What are accommodations for students with dyslexia?

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Dyslexia on June 27, 2022
Dyslexia often entails a lot of learning problems that go beyond mere reading difficulties. Fortunately, you can manage most of them. Here’s how.

    Students with dyslexia struggle with reading, math problems, and audiovisual material across the board, no matter their age, grade, and reading level. Fortunately, we can accommodate most of their needs if we put some extra time into our lecture planning and make sure our Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are tailored to them.

    What are common signs of dyslexia?

    Although we think of dyslexia as synonymous with reading difficulties, it is actually a whole spectrum of potential learning disabilities. That means that symptoms are going to vary from learner to learner, making it difficult to give a single satisfying definition. 

    To keep things simple, however, we can focus on some common symptoms that are bound to surface in the bulk of affected children. Those include poor spelling ability, generally impaired reading skills, poor phonological awareness (i.e., difficulties decoding spoken language), as well as dysgraphia (that is, impaired writing skills).

    If you have experience working in special education, you might associate those symptoms with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or autism. While such disorders often do occur together, there are no indications that a dyslexic child necessarily has to be on the autism spectrum.

    How does dyslexia affect reading ability?

    As we’ve said, reading and spelling difficulties are the core of dyslexia and present the bulk of the problem, demanding some adjustments in the learning environment. As reading is one of the staples of classroom learning, the inability to decode text leads to a myriad of problems.

    For one, impaired reading skills result in poor vocabulary acquisition and a general lack of world knowledge students accumulate by reading over an extended period of time. Most importantly, though, it affects memory and attention, as reading comprehension typically doesn’t depend on the student’s fluency but a combination of skills hinging on symbol mapping, memorization, and attention.

    Of course, while reading skills often translate to listening and speaking skills, they are not necessarily dependent on each other. A student might need additional time decoding a text, but they might surpass their peers and be above their grade level when it comes to spoken language.

    Classroom accommodations for dyslexic students

    Teaching is tough. Even when working in small groups, making sure every student’s needs are met is a never-ending challenge. If you have dyslexic students to take care of, things become much harder, especially if their reading and writing skills are severely impaired. 

    If you’re in such a situation, it’s paramount that you don’t panic. Instead, take things slow and make small accommodations over time based on your students’ input as well as their parent’s advice. For starters, you can:

    Use visual aids

    Color strips and visual schedules are an old-school teaching aid for a reason. They are helpful not only if you have dyslexic students but also if there are visual learners in the classroom. Since dyslexia doesn’t impact color recognition abilities, associating different colors and shades with different concepts might make it easier for your students to complete their tasks.

    Make things colorful when you do have to rely on text

    Sometimes you just have to do some reading tasks with your students. When that time comes, highlighters and stick-it notes will be your best friend. Simply highlight those words that are giving your students trouble and instruct them to rely on color as a memorization device.

    Use audiobooks and tape recorders 

    If text is out of the question, you can rely on audio material, especially if you’re a foreign language teacher. Assign some audiobooks or record some material yourself for your students to analyze.

    Give your students appropriate homework assignments 

    Naturally, if your students are already struggling in the classroom, there is no need to force them to go through something similar at home too. When assigning homework, try replacing traditional worksheets, writing assignments, and fill-in tests with audio assignments.

    Techniques to help students with dyslexia

    While a good teaching approach is the foundation of any education program, learning is still mostly the student’s responsibility. Without putting some effort into their work, the student will simply not make good progress, not just in reading programs but in general. If you’re a student and classroom remediation is not cutting it, you can rely on:

    Spell-checkers, note-taking tools, and writing assistants

    We live in a digital age, so most of your learning is probably done on a computer or some other electronic device. For students with dyslexia, that can be a blessing because there are tons of apps designed to help you spell properly, take notes more efficiently, and organize your papers to make them coherent and grammatically sound. 

    Programs and services like Word and Google DOCs come with built-in spell checkers that will let you know when you’ve made a mistake and often correct it for you. Then, you can use something like Grammarly to make sure your text flows well before submitting it. 

    Text to speech technology

    Text to speech and speech to text software (TTS) are a type of assistive technology that has become indispensable in the classroom in the last few years. We’re talking about apps like Amazon Polly, Voicely, and Murf that will serve as your personal reading assistant, helping you complete your homework and process information much faster.

    The TTS market is vast, and there is an app out there guaranteed to accommodate your learning differences and level the playing field in the classroom. Speechify, for example, was built from the ground up with dyslexic students in mind and can thus help you burn your checklist with minimal effort.

    The core tenet of the Speechify team is that everything should be convertible into an audiobook. The app supports virtually all text formats, so you can upload your e-books and learning material and have it read to you in the voice of your choice and in most major languages. You can also import books from Audible and tune them up!

    Further, relying on state-of-the-art optical character recognition solutions, Speechify can scan your printed material and turn into audio files that you can again fine-tune according to your liking. If you’re struggling with phonological awareness and can’t keep up with your lectures, customizable speech rates, pitch, and tone will be a game changer. Try Speechify yourself.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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