Understanding dyslexia

October 06, 2019

This week, 7-13 October, is Dyslexia Awareness Week. We spoke to Annemarie Ranson, Centre Director at our Bracknell centre, about her expertise in helping children with dyslexia…


Understanding dyslexia – a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)

Dyslexia only affects particular parts of an individual’s overall learning ability, and the degree of difficulty that a person will have can depend on a whole range of factors – no two dyslexic individuals will be the same. Children with dyslexia may also have other SpLD characteristics such as ADHD, Dyspraxia, ASD.

Children with dyslexia can have difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory and sequencing, but these are not linked to intelligence. Many people with dyslexia have shown strengths and abilities in tasks that involve creative and visual thinking, as well as practical and problem solving skills.

Dyslexia affects how a person’s brain processes and stores information. For example, when a child with dyslexia is reading they can be so focused on trying to recall a particular sound associated with a letter that their brain is not as free to build on the fluency or understanding of what they’ve read. Children may also use the incorrect sound for the letter or vice versa, as their brain doesn’t make an automatic link between the two.

Dyslexia can also have an impact on the way in which words are stored in the brain. A non-dyslexic individual can find it easier to recall similarities in the sounds in words eg: bread, head and lead. However, an individual with dyslexia can use a different filing system of words and remembers them as whole things sometimes related to a meaning or image. For example: head – something that sits on your shoulders and bread – something you eat.

How to support children with dyslexia

  • Structured Multisensory Learning – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

Different approaches to learning can be very useful for children with dyslexia as they need to have links between what they say, hear and do. It will also give children more opportunities to grasp meaning. Here are three methods:


  1. Say the words after me: pain, mail, tail, train.
  2. What is the common sound?
  3. Say the words again and tell me where you hear the sound.


  1. Look at the words train, pain, mail, tail.
  2. Tell me the common pattern in the word.


  1. Watch me write the letters.
  2. Trace the letters and say (a) is ‘ai’.
  3. Copy the letters.
  4. Without looking, write the letters.
  • Onset-rime.

This can help the learner focus on patterns rather than learning each new word in isolation. The ‘onset’ refers to the initial sound unit of a word, and the term ‘rime’ is the string of letters that follow.

For example, with the word ‘sat’: s=onset and  at=rime

  • Reading cards

These can support sound-symbol linkage. The front of a card shows a letter in both capital and lower case. On the back, there is a word starting with that letter and a picture of the word.

You can also use these to support reading word patterns. Have the start of a word on one card and the second part on another card and try to match them up.

When working with a child with dyslexia, they may need many and frequent opportunities to keep practising. So try different word games and you and your child can both have fun learning!

Annemarie Ranson has worked for Explore Learning for over eight years. She has a personal passion for helping children with dyslexia and has supported many families since joining Explore Learning.

Annemarie is currently studying Practical Solutions For Dyslexia, which includes modules in practical strategies for reading and spelling. She will continue her studies up to level 7 so she can qualify as a practitioner to diagnose children with dyslexia.

Get in touch with your local Explore Learning centre if you would like to speak to one of our experts about supporting your child.



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