For a significant number of children and adults, developing strong literacy skills requires overcoming the challenges posed by specific learning differences, such as dyslexia. Dyslexia impacts on reading, writing and spelling abilities but can also cause individuals to suffer from low self-esteem and lack confidence in the classroom.
While it is something people have for life, technology and strategy use can make language-based activities easier. For example, typing on a computer gives children and adults access to spell-checkers and helpful text-to-speech tools.
Mnemonic devices aid with learning the spelling of hard words. Memorizing high frequency vocabulary reduces the cognitive load involved in reading. Additionally, dyslexics who have had training in touch typing can reinforce phonics knowledge, use muscle memory to learn word spellings, and facilitate the translation of ideas into written language.
This renders the writing process less frustrating and makes composing written work more fluid and effective.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia affects up to 10% of the population and may impact on an individual’s ability to split words into their component sounds, or phonemes.
There are many types and no two individuals will experience the same symptoms to the same degree, but phonological dyslexia is present in 75% of all cases. Spatial, visual, and even math dyslexia may also be involved. As dyslexia is genetic, it is more commonly found in individuals who have a parent who struggled with dyslexia, and more likely to show up in males who are left-handed.
It is important to remember that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. Dyslexic individuals are often extremely bright and creative learners who simply experience varying degrees of difficulty in reading and writing. Learning through traditional classroom activities is thus much harder and they are at a disadvantage for achieving success in most areas of the school curriculum.
Because of their negative experiences with learning, they may also lack motivation and develop low self-esteem and a poor self-image that follows them well into their adult life.
Early detection is key
Dyslexia tends to become apparent at around age 5, 6 and 7 when children first begin learning how to read and write.
Many kids without specific learning difficulties have trouble with English spelling in the beginning due to its highly irregular nature and the number of sound mappings that can be made to the same letter and letter combinations. Nonetheless, repeat exposure and concentrated study will eventually help young writers master basic spelling.
This is not necessarily the case for the dyslexic child who may spell a word correctly one day and incorrectly the next. There may be a tendency to miss out on letters and teachers may also see particular difficulty with common functional vocabulary such as the Dolch List service words.
Sounding out words in early reading is problematic and written work may not reflect a child’s true vocabulary due to fear of making mistakes and unknown spelling.
This inconsistency in performance can sometimes cause dyslexic students to be labelled as “lazy” or told they are “not trying hard enough” at school. Left untreated, dyslexia can prevent comprehension of written texts and stall vocabulary growth.
It can also lead to learning being perceived in a negative light because it causes stress and frustration for the child. This may make students act out or exhibit other behavioural problems. That’s why the earlier dyslexia is recognized, the better.
Tips for success
Today, individuals with dyslexia can take advantage of a number of self-study courses, targeted strategy instruction and private tutoring to help them learn the skills they need to overcome reading challenges.
It may be as simple as providing more opportunities to over-learn material or learning how to effectively implement spelling, comprehension and memory strategies.
Mastering touch typing can make a difference. In addition, experts recommend the adjustment of classroom activities by teachers, to render lessons more accessible.
For more information on helping dyslexic students succeed at home and in the classroom, try these articles on spelling strategies for dyslexia, dyslexia and foreign language learning and teaching students with dyslexia.
How the right typing course can help
In touch typing, ideas flow freely through the fingertips and onto the screen. There is no distraction caused by forming letters. Spelling mistakes can easily be made and corrected without the stigma of erasure marks or messy crossing out.
In a similar way, text can be re-organized to enhance meaning. Writing multiple drafts is facilitated given the ease of correcting electronic text. Typing courses also expose individuals to ample examples of written language, meaning they become more familiar with these words. Repeat exposure makes it easier to spell and sight read vocabulary.
Children who learn to touch type via a multisensory course like Touch-type Read and Spell also have their phonics skills reinforced at the same time as they learn how to navigate a keyboard.
That’s because letters and words are read aloud, displayed on the screen and then typed by the student. This involves muscle memory in the learning process, which is great for kinaesthetic learners too.
TIP: Did you know children can begin learning to touch type as soon as their hands can comfortably sit on the keyboard—learn more about typing for kids.
The TTRS course is broken down into discrete modules so a lesson can be repeated as many times as is necessary for the student to master the material. Incremental learning makes it easier to build confidence and self-esteem via praise received for milestones completed, no matter how small the achievement. A self-directed approach also reinforces crucial study skills.
Dysgraphia, dyspraxia and ADHD
As with dysgraphia, dyspraxia is a condition that impacts on fine motor skills and can make handwriting difficult and even painful. It can also affect planning skills and cause children to fall behind their peers at school. Sometimes dyslexia and dyspraxia show up together.
This is also the case for ADHD, which may result in similar behavioural problems as children become frustrated with schoolwork. In these cases, it is often recommended that students complete school assignments by typing on a computer.
Not only is it less frustrating and easier, but their work tends to be much neater which has a positive impact on reception by teachers. Learn more in helping children with dyspraxia in the classroom.
It’s never too late
Dyslexia can follow an individual throughout their life and cause them to miss out on career advancement and further education opportunities. In fact, many adults who did not complete their high school education may be struggling with an undiagnosed learning difficulty.
Learning touch typing the TTRS way is an excellent first step towards improving literacy skills because it is a subtle and less embarrassing approach for older learners. It can also help adults earn recognition and promotions at work and open up doors to new jobs.
Have a story about dyslexia and touch typing to contribute? Join the discussion in the comments!