The Dyslexia Toolkit for School
Thanks to ALAIS WINTON for sending us this advice for dyslexic students who might be dreading being back at school…
As August rushed towards an end for many all too quickly, back-to-school supplies appeared in the shops. I still remember the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach as I approached each new year at school. I longed to see my friends again, many of whom lived at least one bus ride away, but the classes and the work were daunting to say the least. As an undiagnosed dyslexic, I knew that I found reading and writing, especially spelling, difficult but had no idea why.
In the days before technology and spellcheck systems I relied on friends and family for help but remained fearful each new term that this would not be enough, that I would fail.
Since March 2020 new challenges for learners have arisen. Online learning which for some dyslexic learners has been beneficial, allowing those learners more time to revisit the learning and a more autonomous approach to learning, has also been an additional challenge for many dyslexic learners.
If someone learns well as part of a group, they will have missed real-time interaction.
If someone learns well through ‘hands-on activities’ they may have missed out on more practical applications of the learning, which can be tricky to deliver online.
Young people who already find learning challenging and have negative associations linked to school are likely to have struggled to be motivated to carry out work set by the teachers.
Teachers were very much thrown in at the deep end and have done their best to adapt accordingly. However, any major change takes time to adjust to, no matter how good the teacher is. As a result of this massive change and various year groups needing to isolate at varying times even post-lockdowns, significant gaps are likely to exist in many young people’s learning.
So if you are a parent of a young person (who, like I used to) is dreading the return to school and feels like they have fallen behind, I offer the following suggestions. Ask them to take an invisible toolkit with them.
Items for their invisible toolkit:
Sounds great, right? But how do you get these attributes, especially when you may be feeling the opposite?
I once had a job where my manager kept telling me that I needed to be more confident; this did not work – if anything it had the reverse effect and I felt less confident.You can’t just tell yourself to be confident and then really feel it. Positive affirmations aside, most of us need something to back this up.
So what could the young person in your life do to feel more confident?
What they could do is list all the things they are really good at and enjoy, even if they feel like these things have nothing to do with school. They could record themselves saying this list if they don’t want to write it down. Then ask them to think about their list: did the things on their list require learning of some sort?
My list would include:
- Spending time with friends; window shopping
- Listening to music
Most of this list was not on my curriculum at school. Some schools offer dance classes now but this was some way off when I was in school. Food technology was very rigid and followed specific things: you couldn’t just make a cake.
Although none of my list featured in a typical school day for me, these were all things I learnt successfully, practised outside school time and enjoyed. This gave me the confidence to see that I am able to learn new things and even able to enjoy learning.
In terms of resilience, you could tell them the following: we have survived a global pandemic. We may have lost loved ones along the way and may still be grieving; however, for all the hardships and heartache that the past two years have brought, if you are reading this, or are listening to this and are here now, you have survived!
My good friend often quotes the ‘Chumba Wumba’ song, in relation to this, because it doesn’t matter if you get ‘knocked down’ as long as you ‘get back up again’.
Patience can be one of the hardest attributes to acquire. I still have days when I feel impatient with myself, usually if I can’t understand why the technology I’m using doesn’t seem to be working properly.
The best advice I can offer on this is: if they find themselves starting to lose patience with something, ask them to imagine they are their own best friend. They could remind themselves that they have made progress even if it seems slow, that they will crack it eventually and that it is all right to take a break and come back to it later.
If as a parent you find yourself supporting online learning at home, especially for learners with dyslexia, find out what motivates your young person. It may be the promise of an activity that they consider more ‘fun’ once they have met the goal.
If possible, offer times to revisit the session/content at a later stage to check understanding of the content delivered. If the content can be used in a ‘fun’ way, for example making a quiz on it, this is likely to be more memorable to the learner.
Handwritten notes can take a long time for a dyslexic to achieve; consider alternatives such as recording the notes on a dictaphone or phone app or using pictures and diagrams and so forth to supplement notes.
Give lots of praise and encouragement; for you it may be a small step but for them it may have felt like a giant leap.
To contact Alais to find out more about her work and her excellent books, email:
or phone 07749 449984.