How to Teach Students with Dyslexia Using Multi-Sensory Reading Techniques

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Dyslexia Basics

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia affects up to 20 percent of all people. Dyslexia hinders a child’s ability to read, write and spell. Dyslexia may also cause problems with oral language. Symptoms of dyslexia include delayed speech, difficulty learning letters and words, difficulty memorizing math facts, difficulty reading fluently with comprehension, and poor spelling.

Dyslexia Instruction

Bright Solutions for dyslexia explains that the best way to teach children with dyslexia involves using a multi-sensory approach. Typically, school settings rely on mainly visual and auditory learning only. Students who learn about reading and spelling through auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and visual activities retain and retrieve information more efficiently. Children with dyslexia do not usually learn phonetic or spelling rules intuitively; thus, they require explicit instruction in each and every rule pertaining to reading and writing.

Classroom Applications

Teachers can implement multi-sensory teaching techniques throughout the school day or they may want to implement these techniques while working with just the dyslexic students. Also, tutors and teaching assistants can use multi-sensory teaching techniques with dyslexic students. Practical teaching strategies for dyslexic students include:

  • Saying a letter name while looking at the letter on a flash card and drawing the letter in the air with their finger.
  • Use play dough or clay to make letters and words while looking at and saying the words.
  • Use sandpaper letter shapes to allow students to feel the shape of the letter with their finger while saying the letter name and sound
  • While looking at a letter, the child says the sound and also traces the letters shape with his foot on the floor.

To teach any concept using multisensory techniques, simply present each concept visually, auditorily and kinesthetically or tactilely. The key is to have students simultaneously participate in visual, auditory or kinesthetic/tactile activities all at one time.

Visual Presentations:

  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Demonstrations
  • Diagrams
  • Drawings
  • Concept Maps
  • Models
  • Videos
  • Flash Cards
  • Rainbow writing (writing over a letter or word using many different colors on top of one another)
  • Graphic organizers
  • Manipulatives (counters, plastic letters)

Auditory Presentation

  • Books on Tape
  • Clapping or tapping whenever spelling words
  • Role Playing
  • Poetry
  • Background music
  • Read alouds
  • Lectures

Kinesthetic Activities

  • Air writing
  • Clapping or tapping whenever spelling words
  • Interpretive dance
  • Catch ball math drills (catch a ball when answering a math problem)
  • Reciting math facts or spelling words while jumping rope
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Building models
  • Extra large writing on a whiteboard to exaggerate the shape of letters or words
  • Walking while reviewing materials
  • Building words with letter tiles

Tactile Activities

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Felt story boards
  • Finger writing on different surfaces such as in a pan with shaving cream or on textured cloth
  • Foot writing in carpet, grass or sand
  • Board Games
  • Sorting letters, numbers, words, objects
  • Using manipulatives to solve math problems