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Accessibility: Supporting English Learners with Dyslexia

July 11, 2022

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference which affects information processing, memory, and organizational skills. 

Learners with dyslexia may find reading, writing, and spelling more challenging. They may also need additional support to plan their time. 

Often learners with dyslexia are very creative and excel at artistic tasks or solving problems. 

Here are some tips for supporting learners with dyslexia: 

Speak to your learners

This is one of the most important things to do with any language learner who has additional needs. Every learner is different and will benefit from their own tailored support plan. 

Set aside time to have a guidance appointment with them and discuss ways you can help. For young learners, involve their parent(s) or guardian(s).

Give extra time

Learners with dyslexia may need more time to read and process a text.

It's common for dyslexic learners to re-read entire paragraphs. They may miss lines or sections as they read or confuse visually similar words. They may even see words that "float" or appear to move around as they read a text.

Give instructions one step at a time

Learners with dyslexia may find it confusing to receive too many instructions at one time. To make the lesson as accessible as possible, give classroom directions one at a time. 

Example of information overload: "Open your computer, log in to Ellii, view your assignments and then read the text. Once you’ve done that, answer the comprehension questions." 

Instead, break it down into stages and give new instructions once each task has been completed.

Example of simple instructions:  "Open your computer."

In reality, this is good practice for teaching all language learners. Often making small changes to your teaching practice to make learning English accessible for an individual can benefit the whole class. 

Use assistive tools 

There are lots of different apps and software which can help learners with dyslexia. For example, spell-checkers, voice-to-text, mind mapping, and text-to-speech.

Ellii uses Microsoft’s Immersive Reader which allows learners to customize their own reading experience. Students can change the text size, view the text in full-screen, adjust the translation to their preferred language, and have the text read aloud. 

Learn about dyslexia-friendly fonts

In general, larger, sans serif fonts with double line spacing are easier to read, especially for people with dyslexia. 

There are also a variety of fonts which have been designed specifically to support dyslexic readers. Their effectiveness depends on individual preference.

Speak to your learners and find out if they have any font preferences. 

Use visuals

Dyslexic learners often enjoy multisensory approaches.

Visuals such as graphic organizers, mind maps, diagrams, and charts have minimal text so they can reduce processing load. They also appeal to dyslexic learners’ creativity and aid memory.

Here are two examples from Ellii's Writing in English lesson on How to Brainstorm:

Example of a Venn diagram from Ellii's Writing in English lesson on How to Brainstorm

Example of a Venn diagram from Ellii's Writing in English lesson on How to Brainstorm.

example mind map from Ellii's Writing in English lesson on How to Brainstorm

Example of a mind map from Ellii's Writing in English lesson on How to Brainstorm.

Share your thoughts!

Do you support language learners with dyslexia, or do you have dyslexia yourself? What works for you and/or your students? Let us know in the comments below.

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