The best way to teach your dyslexic child to read and spell – phonics and dyslexia part 1

This blog on phonics and dyslexia is part of my dyslexia in the classroom series and a must read for parents and all educators. Please read and share.

It’s important to remember that dyslexia affects (among other things) the ability to hear (and learn) how individual letters represent sounds. Blending sounds, decoding words and spelling are all difficult for kids with dyslexia and therefore it’s vital that they are taught to suit their learning style.

Given that these basic skills are affected, it’s really important that your child’s school is aware of the best way to teach any child with dyslexia to read. While certain phonics programmes are very common in primary schools (Jolly Phonics is one of the most popular examples), they are not the best way to teach a child with dyslexia. Believe it or not, they’re not structured enough.

When Ella was first diagnosed with dyslexia, a great deal of emphasis was placed on her re-doing her phonics. This made sense to me however I hadn’t realised how important an approach called Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) is. At this time, Ella was simply taken back to the start of the school’s phonics programme and struggled just as much as she had first time round.


dyslexia resource pack

Step by step with Toe By Toe

I was overwhelmed with all the information on dyslexia and had no idea which path was the best one to take. However with hindsight, and the best advice I can give to anyone with a young, newly diagnosed, dyslexic child is to purchase the book Toe by Toe. Especially if your child’s school doesn’t follow a highly-structured alternative to phonics.

toe by toe bookIf your child is being given extra classes of phonics, I would suggest that they work through this book from the beginning with their support teacher. This will ensure everyone is on the same page with regards to support.

Toe by Toe is a highly structured phonics-based manual, specifically designed to be used for just 20 minutes every day. It guarantees almost instant improvement. Best of all, it is easy to understand so can be used at home or school. You do not need to be a teacher to support your child as they work through the book.

Structured synthetic phonics - an example

Highly structured synthetic phonics programmes increase understanding of phonics in small, manageable steps. No words are taught with sounds not yet learned and absolutely no guesswork is involved. There is a precise order to teaching the sounds followed by a highly structured practice. Spelling and reading are taught together.

Multisensory is always best for phonics and dyslexia

When combined with a multisensory approach to learning, it is proven to be a successful method of teaching a dyslexic child to read and spell. Had I known all of this when we were just starting out on our dyslexia journey, I’d have saved a great deal of time and tears.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I’m a strong advocate for multisensory learning. The following are simple ideas to midify any phonics curriculum for children with dyslexia using structure and multisensory approaches:

  • Teach all sounds in isolation and use text examples that only use sounds that the student has been taught. Do not introduce new sounds in the text examples.
  • Teach sounds in a strict order (any order as long as there is one). This helps with organisation and structuring the decodable texts.
  • Multisensory techniques to introduce include:
    • Air writing, sand trays and finger tapping and colour coding are great options when learning new sounds
    • Ask your students/child to say the sound as they write it
    • Introduce games using the sound groups
    • Have them listen to the text as they follow it on paper.

For more information on teaching a child with dyslexia to spell, read my post here.

Educating the educators

I am extremely passionate about schools being dyslexia friendly and accessible. Unfortunately, most of them fail to live up to their own claims. Children with dyslexia learn differently, and as my dyslexia in the classroom series shows, small changes to classroom design and teaching techniques will make the world of difference to those with any kind of learning difficulty.

Are you a teacher and want to find out more? Click here to visit my Dyslexia in the classroom series. For more information, contact me here at any time. I love to hear from you and am only happy to help!