School is starting and for parents of Dyslexic students all the worries for their children’s education become a daily concern again. Homework is always a big one.
Dyslexic children use more areas of the brain to process language tasks than the average reader therefore they expend more energy – 5 times more!
“…according to a new study by an interdisciplinary team of University of Washington researchers…to explore the metabolic brain activity of six dyslexic and seven non-dyslexic boys during oral language tasks..
~The dyslexics were using 4.6 times as much area of the brain to do the same language task as the controls,” said Richards, a professor of radiology. “This means their brains were working a lot harder and using more energy than the normal children.”~ ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 1999)
So when a Dyslexic child comes home from school the last thing they want to do is homework. They are mentally and physically exhausted from 5 times the exertion as a other students, frustrated with not understanding what they are learning and humiliated by impatient teachers and cruel classmates. If they have Irlen Syndrome which is common with Dyslexics (see info on our website: Irlen Syndrome and Dyslexia – Dyslexia Victoria Online) they can be further drained experiencing stomach and head aches, dizziness, irritated eyes and other physical ailments of Irlen. Dyslexics can also experience a lot of discomfort from sitting in a desk all day and other issues that torment Dyslexics.
Parents of Dyslexic students will often set up a homework environment that they believe will help their child focus on their homework. Their good intentions however can actually make it more difficult for their child to get their homework done. Some considerations to think about to create a “dyslexia friendly” atmosphere:
- Let them have a break before starting homework after school – exercise is a great relaxer and way to de-stress rather than sitting down in front of the TV. They could ride a bike, go for a walk, play some kind of sport, play with their friends, etc. before settling down to their homework. The break can work wonders.
- Give them a protein snack after school to give them energy – protein bar or drink, raw nuts, peanut butter crackers, boiled eggs for example. No sugar as it can make them over-stimulated and then they crash when the sugar wears off.
- Make sure they have all their homework. Dyslexics tend to have difficulty organizing themselves. They will forget to bring their homework home. Ask the teacher if they could have a handout with the assignments listed and remind the student before school is out to gather their work to take home. Dyslexics often forget even with the best of intentions. This is not deliberate or lazy.
- Make an arrangement with the teacher to let you know about big projects and their dates for completion. Dyslexics often have a terrible time keeping this information together also. My Dyslexic son had great difficulty remembering his homework. The teachers and I tried everything. Finally I got one teacher to communicate with my son’s other teachers and send home a list of all his homework for me. It worked and eventually as he grew up he got better at organizing his work. Of course this was a very thoughtful teacher. Teachers generally don’t have time for helping a student this way but it can’t hurt to try to get cooperation.
- Help them with a list of what they have to do. Remind them what to do next. As I mentioned before – organization is tough for Dyslexics and needs to be understood, tolerated and supported. Write the list on a whiteboard or big piece of paper.
- Create star charts for homework assignments, chores and tasks that need to be done such as getting ready for school. Rewards for completing these charts is a great incentive for a reluctant, disorganized child. You can even take photos of them doing the chore or task and adding them to the poster. A picture is always “worth a thousand words” – which is the Dyslexic way. Here are a couple of examples – one you can purchase from amazon – the other is a free download.
- Another reason to have the teacher make a homework handout for the Dyslexic student is they often cannot copy notes from the whiteboard easily and cannot get it all written down.
- Establish their learning style (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). Everyone generally has a dominant sense for learning and processing new information but Dyslexics especially respond well to teaching approaches and environments that take their best learning sense into consideration.
- A multi-sensory teaching program strongly based on physical hands-on demonstrations for all lessons is effective for all children but especially Dyslexics. They think in images first and then words therefore they need a concrete example of what they are learning to understand and process new information. They do not learn sequential step by step methods easily if at all so everything should make sense to them first. If they are visual learners you also want to use movies, posters, painting, drawing, etc. Auditory students like to be read to along with a demonstration and kinesthetics do best using movement.
- To go along with learning style consider the physical environment.
- Do they need the room dead quiet or music, TV or white noise (beach or jungle noises for example)? A set of headphones with the right background music or white noise works great at home or school. I have parents get teachers permission for this accommodation and usually they get their approval.
- Do they need no one including animals in the room or do they prefer the activity?
- Do they need to stand a lot, walk around and work on a white board or lay down and roll around on the floor while doing their school work?
- Do they need something in their hand(s) like a worry ball or playdoh? Some kids do well with tossing beanbags around while practicing spelling words or facts for tests.
- Keep their working area clear of objects. Dyslexics tend to get distracted by stuff on the table or desk they are working on.
The way to determine what the best working environment is talking to your child about what feels right for them and observe when they are on task and when they are not. Everybody learns differently so the conditions that compliments their thinking style is going to be much more beneficial than just sitting at a table in total quiet – unless of course that works for your child.
I often work with a Dyslexic students moving or playing with objects in their hands. The parent wants them to stop. The student however will be understanding and remembering everything we are talking about. The parent generally says they have noticed that despite this behavior their child has been learning in the past. The parent thought however they should be sitting at a table or desk and still.
Think about your own situation when learning, concentrating or doing work – what is your best scenario? I bet it is different from other family members.
If you have found any great ideas for doing homework with a Dyslexic child, let me know. Much of what we have learned about Dyslexics is not just from the experts but from adult Dyslexics, parents of Dyslexics and of course Dyslexic children. Dyslexics are after all incredible problem solvers and always have amazing solutions or observations.
Founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online
Homework can be a frustrating and upsetting experience for dyslexic children and their parents on a daily basis. Below are some tips to help make homework a more profitable experience.
How much homework?
The purpose of homework is to practice something that your child is already familiar with. If homework is too difficult, you should discuss this with the child’s teacher. Don’t allow your child to become frustrated because homework tasks are beyond their skills or take too long. Setting smaller amounts of work and/or allowing extra time will often help.
Establishing a Routine.
Develop a daily homework routine. It should also be flexible enough to take into account after-school activities.
Daily reading is essential.
- Practice is required for students with dyslexia to develop and master literacy skills.
- Read aloud with your child when they are becoming frustrated. This helps them to understand and enjoy what they are reading.
- Your child can also read along with books on tape or CD.
- An adult reading a bedtime story to a child from a book slightly more difficult than the child can read themselves, can help the child learn new vocabulary, generate ideas and be an enjoyable experience for both.
- Divide homework tasks into manageable chunks. Give breaks between tasks. Encourage your child to produce quality work rather than rushing tasks.
- Go over homework requirements to ensure your child understands what to do. Read instructions aloud, if necessary, practise the first example or two with them.
- Help your child to generate ideas for writing tasks and projects before they start work.
Checking and monitoring work.
Help your child to learn to check their own work so they can go over their own work more independently as they get older.
- Teach your child to use the computer for work as they get older. Show them how to use a spell checker and encourage them to learn touch typing skills on a suggested Typing Tutor program. See BDA Tech for further information.
- If they are slow to complete work, see how much work they can do in five minutes. If homework is regularly taking too long or is too difficult, you should discuss this with the teacher.
- Give your child lots of praise as they complete homework tasks.
- Help them develop a comprehensive, written homework plan include revision of subjects as well as set homework tasks.
- Encourage your child to keep their school notes and work together in folders so they don’t get lost or damaged. Colour coding of subjects can greatly assist organisation and planning.
- If students are not writing down their required homework tasks accurately, arrange for them to check with someone in the same class at the end of the day. Or ask teachers to give them written homework instructions.
- Liaise with teachers regularly to check that students are completing homework tasks and classwork correctly and are handing in work at school.
- It is helpful to make sure that everything needed for the next school day is packed up the night before and placed by the front door.
- Make sure that your child has effective plans for approaching tasks like essay writing, coursework, study for examinations. Talk to the school's Special Education Needs Coordinator or subject teachers about these.
- Build up independent work skills in your child and problem solving strategies when they are “stuck” or not sure of how to go about homework. For example, get your child to think about several different ways they could complete the task correctly. They can also think about who they can ask for help when they have tried other strategies.
- Encourage them to make notes, such as on coloured cards, underline or highlight key words in colour, draw pictures, etc. when studying to aid their memory.
For information and advice on ITC and assistive technology, please visit the BDA New Technologies Committee by following this link.