To optimize learning for dyslexic students and enhance their writing skills, teachers can implement the following effective support strategies:

  • Structured Teaching: Providing a structured and predictable learning environment helps dyslexic students feel secure and more engaged in the writing process. Clear routines and consistent expectations allow them to focus on their writing tasks.
  • Individualized Instruction: Tailoring instruction to meet the specific needs of each dyslexic student is crucial. Identifying their strengths and weaknesses in writing and creating personalized learning plans can enable targeted support and foster their overall writing development.
  • Multi-sensory Instruction: Utilizing multi-sensory techniques for teaching writing can be highly beneficial for dyslexic students. Incorporating visual aids, manipulatives, and auditory cues alongside written materials can enhance comprehension and reinforce writing skills.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Encouraging and praising dyslexic students for their writing efforts is essential. Recognizing their progress and providing constructive feedback motivates them to continue working on their writing skills and builds their self-confidence.

By implementing these techniques and support strategies, educators can effectively enhance writing skills and optimize learning for dyslexic students. With the right support, dyslexic students can develop their writing abilities and reach their full potential.

Developing Effective Study Strategies

Developing effective study strategies for optimizing learning for dyslexic students: effective teaching strategies.

Developing effective study strategies is essential for optimizing learning outcomes for dyslexic students. By implementing targeted approaches, teachers can help students with dyslexia overcome challenges and achieve academic success.

  • Multisensory Learning: Dyslexic students often benefit from engaging multiple senses during the learning process. Incorporate visual aids, hands-on activities, and auditory elements to reinforce concepts and enhance understanding. For example, using colored markers to highlight important information or incorporating interactive software can aid in retention and comprehension.
  • Chunking: Breaking down complex tasks or information into smaller, manageable chunks can facilitate learning for dyslexic students. This approach helps them focus on one piece at a time, reducing feelings of overwhelm. Teachers can provide step-by-step instructions and encourage students to tackle tasks in a systematic manner.
  • Assistive Technology: Utilizing assistive technology can greatly support dyslexic students in their study efforts. Text-to-speech software, speech recognition tools, and spell-checkers can help with reading, writing, and editing tasks. Providing access to these tools empowers students to work independently and efficiently.
  • Explicit Instruction: Dyslexic students often benefit from explicit and direct instruction. Clearly explain concepts, provide examples, and offer opportunities for guided practice. By providing explicit instruction, teachers can ensure that students grasp key concepts and have a solid foundation for further learning.
  • Organization and Time Management: Developing strategies for organization and time management is crucial for dyslexic students. Encourage the use of planners, checklists, and visual schedules to help them stay organized and prioritize tasks. Teaching effective time management skills can help students allocate their study time wisely and reduce procrastination.

By implementing these effective study strategies, teachers can optimize learning for dyslexic students and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment. These strategies empower students to overcome challenges, build confidence, and succeed academically. Remember, every student is unique, so it's important to continually assess and adjust these strategies to meet individual needs.

Collaborating with Parents and Support Systems

Collaborating with parents and support systems is crucial when it comes to optimizing learning for dyslexic students. By involving parents and support systems in the learning process, educators can create a more effective and inclusive environment for these students.

  • Regular communication: Maintaining open and consistent communication with parents and support systems is vital. Teachers should provide regular updates on the student's progress, challenges, and achievements. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together to support the student's needs.
  • Individualized education plans (IEPs): Collaboratively developing IEPs for dyslexic students can provide a roadmap for their educational journey. These plans outline specific goals, accommodations, and interventions that will help the student succeed. Involving parents and support systems in the creation and review of IEPs ensures that everyone is actively engaged in the student's education.
  • Parent education and workshops: Organizing workshops and educational sessions for parents and support systems can be highly beneficial. These sessions can provide valuable information about dyslexia, its impact on learning, and strategies for supporting dyslexic students at home. By empowering parents and support systems with knowledge and resources, they can play a more active role in their child's education.
  • Collaboration in homework and assignments: Encouraging collaboration between parents, support systems, and educators in homework and assignments can enhance the learning experience for dyslexic students. This can involve providing clear instructions, breaking tasks into smaller steps, and offering support materials to assist with comprehension. When parents and support systems are involved in the process, dyslexic students feel more supported and motivated.
  • Utilizing assistive technologies: There are a variety of assistive technologies available that can support dyslexic students in their learning journey. Educators can work with parents and support systems to identify and implement these technologies, such as text-to-speech software, speech recognition tools, or dyslexia-friendly fonts. These tools can help dyslexic students overcome reading and writing challenges and optimize their learning experience.

Collaborating with parents and support systems is essential for optimizing learning for dyslexic students. by fostering open communication, involving parents in the education planning process, providing parent education, and utilizing assistive technologies, educators can create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that maximizes the potential of dyslexic students.

Optimizing learning for dyslexic students requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their unique challenges and needs. By implementing effective teaching strategies, creating inclusive environments, and utilizing assistive technology, educators can empower dyslexic students to thrive academically. Remember, every student is different, so it's important to assess individual needs and tailor interventions accordingly.

With the right support and a commitment to understanding dyslexia, we can create a more inclusive and equitable education system for all.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects reading and writing skills. It is characterized by difficulties in decoding and recognizing words.

How can educators identify dyslexic students?

Educators can identify dyslexic students through assessments and screenings that evaluate reading and writing abilities, phonological awareness, and other related skills.

What are some effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students?

Effective teaching strategies for dyslexic students include multisensory approaches, assistive technology, building phonological awareness, and providing tailored support and accommodations.

How can parents support their dyslexic children?

Parents can support their dyslexic children by advocating for their needs, collaborating with educators, providing a supportive home environment, and seeking additional resources and interventions.

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How dyslexia affects writing

Child and parent writing

Some children are born writers and love nothing more than pouring their imagination onto the page. But others have great difficulty with written work, whether it’s creative or factual. This is often the case for children with dyslexia .

Dyslexia doesn’t affect a child’s ability to come up with brilliant ideas for their written work. ‘Some dyslexics are tremendously good writers, with wonderful creative ideas,’ agrees Kate Saunders, chief executive officer of the British Dyslexia Association . But there are areas in which writing can be a particular challenge.

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: spelling

It’s natural for kids to struggle with spelling , especially when you consider that around 50 per cent of words in the English language are in some way irregular . But spelling can be especially hard for children with dyslexia , for a range of reasons.

They often struggle to order the letter groups in a word correctly. They may write certain letters backwards. They can struggle to link a sound to the letters that represent it, and they may have problems committing the shape of a word to their memory. ‘This difficulty with spelling can be very frustrating to a child who’s trying to put their ideas on paper,’ explains Kate.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: organisation

Poor organisation is an issue for many children with dyslexia, and not just when it comes to remembering their PE kit or what they have to do for homework . ‘Pupils often need help with planning their writing,’ Kate says. ‘If they don’t have a plan for what they’re going to write, they can lose the thread of where their work is going.’

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: punctuation and sentence structure

Because reading is laborious for children with dyslexia, they’re less likely to read for pleasure , which has a knock-on effect on their writing. ‘They don’t necessarily realise that the way we write is different from the way we speak, which means they may have difficulty choosing vocabulary and structuring their sentences,’ Kate explains.

Children with dyslexia sometimes have trouble with punctuation, too. ‘Because they have so much to think about, such as spelling, handwriting and sentence structure, punctuation can fall by the wayside as they have so many other things to think hard about,’ adds Kate.

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: following written instructions

Often, written work involves following written instructions, and that in itself can be difficult for dyslexic children. Their slower and less fluent reading ability and difficulty with organisation may mean that they find it harder to follow instructions in writing than they would verbally.

Dyslexic children can also have difficulty remembering a series of instructions given verbally by the teacher, so strings of commands should be avoided, and instructions given only 2 at a time. 

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: handwriting

Having dyslexia doesn’t necessarily mean that children have poor handwriting, but some have a co-existing disorder called dysgraphia . This condition is typified by slow, untidy and even illegible handwriting. ‘If children lack fluency in their writing, they’ll find it physically harder, and they may find it difficult to read their own writing, which makes it hard to re-read, correct and edit their work,’ Kate explains.

Writing challenges for dyslexic children: low output

The combination of difficulties that children with dyslexia may face means that many of them work very slowly. ‘Teachers and parents often find that dyslexic children produce a smaller quantity of written work than their peers, and that what they do produce doesn’t reflect their academic ability or understanding of a topic,’ Kate says.

7 strategies for helping dyslexic children with writing

1. Help them with keywords

Taking away some of the effort of thinking about spelling can help dyslexic children focus on the structure and content of their writing. ‘For example, they could have a box of keywords – commonly used words and words related to the task – on their table to use as prompts while they’re writing,’ says Kate.

2. Allow computer work

Dyslexic children can find it much easier to produce written work on the computer than by hand, especially longer pieces. As they get older, you can introduce the spellchecker, although this does require some mastery of spelling as certain errors (such as ‘their’ instead of ‘there’) may not be picked up. Dictation software can also be useful for children who struggle with the writing process.

3. Try handwriting tools

If your child has difficulty with handwriting fluency, there are plenty of writing aids that can help, ranging from special pencils to sloped surfaces to use on their desk. ‘Spend some time making sure they’re sitting correctly and gripping their pen properly,’ Kate advises. ‘A pen or pencil with a triangular shaft can encourage a good handwriting grip.’ Build fluent movement of the hand across the page by encouraging them not to press down too hard.

4. Listen to stories out loud

Reading aloud to your child and encouraging them to listen to audiobooks can help to improve the quality of their writing. ‘Dyslexics tend not to read for pleasure as it’s such hard work, so listening to stories can help them understand how written English differs from spoken English,’ Kate says.6. Encourage planning

‘Children with dyslexia often benefit from someone helping them plan their work,’ Kate says. This could take the form of brainstorming a topic, writing a paragraph plan, or listing key points that they need to include in their written work.

5. Encourage planning

6. Break tasks into chunks

Because children with dyslexia tend to write more slowly than their peers, written tasks can seem insurmountable. To make them less daunting, encourage your child to split homework into manageable chunks, for example by getting them to write a paragraph at a time, followed praise or a reward. Simply 'being there’ to help them get down to starting to write can also be very helpful.

7. Don’t obsess about accuracy

While good spelling and neat handwriting are important, the content of children’s writing matters just as much – and sometimes more. Make sure you give your child due praise and recognition for their ideas and creativity, rather than always pointing out the errors they’ve made.

For more advice and support with your child’s dyslexia, visit www.bdadyslexia.org.uk or contact the helpline on 0333 405 4567 or by email at [email protected] .

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5 High-Impact Writing Strategies for the Elementary Grades

Simple, effective exercises can help elementary students develop the foundational writing skills they need for their academic journey.

Elementary students writing at their desks

When considering writing as part of the instructional day, teachers may think only of the type of writing where students engage in storytelling or informational pieces. While the ability to leverage student choice and produce fiction and nonfiction text is beneficial for all grade levels, it’s important to consider how writing can be incorporated and layered across all content areas, as well as develop the deep foundational understanding to prepare young writers for authoring texts.

For us as teachers, it’s vital that we share a common language and understanding about the types of high-impact writing strategies that students can engage in and how to effectively implement them in the classroom. 

1. Handwriting in the Early Grades

In the digital age, prioritizing handwriting education during phonics instruction remains instrumental in nurturing well-rounded learners and sets them up for success when more stamina is required of them. The tactile experience of handwriting establishes a profound connection between language and sensory perception, contributing increased cognitive development .

Teachers can adopt a common path of movement language (language used to describe how to form the letters) when teaching the letters. In addition to that, providing students with multisensory ways of forming the letters helps create a strong understanding of the letters’ features.

A practical example of this type of instruction is having students trace a lowercase a in a tray full of salt, repeating the path of movement language, “over, around, down.” Then, students practice writing the letter using a pencil or dry erase marker. As the teacher models the directionality, it’s important to ensure that students know what “over,” “around,” and “down” mean and look like and that the teacher is using on-the-spot intervention for correction.

2. Dictated Sentences

Utilizing dictated sentences in elementary phonics instruction holds profound importance in nurturing early literacy skills. This strategy serves as a powerful bridge between decoding individual phonemes and comprehending them within a meaningful context. 

For example, in a phonics lesson where students are practicing decoding and spelling words with a short i vowel and have practiced reading the high-frequency words they and the , the teacher may end the lesson with students writing the dictated sentence, ”They will fill the big bin with wigs.”

This method encourages the application of phonics knowledge in real-word scenarios, promoting fluency and automaticity. In addition, dictated sentences provide a valuable opportunity for students to hone their listening skills, enhancing their ability to discern and reproduce distinct phonetic elements accurately and to authentically apply irregularly spelled high-frequency words in context. This practice benefits students of any grade level working on phonics skills.

3. Writing to Read

Another foundational type of writing that prepares students for more demanding types of writing in later grades is writing to read. This is an interactive approach to early writing instruction where the teacher models early literacy and print concepts starting as early as prekindergarten through early kindergarten. Through collaboration with the students, the teacher models drawing pictures and sentence creation.

Teachers can start by engaging students in a conversation around an event in a book or nursery rhyme they read together. Then, the teacher offers a prompt: “In the story, the characters went to play at the park. That gives me an idea for a story. What kinds of things do you like to do at the park?” Students can share multiple ideas for the story, and the teacher chooses one to model. 

While the teacher explicitly models drawing and develops a sentence about the drawing, the students offer ideas on where to start writing, count the words in the story, identify the sounds they hear as the teacher spells out each word, and notice where spaces will occur. The more that students engage in this type of instruction, the more responsibility we can hand over to them, and they can write the story along with us. As students are given more opportunities to apply early writing principles and rereading strategies, they begin to understand the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing.

4. Reading to Write

When the foundations for early writing have been established, students can quickly move into another layer of high-impact writing, which is writing about the texts that they’re reading. 

Even starting in kindergarten, encouraging students to write and/or draw in response to reading across multiple content areas is a valuable strategy that helps deepen comprehension and understanding of a particular topic, as explored in Linda J. Dorn and Carla Soffos’s book Teaching for Deep Comprehension .

These “writing about the reading” prompts require students to analyze, synthesize, and connect ideas, fostering a deeper understanding of the material. For example, if first-grade students are working on story elements, after reading a story, a student might write, “The character in the story is a bear who lives in the forest. The problem in the story is that he is sad, but he solves his problem when he learns to be happy.” 

This expression encapsulates comprehension, language reinforcement, and academic vocabulary. As students progress through grade levels upward to 12th grade, the scaffold of giving the students a prompt for writing about the text should decrease as they develop enough self-regulation to write about their own thinking.

5. Writing About Learning

Similar to reading to write, this strategy is solely focused on writing about what the student has learned, why the learning is important, and when to use the learning. This type of writing can happen as early as kindergarten, but in a highly scaffolded manner that mostly focuses on articulating why the learning is important.

Students up to 12th grade can benefit from writing about their learning because it keeps the purpose of what they’re learning in various content areas relevant and promotes quick retrieval of the information.

This strategy also promotes metacognition , because it helps learners organize their thoughts and reflect on their learning process. For instance, a second-grade class could collaboratively study the nature of bees in a nonfiction text. Then, because the teacher focuses on the skill of identifying and explaining main ideas and details, a student may write, “I learned the main idea by using headings and key details. Knowing main ideas helps us understand the most important information in a text.”

Teaching Strategies for Students with Dyslexia

A tutor works with a student with dyslexia.

Stephen Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher—people often cite these celebrities as individuals who managed to thrive despite the potential limitations of their dyslexia. While it’s encouraging to know that people can overcome the challenges of this learning difference, educators need practical tools to help them support students with dyslexia.

An advanced degree in education can equip educators with key teaching strategies for students with dyslexia, helping to ensure equity for all learners.

What Is the Definition of Dyslexia? 

By definition, dyslexia is a learning disorder that includes trouble recognizing language sounds and how they relate to written language, also known as “decoding.” Areas in the brain responsible for processes that detect and link sounds to their corresponding letters don’t function in people with dyslexia the same way that they do in people without it. Research published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities suggests dyslexia can affect up to one in five people.

Although it doesn’t impair development or intellectual functioning, this variation in neuro processing makes it difficult for students with dyslexia to quickly and accurately hear, store, remember, and produce different speech sounds. As a result, students with dyslexia can struggle with reading, writing, and spelling. They frequently take longer to decode words when reading and may have limited comprehension of what they’ve read. They also may have trouble rapidly verbalizing responses to what they see.  

Dyslexia Symptoms

Dyslexia presents itself in various ways, but a student’s age strongly factors into the symptoms teachers may observe.  

Students with dyslexia in grades K-5 struggle to remember letter names and sounds. Recognizing sight words also poses a problem. When reading aloud, these students may substitute words and confuse letters with similar appearances or sounds. For example, students commonly mix up the letters b and d .

Additional signs of dyslexia in this age group include difficulties:

  • Blending letter sounds
  • Sounding out unfamiliar words
  • Recognizing words that rhyme
  • Skipping smaller words such as of and by when reading aloud
  • Spelling the same word consistently
  • Remembering important details from readings  

It’s common for younger students with dyslexia to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when reading. Many avoid reading as much as possible.  

Students in grades 6-12 may have a hard time recalling common abbreviations and acronyms such as approx. and ASAP. These students may need much more time to read assignments than their peers. When speaking, they may struggle to find the right words and use substitutes instead. For example, they may substitute the word gate for fence .

Other common signs of dyslexia for older students include:

  • Taking notes and copying material from the board
  • Following multistep instructions
  • Spelling all words phonetically
  • Summarizing stories
  • Making sense of jokes, idioms, and puns
  • Reading at a normal or quick pace

Effects of Dyslexia on Students

Dyslexia can significantly affect students in classroom environments, especially when educators don’t use inclusive teaching strategies for students with dyslexia to help address its related challenges. For starters, dyslexia can impede a student’s academic progress. Students with dyslexia may struggle to keep up with their peers. Their basic skills, such as word reading, can fall below grade level, as do their reading comprehension and analysis skills.

Research also shows that dyslexia can affect students’ ability to perform across the curriculum. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities found that students with dyslexia performed well below their peers in both reading and math. Such learning deficits build up over time, making it more and more challenging for students with dyslexia to experience academic success.

In addition to its academic impact, dyslexia has social and emotional impacts. As noted, some students with dyslexia struggle to find words, making it hard for them to express themselves. This can interfere with their ability to make social and emotional connections.

At some point, students with dyslexia also begin to notice that they don’t learn as fast as their peers. This may cause them to question their intelligence and develop low self-esteem. It may also cause them to withdraw or misbehave out of frustration.  

Tips for Teaching Students With Dyslexia

While students with dyslexia face challenges, they can still thrive in school if given the right support. Teaching strategies for students with dyslexia can help these learners compensate for the different ways that their brains process information, giving them a chance to succeed academically.

Incorporate Multisensory Learning

In many classrooms, students rely almost entirely on their sight and hearing to learn. Multisensory learning aims to incorporate tactile and kinesthetic activities into the learning process as well. This gives students with dyslexia more ways to understand, remember, and recall new information. 

Multisensory learning engages students in movements and activities that involve touch. This, coupled with the use of visual and auditory materials, creates multiple opportunities for students with dyslexia to absorb and retain information. It also helps take abstract ideas and turn them into something more concrete. 

Multisensory activities may include:     

Sand Writing

For sand writing activities, students receive paper plates with sand. The teacher calls out a sound and students repeat it. Students then trace a letter in the sand corresponding to that sound as they verbalize the letter’s name and sound.

This kinesthetic activity stimulates the brain in many different ways, giving students a greater chance of successful retention.

Blending Boards

For blending board activities, teachers use large cards printed with individual letters; digraphs, such as ph and ck ; or blends, such as sh and st , to form a CVC word: a word consisting of a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant. To help students read the word, the teacher covers up the letters and reveals them one by one. Students produce the sound of each letter individually and then blend them together to read the word in its entirety.  

Arm Tapping

For arm tapping activities, teachers display a card with a word written on it. Using their dominant hand, students say the letters of the word. As they say each letter, they simultaneously tap their arms, starting from their shoulder down to their wrist. Next, students say the whole word and sweep their hands down their arms as if underlining the word.  

Use Assistive Technology

Assistive technology empowers students with dyslexia to overcome some of the challenges that hold them back. These tools help students save time and give them a chance to showcase their abilities and knowledge in ways not possible before. Assistive technologies range from recording devices that allow students to take notes to voice recognition tools that transform speech into text on a screen. 

Assistive technologies that can help students keep pace with their classmates include:

Pocket Spellcheckers

These devices contain dictionaries that recognize phonetically misspelled words. Students type in a word to the best of their ability and the spellchecker provides the word’s correct spelling through text or audio. Students with dyslexia can use this tool to build their confidence when writing and get instant feedback on their spelling.

 Line Readers

Some students with dyslexia struggle to see words accurately on the page. Letters may appear to be moving or students may see them in the wrong order. Line readers can help eliminate some of these distractions. The tool highlights a single line of text at a time and blocks the surrounding areas. This helps students keep their place and stay focused.

Digital Scanning Pens

Digital scanning pens can capture both handwritten and digital text and transmit it to a mobile device or a computer. Some versions of the tool read text out loud as a user scans it.

Provide Appropriate Accommodations

Students with dyslexia often have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that lay out accommodations appropriate to their needs. Educators are responsible for familiarizing themselves with these accommodations, which may include the following:

  • Extended time to take tests
  • The option to provide oral answers rather than written ones
  • Exemption from reading out loud in class
  • A quiet study space

Additionally, when introducing new material, teachers can use teaching strategies for students with dyslexia such as:

  • Preteaching vocabulary and unfamiliar ideas
  • Providing outlines of the lesson with space for student to add notes
  • Creating advance organizers that preview the material covered in the lesson
  • Giving students a glossary of terms used in the lesson

Teachers may also consider the following inclusive strategies when giving instructions:

  • Offering written step-by-step directions and reading them aloud
  • Keeping instructions simple
  • Showing students how to break assignments into smaller tasks
  • Providing checklists that help students monitor their understanding and progress
  • Underlining keywords and ideas on materials that students should read first
  • Giving examples of completed work, along with rubrics

Empower Dyslexic Students to Thrive 

Educators who effectively employ teaching strategies for students with dyslexia open doors for a group of learners who might otherwise be stifled. With the right training, educators can gain the skills needed to empower dyslexic students. Discover how American University’s Online Master of Arts in Teaching prepares educators to create classrooms where all students can thrive.    

Teacher Salary With a Master’s: Maximizing Your Earning Potential

5 Jobs With a MAT Degree

Special Education Teacher Salary and Job Description

Child Mind Institute, “Understanding Dyslexia”

Journal of Learning Disabilities , “Reading and Math Achievement in Children With Dyslexia, Developmental Language Disorder, or Typical Development: Achievement Gaps Persist From Second Through Fourth Grades”

Journal of Learning Disabilities , “The Prevalence of Dyslexia: A New Approach to Its Estimation”

Learnosity, Line Reader Tool

Mayo Clinic, Dyslexia

National Center on Improving Literacy, Defining Dyslexia

Number Dyslexia, “7 Engaging Multisensory Approach Activities”

TeachHub, “How Does Dyslexia Impact Student Learning Long Term?”

Understood, “Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexia”

Wired , “The Best Assistive Technology for Dyslexics”

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Get In Touch: 01633 439 220 or [email protected]

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The Best Strategies For Teaching Dyslexic Students

Strategies For Teaching Dyslexic Students

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that primarily affects reading and writing skills.

It’s a condition that is often first apparent in childhood and continues on into adulthood.

Dyslexia does present a number of challenges, but with the right support and tailored teaching techniques, someone with the condition can learn and go on to do well with their studies.

In this article, we will share advice on the best strategies for teaching dyslexic students, as well as tips on how this progress can be continued at home.

Let’s get started.

A Recap Of Dyslexia

Understanding dyslexia is the first step to helping students.

Dyslexia is a condition that makes reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes speaking challenging due to difficulties in processing language.

Recognising that dyslexia varies in severity and can coexist with other learning difficulties is crucial.

Equally important is understanding that it’s not a reflection of a child’s intelligence or hard work.

Dyslexic students often have strengths in other areas like creative thinking or problem-solving.

For more information on getting a dyslexia diagnosis, please click here .

Tips For Teaching Dyslexia Students

Now we’ve recapped what dyslexia is and how it can impact a child, let’s go over some of the ways you can support your student or child on their learning journey.

Creating A Dyslexia-Friendly Environment

A dyslexia-friendly environment is supportive and non-judgemental. It’s essential to create a learning space where students feel safe, understood, and valued.

This includes adjusting lighting and seating arrangements and providing a clutter-free, organised space.

Adopt Multi-Sensory Teaching Techniques

Multi-sensory teaching techniques can be highly effective.

This approach involves using multiple senses (sight, hearing, touch, and movement) to help students learn and remember information.

For example, using letter tiles to form words or coloured overlays for reading can make a significant difference.

Use Of ColourAand Visual Aids

This expands on our advice in the point above – use colours and visual aids to enhance learning.

Incorporating colour coding, charts, and visual organisers can make information more accessible and memorable.

Try To Simplify Instructions

Clear and concise instructions are key, so break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps and provide them in verbal and written form.

Repeating instructions and checking for understanding can also be helpful.

Encouraging Oral Participation

Many dyslexic students excel in oral skills. Encourage class discussions, oral presentations, and storytelling.

This not only builds confidence but also allows students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that play to their strengths.

Use Technology

Technology can be a great ally. Text-to-speech and speech-to-text software, audiobooks, and digital learning tools specifically designed for dyslexic learners can be very beneficial.

Focus On Their Strengths

Emphasise students’ strengths and celebrate their talents and interests, whether in arts, sports, or other areas.

This can boost their self-esteem and motivation.

Adjust Reading Materials

Choose your reading materials carefully.

Use texts appropriate for the student’s reading level, with a clear font and good spacing.

Providing summaries or simplified versions of texts can also help.

Create Individualised Learning Plans

This is perhaps one of the best things you can do, as each dyslexic student is unique.

Individualised learning plans (ILPs) that cater to their specific needs and learning styles can be highly effective.

This might involve one-to-one tutoring or small group sessions.

Teach Different Spelling Strategies

Teaching specific spelling strategies, like mnemonics or breaking words into syllables, can be useful.

Encourage the use of spell checkers but also teach the skills needed to identify when a word ‘looks wrong.’

Encourage Reading For Enjoyment

This can involve allowing students to choose their reading material based on their interests, which can foster a more positive attitude towards reading.

Build Writing Skills Gradually

Develop writing skills gradually.

Start with simple sentences and gradually move to more complex structures.

Mind mapping can be a useful tool for organising thoughts before writing.

Provide Extra Time

Allow students with dyslexia extra time for reading, writing, and test-taking.

This helps reduce stress and allows students to demonstrate their understanding and skills fully.

Develop Their Listening Skills

Work on helping the student to develop good listening skills.

Activities that involve following verbal instructions can enhance listening and comprehension abilities.

Offer Alternative Assessment Methods

Be flexible with assessment methods.

Consider oral presentations, visual projects, or practical demonstrations as alternatives to traditional written tests.

Be Patient And Consistent

Patience and consistency are essential when teaching students with dyslexia.

Celebrate small achievements and maintain a steady approach to teaching and learning.

Collaborate With Parents

Work closely with parents or caregivers to share strategies and resources and communicate openly about the child’s progress and challenges.

Seek Professional Development

Engage in professional development.

Understanding the latest research and teaching methods for dyslexia can greatly enhance teaching effectiveness.

Continue Learning At Home

Parents and teachers who communicate can support a child with dyslexia in and out of the classroom.

Parents can adopt the tried and tested methods from school to reinforce learning and provide support with homework tasks.

What Is The Best Teaching Method For Dyslexia?

The best teaching method for dyslexia involves a multi-sensory approach, which engages more than one sense at a time, enhancing learning and memory.

This method acknowledges that dyslexic students often struggle with traditional reading and writing techniques due to difficulties in processing language.

By incorporating visual, auditory, kinesthetic (movement-based), and tactile (touch-based) learning activities, educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment.

We’ve included a few examples of this further up in the guide.

Don’t forget that lessons should be structured in a way that breaks down information into small, manageable chunks.

Repeated reinforcement and regular, positive feedback are crucial to build confidence and skills.

This method doesn’t just focus on the areas of weakness and leverages the student’s strengths, such as creativity or problem-solving skills.

The multi-sensory approach is flexible and can be adapted to each student’s unique needs, making it one of the most effective methods for teaching dyslexic learners.

Further reading: Is dyslexia a disability ?

Our Final Thoughts

Teaching students with dyslexia effectively requires understanding, patience, and tailored strategies.

By creating a supportive environment, using multi-sensory teaching methods, and focusing on each student’s strengths and needs, educators and parents can help dyslexic students overcome their challenges and achieve their full potential.

Remember, dyslexia is just one aspect of a student’s learning profile, and with the right support, they can excel academically and in other areas of life.

If you think your child may have dyslexia, you can book an assessment here or get in touch for more information.

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Navigating dyslexia in the school setting: strategies for success.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects individuals’ ability to read, write, and spell effectively. In the school setting, students with dyslexia may face unique challenges that can impact their academic performance and overall well-being. However, with the right strategies and support in place, these students can succeed and thrive in a school environment. In this article, we will explore various effective approaches for navigating dyslexia in the school setting to help students achieve success despite their learning differences. From understanding the symptoms of dyslexia to implementing specialized instructional techniques, we will delve into how educators and parents can work together to create an inclusive and supportive educational experience for students with dyslexia. By utilizing evidence-based practices and individualized interventions, we aim to empower students with dyslexia to reach their full potential academically and beyond. Let’s start our journey on navigating dyslexia in the school setting: Strategies for Success.  Visit our website to learn more!

Identifying and Understanding Dyslexia Symptoms in Students

  • Difficulty reading accurately and fluently, particularly with decoding words
  • Poor spelling, including frequent reversals of letters or confusing similar word spellings
  • Struggling to sound out unfamiliar words or comprehend written text
  • Slow and inaccurate reading that impacts comprehension
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading or writing

It is important for educators to be able to recognize these common symptoms of dyslexia in students. By understanding the signs, teachers can provide appropriate support and interventions to help these individuals succeed in the school setting. Early identification and intervention are key in addressing the challenges faced by students with dyslexia.

Implementing Effective Accommodations and Interventions in the Classroom

  • Use Multisensory Approaches : Incorporate activities that engage multiple senses, such as sight, sound, and touch, to help dyslexic students better retain information.
  • Provide Additional Time for Tasks : Allow extra time for assignments and tests to accommodate slower reading speeds and processing difficulties typically seen in students with dyslexia.
  • Utilize Assistive Technology : Introduce tools like speech-to-text software or audiobooks to facilitate reading comprehension and written expression. This can alleviate the challenges faced by dyslexic students when it comes to decoding words or organizing thoughts.

Collaborating with Parents, Teachers, and Support Staff for Student Success

  • Open Communication:  Establishing clear lines of communication between parents, teachers, and support staff is essential in supporting students with dyslexia. Regular updates on progress and challenges can help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals for the student.
  • Individualized Plans:  Collaborate to develop individualized education plans (IEPs) or 504 plans that outline specific accommodations and strategies to support the student’s learning needs. These plans should be regularly reviewed and adjusted as needed to ensure continued progress.
  • Professional Development:  Teachers and support staff may benefit from professional development opportunities on dyslexia awareness and best practices for supporting students with dyslexia. By building their knowledge and skills in this area, they can better meet the needs of these students in the classroom.

Promoting a Positive and Inclusive School Environment for Students with Dyslexia

Creating a supportive environment.

  • Encourage open communication between teachers, parents, and students to address any concerns or challenges.
  • Provide resources such as assistive technology or specialized instruction tailored to individual needs.
  • Foster understanding and empathy among peers to promote inclusivity and reduce stigmatization.

Implementing Accommodations

  • Offer extended time for assignments and tests to alleviate pressure and provide sufficient opportunity for comprehension.
  • Utilize multi-sensory teaching methods that cater to different learning styles and enhance retention.
  • Allow for alternative assessments like oral presentations or visual projects to showcase understanding beyond traditional written formats.

Cultivating Self-Esteem

  • Empower students with dyslexia by highlighting their strengths and accomplishments.
  • Celebrate progress no matter how small, reinforcing a growth mindset rather than focusing solely on deficits.
  • Provide opportunities for leadership roles or participation in extracurricular activities to boost confidence outside of academic settings.

writing strategies for dyslexic students

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How should writing be assessed?

  • Understand the components of writing
  • Know how to assess these components
  • Have compendium of writing tests

Overcoming writing problems begins with a good assessment

Many individuals with dyslexia or learning disabilities think that writing comes easily for others, but this is not the case. Writing is a complex process. Even great writers need to work at it. They draft, edit, and re-write many times until they are satisfied with the final copy.

When assessing written language, we need to first have an understanding of the individual's verbal expression abilities. Many times, oral word finding and formulation problems can manifest in writing. In the case of a person with dyslexia or a learning disability, he or she may have an idea in mind, but find it difficult to express the idea verbally as well as on paper. A good assessment will compare oral skills with written ones.

Additionally, the individual may lack the skills and strategies in spelling or writing mechanics (e.g., punctuation, using paragraphs appropriately) to write effectively; however, with systematic intervention this can be overcome. Since writing is an involved process, there are a number of areas that may be challenging or difficult for a dyslexic and, therefore, should be assessed. These difficulties may include:

  • Poor spelling
  • Difficulty trying to formulate ideas
  • Decreased use of mature vocabulary
  • Poor use of syntax (i.e., poor use of grammar)
  •   Poor use of punctuation
  • Poor planning
  • Poor organization
  • Poor editing skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Slow writing
  • Procrastination and feelings that the first attempt should be perfect, which consequently inhibit the writing process and product

Some general thoughts on assessment

Systematic and comprehensive writing assessment tools provide you with the ability to diagnose writing difficulties, plan effective writing programs, and monitor progress with your client. Without an effective assessment tool, clients may receive intervention that does not target their specific needs, resulting in slow or poor writing development/achievement.

It is helpful to do some preliminary exploring in order to choose the ideal assessment tool that will align with the client's areas of difficulty. For example, do you know if he has good ideas, but has difficulty writing them down? Maybe the client's ideas are not organized well, or he lacks the skills to go back and edit appropriately. Does she understand that we write differently depending on the purpose and our audience? A brief discussion with the individual will help you choose the right test.

Always obtain a sample of the client’s writing. You may need to see different types of writing (e.g., a term paper, fictional piece) depending on the age of the client. This will help you determine where the areas of difficulty lie and what to assess.

Tests vary in which writing skills are assessed; however, most target spelling, handwriting, grammar, punctuation, editing, sentence construction, and vocabulary. To make the best use of these tests, choose a norm-referenced test that provides the information most applicable to the client’s needs. The main limitations of norm-referenced writing tests are the extensive time required to administer and score them, and the need for a trained, qualified examiner who is experienced in scoring subjective writing assessments. Given that clients may demonstrate problems in multiple areas of writing or have trouble with only one area of writing, it can be a challenge to select an assessment that can provide you and the client with the best information for designing an individualized therapy program.

As noted above, there are several different writing assessments. Our Tests page contains information about various tests, including a brief description and the age group each test targets .

In addition, you can also informally assess your client’s knowledge and use of writing strategies through interviews and self-report questionnaires. You can evaluate how your client(s) apply planning, revising, and editing strategies through an informal writing task. This information allows you to see if your client is aware of writing strategies; if he is able to describe how and when to use particular strategies; and how frequently he actually uses strategies. This informal assessment can provide additional information for you when developing therapy goals and implementing treatment.

As with most interventions, assessment is a key component in developing an effective writing instructional program to meet individual needs. The results of assessment highlight specific areas of difficulty, allowing you to create a systematic and individualized therapy program.

Although learning to write and teaching writing can sometimes be daunting and overwhelming, it helps to take a step-by-step approach using your individualized therapy program, and to know that your client will learn the strategies and enjoy writing. Success starts here!

in this section

  • Learn about Dyslexia
  • Students' Strengths and Interests
  • AD/HD and Dyslexia
  • Structured Literacy
  • Interprofessional Practice
  • How Dyslexia Affects the Curriculum
  • Accommodations
  • Strategies for Teachers
  • Teaching Meta-Cognition Skills
  • Teaching Self-Advocacy
  • Universal Design
  • Goal Setting Tips
  • Morphological Awareness
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Reading Fluency
  • Word Retrieval and Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN)
  • Working Memory
  • More on Writing
  • Informal Narrative Writing Assessment
  • Expository Writing and Dynamic Assessment
  • Writing Intervention
  • Writing Resources
  • Foreign Language
  • Mathematics
  • Foreign Language Study Tips
  • Tips, Tools and Apps for Helping Dyslexic Students
  • Apps for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities
  • Software & Assistive Technology
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  1. How To Teach A Dyslexic Child To Read And Write

    writing strategies for dyslexic students

  2. Writing With Dyslexia: Tips and Tricks for Improvement

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  3. Dyslexia Blog Posts and Free Information

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  4. writing resources for dyslexic students

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  5. Dyslexia: Strategies You Can Try at Home

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  6. Spelling is often a lifelong struggle for people with dyslexia

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  1. Lecture notes part 1

  2. Dyslexia and its Impact on Children's Mental Health

  3. Innovative teaching for dyslexic students

  4. Top 10 revision tips for dyslexic students

  5. Dyslexia & Multisensory English

  6. 2 Ways to Feel Confident and Accept Dyslexic Strengths as an Adult


  1. 6 Writing Strategies for Students with Dyslexia

    1. Provide explicit instruction on good writing. As with any good instruction, begin with explicit teaching of what good writing entails. Provide students with good models using a relevant or high-interest topic. Have students highlight and notate what makes the model example a good paragraph or essay.

  2. Writing Strategies

    Step 1: Plan: Getting the plan together. Establish your timeline! Work back from the due date. Set goals & establish purpose. Consider: Topic, Form (i.e., medium of writing), Audience, and the Role you will take as the writer. Brainstorm. Generate ideas and keep your topic and goals in mind. Generate as many ideas as possible through: reading ...

  3. Why Children With Dyslexia Struggle With Writing and How to Help Them

    Students with dyslexia often also have writing difficulties. This is not surprising, as reading is theorized to be a central component of writing in some cognitive models of writing development (e.g., Graham, 2018; Hayes, 1996).The writing difficulties of students with dyslexia can be partially attributed to their reading difficulties and can manifest in many ways in their writing, such as ...

  4. PDF The Dyslexia Toolkit

    disorder can hinder reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes even speaking. Before we go further, let's take a look at how dyslexia can manifest itself in writing: This text was taken from our interview with Stanford University graduate Ben Foss. You'll find the interview on page 34. Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness.

  5. How to Help Dyslexic Students with Writing

    Writing Strategies for Dyslexic Students. Many people with dyslexia show a strength in visual-spatial learning. As with reading, you can help your student with dyslexia improve their writing by using visual aids to help them connect words with objects or scenes. Mind mapping is an example of a visual technique that helps many children with ...

  6. 7 Vital Tips to Help Improve a Dyslexic Student's Writing Skills

    OxEssays: An online writing community to help answer any writing-related questions. Citation Generator: An online tool for adding citations and quotes to any piece of written work. 6. Provide Constructive Feedback. It's important when you teach writing to go through a student's mistakes with them, rather than simply saying it's wrong.

  7. PDF Writing with Dyslexia

    Like other writing strategies, studies advice to start out working on short excerpts and to break ideas down into small units, before tackling larger, complex structures. However, in order to better serve the needs of students with dyslexia, studies highlight how oral and aural elements can help improve writing and reading skills.

  8. Writing Intervention

    Vocabulary It is very important to help your students learn to use descriptive vocabulary and non-literal language when writing. To do so, they need to have repeated exposure to sources rich with vocabulary. Dyslexics will often simplify their word choices due to difficulties with spelling or word retrieval.

  9. Tips for writing

    According to Price (2007), writing is difficult for students with dyslexia/SpLD because: It involves planning and working interchangeably between large- and small-scale levels of writing. (Large scale refers to the overall structure of the text, its form or genre, and the writing process as a whole.

  10. 10 Tips for Teaching Writing to Your Dyslexic Students

    This is not to say that learning how to write was easy. It wasn't, but here are some tips that helped me and will probably help most dyslexic students: 1. Use pictures. Most people with dyslexia minds are highly visual. Pictures will help us describe something in words and add details. 2.

  11. Dyslexia in the Writing Center: Multimodal Strategies

    Dyslexia is defined as "difficulties in various aspects of writing skills making the individual unable to develop age-appropriate and ability appropriate functional skills." (Tariq and Latif, 2016, p. 151). Difficulties can occur in everything from handwriting to differentiating letters.

  12. Teaching Writing to the Dyslexic Student

    Outline your paper. 4. Write the first draft without concern for grammar, spelling and punctuation. (This can be hard for the perfectionist student by the way!) 5. Sit with teacher/mom and go through paper line by line for grammar, spelling, punctuation and organization of ideas. 6.

  13. Reading and Writing Strategies for Students With Dyslexia

    A classroom assistant can transcribe the dictation of a student with learning disorders. This aids the student in separating intellectual content from the effort of writing, instilling confidence in his or her ability to think. Listening to story tapes can build a love of literature that is separate from the task of reading with dyslexia.

  14. 7 Engaging Writing Activities For Students With Dyslexia

    1. The Graph Activity. Things You need to perform this activity are a few pencils & graph Sheets. This activity helps students who face a hard time writing the alphabet in a straight order. To start, Take the first sheet of graph paper and tell them to write a letter on the entire sheet with a pencil.

  15. Tips From Students

    Embrace the Power of Dyslexia. Believe in yourself. Dyslexia teaches you to budget your time and work hard, and that work ethic will help you no matter what you decide to do in life. Talk to others who are dyslexic and listen to success stories from other dyslexic individuals. They will inspire and encourage you.

  16. PDF Why Children With Dyslexia Struggle With Writing and How to Help Them

    The writing difficulties of students with dys-lexia can be partially attributed to their reading difficulties and can manifest in many ways in their writing, such as poor spelling, poor legibility, lack of diverse vocabulary, poor idea development, and/or lack of organization. Dyslexia and writing difficulties co-occur for two overarching reasons.

  17. Students with Dyslexia: Strategies and Techniques for Success

    Dyslexic individuals can benefit from confidence-building activities to help reduce anxiety and stress associated with the challenges of dyslexia. Oxford Learning Help For Students with Dyslexia. Dyslexia may present unique challenges in reading and writing, but students can thrive with the right strategies and techniques.

  18. Optimizing Learning for Dyslexic Students: Effective Teaching Strategies

    Support Strategies for Dyslexic Students. To optimize learning for dyslexic students and enhance their writing skills, teachers can implement the following effective support strategies: Structured Teaching: Providing a structured and predictable learning environment helps dyslexic students feel secure and more engaged in the writing process ...

  19. Dyslexic Students Learn Differently: Tips, Tools and Apps to Help Them

    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.

  20. How dyslexia affects writing

    7 strategies for helping dyslexic children with writing. 1. Help them with keywords. Taking away some of the effort of thinking about spelling can help dyslexic children focus on the structure and content of their writing. 'For example, they could have a box of keywords - commonly used words and words related to the task - on their table ...

  21. High-Impact Writing Strategies for Elementary Students

    As students are given more opportunities to apply early writing principles and rereading strategies, they begin to understand the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing. 4. Reading to Write. When the foundations for early writing have been established, students can quickly move into another layer of high-impact writing, which is ...

  22. Teaching Strategies for Students with Dyslexia

    Additionally, when introducing new material, teachers can use teaching strategies for students with dyslexia such as: Preteaching vocabulary and unfamiliar ideas. Providing outlines of the lesson with space for student to add notes. Creating advance organizers that preview the material covered in the lesson.

  23. The Best Strategies For Teaching Dyslexic Students

    The best teaching method for dyslexia involves a multi-sensory approach, which engages more than one sense at a time, enhancing learning and memory. This method acknowledges that dyslexic students often struggle with traditional reading and writing techniques due to difficulties in processing language. By incorporating visual, auditory ...

  24. Navigating Dyslexia in the School Setting: Strategies for Success

    Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects individuals' ability to read, write, and spell effectively. In the school setting, students with dyslexia may face unique challenges that can impact their academic performance and overall well-being. However, with the right strategies and support in place, these students can succeed and thrive in a school environment.

  25. How should writing be assessed?

    Since writing is an involved process, there are a number of areas that may be challenging or difficult for a dyslexic and, therefore, should be assessed. These difficulties may include: Poor spelling. Difficulty trying to formulate ideas. Decreased use of mature vocabulary. Poor use of syntax (i.e., poor use of grammar)

  26. Dyslexic children are not 'dumb', they have a learning disorder

    Dyslexia is classified as a learning disorder where an individual struggles to read. The disorder affects a person's ability to decode words, break them down into syllables and then read. With the presented difficulti­es, they experience challenges in reading, writing and spelling. However, the learning disorder is not a determinan­t of one ...