You are here

6.3 An Awareness of Dyslexia

"Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is."
-William Glaser

What does it mean to have an awareness of dyslexia? While you don’t need to be an expert in reading or dyslexia to have an awareness of this specific learning disability, all teachers need to appreciate the signs and characteristics of dyslexia and how these characteristics may manifest differently at different ages. In Chapter 2: What is Dyslexia?, of this handbook, we provide a more complete explanation of how dyslexia looks at various ages. Dyslexia is frequently referred to as “an invisible disability” because there are no obvious physical features. In some instances, dyslexia is identified early in a child’s life due to the severity of the problem, the family history, or the keen observation of a teacher familiar with the condition. For others, the diagnosis comes much later, after their ability to mask or to compensate for their weak reading and associated literacy skills is no longer effective.

Teachers at all grade levels and in all content areas are encouraged to take note of students who appear bright and capable but exhibit difficulty completing grade-level assignments with the accuracy or speed expected. Signs might be poor spelling, difficulty completing reading assignments on time, and test scores that don’t match a student’s verbal understanding of the content. A student may ask for directions to be repeated frequently, may become confused by words that “sound” similar or may complete assignments more slowly than his or her peers. Bright students with sound, higher-level math reasoning skills may struggle with the recall of basic multiplication facts, may misspell common words, may struggle to copy notes from the board accurately, or may struggle to keep pace with oral presentations.

Dyslexia Link Icon


Use this link to “What is Dyslexia?’ for a another brief overview of dyslexia. This infographic was created by Learning Ally.

Beyond being observant of students exhibiting characteristics and signs of dyslexia, content teachers and teachers not directly involved with the instruction of reading, need an understanding of how dyslexia may affect a student’s performance in their subject area. With this understanding, the teacher can provide the support and the necessary accommodations to help the student be successful in the classroom. As an example, the chart below shows some brief examples of the features of dyslexia that might be evidenced during a math class and what accommodations and strategies the math teacher might consider:

Observed Problem or Concern What accommodations or strategies the teacher might consider
Frequent errors with simple or basic calculations necessary in the completion of more advanced problems Allow the student to use a basic calculator for basic computations embedded within high-level math tasks; provide a copy of a multiplication chart to refer to during problem solving

Strong ability completing computational tasks and poor performance on word problems

Consider possible accommodation for delayed reading skills by using assistive technology, e.g., providing the students with an audio version of the math textbook, use software applications that allow problems to be pre-recorded
Accuracy in completing sample problems in class, but poor transfer of the correct use of procedures, formula or sequences during independent work List the steps, procedures for multi—set problems and algorithms. Post clearly numbered steps in the classroom and provide the student with a personal copy of steps for problem-solving.  Keep sample or model problems on the board and have the student writer them in a personal math journal for later reference.



Dyslexia Link Icon


The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has a free, downloadable guide available to help teachers gain an awareness of dyslexia called: Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know


In Chapter 4 of this handbook, the use of accommodations, modifications, and assistive technology is highlighted. See the More Information section at the end of this chapter for more resources regarding the use of accommodations and assistive technology.