UK reading expert Professor Maggie Snowling has an excellent 5-minute talk on YouTube about how to help children with dyslexia – not always a term used in Australia, but this talk is relevant to any child who is at risk or struggling to learn reading and spelling for no obvious reason.
Here's a quick summary of the video, but feel free to skip it and just watch the video below:
- In the preschool years children with oral language difficulties should receive early intervention from a Speech and Language Therapist (in Australia called Speech Pathologists – click here to find one, or if you're outside Australia, see this page).
- In preschool it's also wise to teach children about letters and the sounds they represent, just one or two letters at a time, to tune them into the notion that letters and sounds are related.
- Once they start school, parents should be aware of how their child is going relative to other children, and because systematic Synthetic Phonics is now mandatory in the early years of primary school in the UK, teachers should also be very aware of who's not catching on to sounds and letters. In Australia most early years classrooms aren't yet using systematic Synthetic Phonics, but most early years teachers can still tell you who in their classes is struggling by about the middle of the first year of school.
- Schools should have an action plan for quickly helping children who are not catching on to sounds and letter, firstly working in small groups, using one of the many catch-up programs now available.
- If children are then still struggling, the school should provide them with individualised help.
- Prof. Snowling says parents should not be doing all the remedial work themselves, as they have a vital parenting role, supporting their child emotionally, building their strengths and praising them for their abilities. Parents should be supporting literacy intervention but not taking on the role of teacher.
- She highlights the importance of not mixing up reading for pleasure (reading to children) and reading for instruction (children reading themselves), so that children who are struggling still have access to quality literature, narrative structure, vocabulary, discussion of stories etc and to fuel their creativity, while still building their decoding skills to the point where they can read these stories independently one day.