Although much has been discussed about diversity and inclusion, which I personally have always thought very enriching, to my point, there is still a huge gap to be filled. We do not have enough lectures, workshops, knowledge or preparation, despite our effort to do the best. I truly believe no child should be left behind or neglected at any rate, thus I attended to a workshop offered about spLD (Specific Learning Differences) and Dyslexia in a BRAZTESOL Conference to understand better each learning difficulty. But, to my surprise, I found myself completely uncomfortable and absolutely unprepared to deal with these learners in the classroom.
This feeling flourished a few years ago when I received two teenagers who have dyslexia and had to cope with their learning difficulties. When you search on the Internet, you can find out number of information and piles of articles about it, however, not much on “how to teach a foreign language to dyslexics”. Then, I started to ‘develop’ my own way of teaching based on my observations in class. Later, I discovered it was suitable and worked well, for instance, I wrote in capital letters and used different colors to highlight the lexis, verbs, adverbs and others. As time went by, I was anxious to improve my skills and a specific course on the topic would help me. After looking for this kind of course in São Paulo, Brazil, I felt really devastated when I could not find any. Fortunately, in 2016, Lancaster University provided an online course; ‘Dyslexia and Foreign Language teaching’ which I happily took part in and highly recommend every teacher to take it too. You may be asking yourself: Why should I know or study about dyslexia since I do not have any students with disability? The fact is, one out of ten people have dyslexia regardless the geographical region, http://www.austinlearningsolutions.com/blog/38-dyslexia-facts-and-statistics.html so during our career as ELT we are likely to ‘bump into’ one inside our class sooner or later. Moreover, the students are eager to overcome their barriers and learn another language with their teacher’s help and support. So, it is vital to be informed and prepared, otherwise we risk to neglect and even worse, discourage these learners.
Having researched, studied and experienced some issues and situations that may affect the learning process of a second language in dyslexics, I have come up with two short lists for us to bare in mind when teaching:
DIFFICULTIES TO OVERCOME:
- mix up letters
- misread words
- read more slowly than others
- have difficulties in understanding meaning
- Have problems in reading aloud and paying attention to meaning due to short attention span.
- Have difficulties memorizing new vocabulary
HOW CAN WE HELP? Basically, adapting the tasks:
- Shorten reading text
- Divide text into shorten sections
- Use illustrations and glossaries of unknown words
- Prepare quick and easy comprehension questions
- Use technology to help them organize themselves, there is a variety of apps http://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/apps-for-dyslexia.html
- Games can also be helpful
- Do not forget to use multisensory techniques
I urge teachers to develop, talk, share ideas, information and doubts on this issue because we have unique and different experiences which, for sure, are important to others. When we promote a collective thinking in order to come up with solutions, we are much more motivated, productive and successful.
The secret for outstanding outcome is to care. When we care and dedicate ourselves to a good cause, good things happen naturally.