Talking 'dyslexia' with Gibby Booth

If you haven’t found them yet ‘Dyslexia is our Superpower’ podcasts are the best. Positive stories of dyslexic people from all over the world gathered in one place. They explore all the big questions; growing up dyslexic, what would have helped, and what didn’t, life choices and how we found a way to thrive. The interviewer, Gibby Booth is an inspirational speaker, author and entrepreneur. She lives in the US, is dyslexic herself, and is passionate about the positives of being dyslexic.

She got in touch with me about my Amazing Alphabet and Fabulous Phonics dyslexia resources and persuaded me to make a podcast with her about growing up dyslexic, the process of starting and creating resources specifically for our unique dyslexic brains.

It was lovely to find someone equally focused on dyslexia, the dyslexic brain and what makes us tick. It was a match made in heaven. Take a listen to the podcast, and explore more of Gibby’s website.

New Dyslexia Friendly Font

How friendly is it really?

I have spent the last few weeks fine-tuning a dyslexia friendly font. It was created simply because I couldn't find 'the perfect font' even after looking at all the dyslexia friendly fonts that already exist. The fonts all has issues-

1. Some just looked too 'odd' to integrate into everyday classroom use. Ideally I want a font that just become my everyday font, used across the class, not just wheeled out for the 'dyslexic' kids.

2. I work on early intervention - this means the kids I teach are often learning to read and write. I need a font that mimics handwriting - no looped 'g' and 'a'. Most dyslexia fonts still have looped 'a'. And simple fonts that are commonly used in early years classrooms - like 'comic sans', are highly reversible and no good at all for children with dyslexia.

3. The fonts were expensive. Even dyslexia friendly fonts that were free for personal download, or even educational purposes, were expensive for commercial use. I sell my services as a specialist teacher and therefor the resources I produce are part of a 'commercial' package. I needed something for free. And I want to provide something for free. Something that other teachers, specialists and tutors can use. Buying the resources you need is already expensive without paying for a typeface too!


So - now it is done. When I look at my font it is 'perfect'. To my dyslexic brain it looks good. However, all brains are different and what I need now is feedback from others - particularly those with dyslexia! And from early years/ keystage 1 teachers and dyslexia tutors - could you replace comic sans with this?


My main questions are:

  1. Do any of the letters still seem too reversible?
    I tried minimize reversibility but not sure about the 'b' and 'p'.
  2. Is the spacing between the letters and words ok?
    I tried to make it a little less crowded than usual.
  3. Could the font be used for everyday resources in a general classroom?
    Ideally I don't want kids with dyslexia to need a 'special' font. I want a font that simply replaces standard classroom text so ALL TEXT in the class is dyslexia friendly.

Finally - is it easy to download? You should just tap a link that takes you to the font page. Then one click to download. It should automatically appear in your 'fonts' list in windows applications. I have it on my ipad too and is really useful in the 'SketchBook' application I use to create most of my resources.

Please comment - email me directly if you prefer, and please help yourself to the font. Pass it on to anyone who might find it useful. Having spent so long making it knowing it is it is actually being used, makes it all worth it!

Dyslexia - Connecting the Unconnected

and why French is the only exam I ever cheated in (and was caught).

One of the biggest challenges facing children with dyslexia is connecting the unconnected.

We have to make these connections every time we match a word with its meaning, link a word to its spelling pattern or a letter to its sound. A huge part of becoming literate is remembering unconnected pairings. These pairings, which quickly become automatic for so many children often don’t for children with dyslexia. Typically, young children with dyslexia will either…

  • be much slower in retrieving the information - These are children who can identify letters of the alphabet, but not at speed. They turn into slow readers, and even slower writers.
  • learn links, but forget them over time - These children may do really well in a single activity but by the next day will have forgotten half of it and by the end of the week are back to square one.


In terms of dyslexia assessment we look for poor ‘rapid retrieval’ skills and 'working memory' issues as two of the major indicators of dyslexia (poor phonological awareness being the other important marker). It wouldn’t surprise me if these are the core issues making connecting the unconnected so difficult for so many children with dyslexia.

I have both these problems. In English it just slows me down a bit. However, like most children I was expected to learn French at secondary school. This proved phenomenally difficult. Unless I studied nothing but the ten words of French vocab all week I was unlikely to remember any of them in the test and I had no chance in a review.

Luckily my friend was half French and I managed most of a year by ‘checking’ my answers against hers. Then she was ill. It was a disaster and for the first time in my life I cheated (and got caught) copying the words from a spelling book hidden in an open bag. I was mortified. I hated French and stopped studying it as soon as I could. I forgot every word of it so quickly after my GCSE’s it was like purging. Studying French felt like the most pointless exercise in futility I have ever been forced to undertake.

As an adult there have been a couple of times where connecting the unconnected has become imperative.

At university I studied psychology. I was expected to cite authors in exams. This meant I needed to provide the experiment, name(s) and date (e.g. Little Albert experiment, Watson and Rayner; 1920). By the time I did my finals I had well over 1000 names and dates I needed to link to experiments. I soon realized that dates were impossible. I find it hard to remember my own phone number. But by using ‘hooks’ I could anchor names to experiments. I needed to create and memorize every single hook, otherwise I would soon forget who did what. It worked.


Some examples of my picture cues for learning turkish

Recently I have moved to Turkey, a country where you REALLY need to speak the language. There are often times when I barely notice I’m dyslexic. I have so many strategies and technologies in place. Going to language classes came as a huge shock. I was suddenly back in GCSE French, dreading being asked to speak and unable to read from the board. I can’t even repeat back multisyllabic words. However, this time I was determined to succeed. I began by creating a picture and phrase to hook each new Turkish word to its meaning, and then memorizing each one. I have to do this for every word. I now know over 2000 words. I’m still painfully slow at retrieving them, but it is a start.

Yes...that's right 2000 little pictures. The programme I use allows me to programme my own phrase and picture links. It is called Memrise and has been a real find for me.


It seems counter-initiative, a waste of time at best, and for a non-dyslexic it would be. For me it is the only way to connect the unconnected. Many children with dyslexia need similar strategies, ones that use pictures or phrases to help link the pairs.  This problem of connecting the unconnected also presents a challenge for developing maths skills, especially times tables and number bonds - those maths facts where you are supposed to ‘just know’ the answer, and memorizing phone numbers and historical dates.

Do not imagine that simple repetition will get a child there in the end. It probably won’t, and even if it does it is likely to be a frustrating process and a short lived success. But by developing creative supportive strategies for children to work with when young you will be teaching them vital life skills that they may still be using as adults.

Providing Support-

Learning new words - Link to other words the child already knows. Suffix and prefix work can be really useful, but also recognizing the repeated chunks of meaning in words like ‘cycle, recycle’, ‘cyclical’ or, ‘thermal, thermometer, exothermic, thermos flask’. Where that isn’t possible then fall back on the word-picture link strategies. With younger children action prompts can help anchor new words.

Learning new letters or spellings, use pictures to support memory. Where the shape of the letters is the same as the shape of the picture and the picture begins with the target sound, this forms a bridge linking the letter sound and letter shape. Slowly fade out support. See my resources for more examples.

Learning a new language, like learning a new word. Be explicit about intra-word relations (e.g. link to word they already know)….and if they don’t know anything then do a word-picture link. Revise and use the link when prompting is needed. Over time the child will probably forget the link they initially used. That’s fine and doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked, just that the link has finally been made. If they forget remind them using the same link. Each time they will remember a little faster.

Other people, non-dyslexic people, don’t do it quicker, they don’t do it at all…they just know. To me this is utterly mysterious. How do you ever ‘just know’ a phone-number? But this gulf between how a dyslexic mind and a non-dyslexic mind work is one of the most fundamental differences, and is something that teachers and parents really need to appreciate to be able to help. I think this is one of the least discussed and least supported aspects of dyslexia.

There are a myriad of ways of structuring this support, and making the process fun for the learner. Please share anything you have found particularly successful.

Thanks for reading,



Disclaimer- every dyslexic is different and there are dyslexic children who will not have particular difficulty connecting the unconnected. They will have a different pattern of difficulties. This doesn’t mean they are not dyslexic, but that their cognitive profile is substantially different from mine, and the other people with dyslexia who struggle with this particular issue.

Mind Mapping for Children with Dyslexia

The problem of too many words-

Mind mapping is often recommended as a way to support children with dyslexia. It is often suggested as a way to help with planning longer written work or sketching out ideas. It is a great way of reducing the number of words a child has to read and write to access and record information. However, mind maps can play a much more fundamental role in learning and revision.

I have used mind mapping both as a student and as a teacher working with students with literacy difficulties and find them an invaluable support. As their use becomes more common I am meeting more and more adults with dyslexia who also swear by a good mind map. I firmly believe that knowing how to mind map effectively can make the difference between academic success and failure. We teach children how to write an essay and how to take notes, but tend not to explicitly teach mind mapping. Often a child is taught how to draw a basic spider diagram in primary school and that is about it. If we are going to give all children the tools they need to succeed, then mind mapping is a skill that needs to be taught too.

The evolution of my mind maps - my personal approach

When I began my A levels my ‘spider diagrams’ became 'mind maps'. They became the most useful way for me to record information. I didn’t take notes as I couldn’t write fast enough and re-reading notes never helped me remember them anyway. By the time I was doing me degree I only used mind maps. Other than the essays I had to summit I did not write a single paragraph of notes in the three years of my degree.

USE SPACE - By organising the mind map carefully I can use spatial information to  ‘find’ related information by thinking of what was nearby on a page.

USE COLOUR - Initially I just used different colour pens to indicate headings and names. Soon I added colour to the blocks so that the different areas were easier to see.

USE PICTURES - Over time I used fewer words and more pictures. Pictures provide great visual prompts and only key words need recording.

As you can see as time went on my mind maps looked less and less like 'normal' note taking. The mind maps became more visual and less wordy. Although I felt self conscious about how my notes looked they proved to be highly effective. I have a slow reading and writing speed. Using mind maps allowed me to excel as I wasn't held back by my poor literacy skills.

Technology and mind maps

I tried various mind mapping computer programmes, but found them too constricting. Often the images were limited so I ended up adding hand drawn prompt images over the top which was time consuming. I gave up and reverted to hand drawing. However, mind mapping programmes have come on in leaps and bounds since then. There is more flexibly and it is easier to add images. They don't suit everyone but they are definitely worth considering, especially if you don't enjoy drawing.

One bit of technology that I have used consistently over the years is a voice recorder. This allows me to listen to the lecture without trying to take notes, and to take 'mind map' notes later at my own speed.


Introducing mind maps

I would suggest that mind maps come into their own when children are 7 or 8 years old. At this age there is a steep increase in the amount of information children are expected to access and children with dyslexia often find it hard to listen/read and take notes. At this point in primary school mind mapping can be introduced as an alternative to note taking, and as a way of planning work. Just as we teach numbering or bullet pointing for effective noting taking, we need to teach children to how to colour sections and draw prompts to create effective mind maps. While some children love the creative freedom that mind maps provide others feel that colouring-in and drawing are 'babyish'. Make sure you explain that they are something grown-ups find helpful too. Encouraging the whole class to choose which method suits them rather than teaching only children who struggle with the literacy will reduce stigma. It will also allow every child to experiment and find what suits them.  

Mind Mapping - hints and tips for older children

A good mind map provides a visual representation of the relationships between and within topics.  Put the most central information centrally and more peripheral information on the periphery. Put information on related topics next to each other. This is essential for planning essays and discussions.

Don't worry about how a mind map looks. It is only for you to see and only created to help you. It doesn't matter if they don't make sense to other people as long as they make sense to you.

For note taking

  • Always start in the same place and work around in a circle. That way you record the order in which information was presented.
  • Focus on recording key information- dates, names, new terminology and facts. 
  • Don't worry about keeping it tidy. Note taking mind maps are always 'rough' copies as you cannot plan them accurately. As long as you can read your writing it is tidy enough.
  • Do not write down unnecessary words or write in full sentences. Stick to key points and essential information.

For revision

  • Draw a rough or pencil copy first. This is a great way to think about what is essential, and how things relate to each other.
  • Don’t make the structure too similar for you maps. They need to look distinct from one another.
  • Put a clear topic based image in the centre so you have an instant visual link to the map when given an exam or essay question. This images acts as an easily memorable 'hook' to the topic.
  • Don't worry that creating your revision notes takes time. The process of creating will help you remember them, so you will spend less time revising later.

Mind maps are a great way of organising information. They can be really useful for all children. However, the key thing for children with dyslexia is that mind maps separate ideas from textual information. For children with dyslexia the sheer number of words required by standard note taking formats can be a barrier to success. Good mind mapping skills can provide an essential alternative route to success.

I'm sure other people have different approaches and styles for mind mapping. Please share what works particularly well for you or the children you work with.


How and when to tell a child they are dyslexic-

How and when to tell a child they are dyslexic-

Many teachers and parents find it hard to tell a child they have dyslexia. It is a ‘lifelong learning disorder’ after all, and who wants to have one of those. Even the British Dyslexia Association describes it as ‘a lifelong, usually genetic, inherited condition’. It doesn’t sound like good news. And this brings me to my first point.

The Do's and Don't of breaking the news

1.       Don’t over medicalise it.

Using terms like ‘diagnosis’ and ‘disorder’ instantly makes it sound scary and negative. While children with dyslexia often struggle, and this is probably why the child has been assessed, it is important they understand dyslexia has positive impacts on their learning too.


It is a difference in how your brain processes things. Sometimes this is good – it is probably why you are so creative and good at problem-solving. Sometimes it is bad – it is why you find it difficult to learn some spellings.


There is much debate around whether dyslexia should be described as a ‘learning difference’ or a ‘learning difficulty’.  Certainly the term ‘difference’ less loaded, although in some instances it may also be less accurate.

2.       Don’t globalise it.

Literacy and academic learning is a big area. Dyslexia affects a relatively small, if important set of skills. Frame their dyslexia in terms of these skills. It is not that they are ‘bad at literacy’ it is that they find learning particular types of spelling difficult, or that they find reading new words hard. Re framing it in this way makes it more manageable for the child, and less likely that they will feel negative about their academic abilities in general.

3.     Do tell them -  It is never too early to tell them.

 ‘A label’ is only a problem if it is a bad thing. No one minds being labelled a ‘genius’. The attitude of the adults around the child is the critical thing. Often it is a relief to a child to know there is a reason for the difficulties they have. This is particularly true for children who have been labelled ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’ – ‘dyslexic’ is a big improvement. If they are struggling enough to have been assessed then the chances are they already know something's up.

4.       Do send a message that they can still achieve, they just have to work harder and learn differently to get there.

Send a message that they can still achieve what everyone else can achieve, they just have to work differently (and often harder) to get there.  Most children with dyslexia have struggled with their learning for years before they get a diagnosis. They know they have to work harder to do what comes naturally to everyone else, and however much we try to protect them they will have to continue to work hard to achieve. The difference is now they have a ‘diagnosis’ we will know how to help them a whole lot better than we did.

(Ok, this plainly isn’t true for every child in every circumstance, but certainly for younger children I would not want their dreams and aspirations squashed)

5.       Don’t tell them it’s OK because they can be good at other things. 

Sometimes, with the best intentions in the world, children with dyslexia get told is it ok that they are not good at literacy, because they can be good at other things... Good at dancing, good at art, good at being kind. Children aren’t daft, they know that they aren’t going to be policemen, astronauts, authors, scientists and doctors…. the things that children’s dreams are made of if they can’t read and write.

Children with dyslexia are just like any other children, some will be academic and some will not. A small number will find a career at perfectly suits them, that doesn’t need literacy. But most will need some literacy skills and our goal needs to be supporting them to get there.

If we don’t what children to lower their expectations of themselves then we have to make sure we don’t lower our expectations of them.

6.       Do provide positive role models with dyslexia.

This can be older children they look up to, people they know or famous people.  But avoid the trap of only pointing out people who have achieved in ‘non-academic’ subjects. Dyslexia is entirely different from IQ. A child might be very academically bright and have dyslexia or they might not. There are plenty of people with dyslexia who are academic.

7.      Do be clear it can’t be ‘cured’…but it does get easier.

Dyslexia cannot be fixed. It is lifelong. Children with dyslexia grow up to be adults with dyslexia. Some compensate for their dyslexia fantastically well, others will always have difficulties. However, things do get easier. As adults we are rarely given spelling tests or reading comprehension. And other skills that we do have are valued more. We are allowed to type, to ask someone else a spelling or to choose to watch the film rather than read the book.

Primary School is disproportionately tough on children with dyslexia. By the time I was at university I could use a computer in my exams. It meant I could get a first class degree despite having the spelling age of an 11 year old (I’ve just double checked this – 10 years and 3 months to be precise). Thanks to a spell checker no one even noticed, and it was my knowledge and ideas that people cared about. Primary school, on the other hand, was a nightmare.

8.     Do teach them to choose their battles.

I have officially given up trying to learn my times-tables. I’m 36 and if I haven’t mastered them by now, so be it. The psychologist who assessed me instantly told me to learn to touch type rather than to spell. I was 22 at the time and I only wish I had been given the same advice age 12. The sense of relief was enormous. Many children with dyslexia will have ‘blind spots’- particular things that just won’t stick, and no amount of repetition or effort is going to change that. So cancel that spelling-test, bookmark the tricky-words or burn the handwriting book. Find work-arounds and save everyone’s sanity.

9.       Do celebrate it!

It is a new start and an answer to ‘why’ things have been so tough. It comes with blessings – a degree of creativity, lateral thinking, problem-solving …many of the skills the child is good at will be the ‘flip side’ to dyslexia.


This was written by Alice Frendo, a dyslexia assessor who has had to tell many children they are dyslexic and who…once upon a time…was told she was dyslexic.


I'm sure I've missed things. What do you think is important when telling a child they have dyslexia?

What to do if you think your preschooler is dyslexic-

If dyslexia runs in your family you may have a good idea that your child is dyslexic long before professionals are ready to acknowledge it, or support and assess them. However, it is increasingly clear that early intervention is critical, so here are the warning signs and how you can give your child the best start.

The three things most likely to be identified as ‘core’ problems for children with dyslexia are-

  1. Poor phonological awareness – difficulty with perceiving the individual sounds in words.

  2. Poor working memory- difficulty ‘holding’ information in short term memory and doing anything with it.

  3. Poor rapid retrieval skills – difficulty accessing the information in the brain quickly and automatically.


How can I tell if my preschooler is dyslexic?

These three issues can already been seen affecting the behavior of very young children.


1. Poor phonological awareness - difficulty with perceiving the individual sounds in words.

Many children suspected of having dyslexia also have some degree of speech and language difficulties. These may be so extreme that they have already been identified and speech and language intervention has been given. There is a massive overlap between speech and language difficulties and later literacy difficulties- so this is definitely a warning signal.  

Under the radar speech and language difficulties - These are problems that you as a parent or concerned teacher might have picked up on, but are unlikely to have resulted in speech and language intervention (SALT):

  • They may begin speaking late and may continue to be quiet children.

  • They may have slightly ‘blurry’ speech where sounds aren’t always clearly pronounced (e.g. ‘duce’ for juice, ‘wabit’ for rabbit)

  • They may leave the final letters of sounds (e.g. ‘sweet’ instead of ‘sweets’)

  • They may miss out short sounds altogether (e.g. ‘pees’ instead of ‘please’, ‘cap’ instead of ‘clap’).

  • They have difficulty with multi-syllabic words, even if they are just repeating back a word you have just said, )e.g. ‘hippopotamus’, ‘alligator’, ‘helicopter’).

  • They may not pick up on rhyme (e.g. ‘box, fox ____?’) or alliteration (e.g. ‘ant, apple, ____?’) particularly well.

2. Poor working memory - difficulty ‘holding’ information in short term memory and doing anything with it.

  • They may have difficulty remembering multistage directions, (e.g. get your coat and bag and come down stairs).

  • They may forget new words and names quickly

3. Poor rapid retrieval skills – difficulty accessing the information in the brain quickly and automatically.

  • They may have difficulty remembering common sequences such as the order of numbers, the order of letters in the alphabet or the order of days in the week.

  • They may have difficulty naming things, taking longer to learn a new word or name than peers.

  • They may use imprecise words like ‘thing’, ‘stuff’, ‘it’ or ‘he’ a lot.


Caveat 1- this is compared to peers.

All these things are hard for small children, the important thing is to compare them to other children of the same age. If you are a parent speak to nursery/kindergarten teachers who can make a comparison between them and their peers. Try not to compare them to siblings as big individual differences are very common.

Caveat 2 - Verbal abilities are not a consistent marker for dyslexia.

There are children who are dyslexic who are very verbally able, have a great vocabulary and are particularly articulate for their age. Being exceptionally bright can hide a lot of dyslexic difficulties.

So you still think your preschooler is dyslexic but what can you do to help?


Poor phonological awareness

The good news is that this is the area where it is possible to make real lasting changes. This is where early intervention really matters and can make all the difference.


  • Get a really good pack of alphabet picture cards (obviously mine are the best by a mile - 'Amazing Alphabet', but after that I would recommend ReadWriteInc Phonics Flashcards). Starting early and keeping things consistent will really help with letter recognition. Don’t push your child, but using the cards in games can just make them more familiar. Children quickly pick up on the association between the sounds and cards (can you get me the horse picture? Yay, it’s a /h/ - horse).

  • Make sure you are pronouncing the sounds clearly and cleanly. If you aren’t sure how to do this watch my free gesture videos online which have all the sounds pronounced clearly or visit Don’t think that you remember them from your own education as things have progressed substantially since then.

  • Play rhyming and alteration games frequently. Get your child to tune into the sounds in words. Who do they know whose name starts with the same sound as their name? Play 'I spy' but use letter sounds not letter names.

  • Invest in some wooden or magnetic LOWER CASE letters. Even before your child begins learning sounds this helps them become familiar with the shapes of different letters.

  • Play games and activities where words are broken into their individual sounds. For example, clapping for each sound in someone’s name. There are some great books that do this at a syllabic or on-set/rime level, but try to focus on things that split things up into individual sounds as well (e.g. Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb ). It is this smaller unit size that will be most useful when they being reading and writing.

  • Share books and talk about the rhymes and alliteration at a level your child can understand (e.g. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler or Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae).


  • Use letter names. Make things easier for your child by always using letter sounds rather than names. If they are going to struggle remember 26 sound-letter associations we only make it twice as difficult and much more confusing by teaching letter names as well. Children don’t need letter names until much later. This means no more alphabet songs and games! When you have alphabet freezes do letter sounds rather than the alphabet. This is give them a real head start when they start school.

  • Avoid having upper case letters around. Find fridge magnets/alphabet books etc. with lowercase letters. Focus on recognizing lowercase letters. Children only need uppercase letters much later. The only exception is for their own name. Others can wait until after they have mastered basic letter-sound associations.

  • Don’t focus on whole word recognition. Children with dyslexia often fall back on this as a technique and it doesn’t get them past the second school year. Focus on sounds. It is much better if they can hear some of the sounds in words when they start school than they have rote sight learned 20 words.




In an ideal world-

Teach your child using a complete system, where a picture and gesture are taught from the offset. This means that each letter becomes much more memorable, and children can draw on whatever sensory experience is predominate for them to support their learning. If /i/ is a small purple insect is it completely different from /j/ a spoon full of jam – the letters are no longer confusable). Common schemes are ReadWriteInc and Jolly Phonics. However, I would obviously recommend my own. Look at Synesthetic Learning to understand why this system is better for dyslexic brains.


Poor working memory

Unfortunately this is one area where practice doesn’t make perfect. Most studies have found practice will improve performance on a single task, but the effects are short term with little or no cross over to other tasks. So this is an area where we generally focus on coping strategies and techniques.


  • Ask your child to repeat back instructions e.g. I have to get my shoes AND my book bag.

  • Break multi-step tasks into smaller more digestible chunks.

  • Begin to teach your child to vocalize instructions as they ‘hold’ them in their memory e.g. repeat ‘bag and shoes’ as they head upstairs to get them. Eventually this will become the sub-vocal instructions that many people use to support their memory (e.g. repeating a phone number in your head until you have a chance to write it down).


  • Don’t get frustrated when it feels like your child isn’t listening. They are. They simply can’t remember what you have said.

  • Don’t give an instruction and then further information as they are even less likely to remember.

Poor rapid retrieval skills

The poor rapid retrieval skills are because processes that become automatic for most people never quite become automatic for people with dyslexia. Again, there isn’t any credible research I have seen that suggests that this can be changed at a fundamental level. However, in relation to specific items you can strengthen recognition and increase familiarity. 

In terms of literacy the biggest impact poor rapid retrieval  will have is on reading speed, where the retrieval of information about letters, sounds, words and meaning happens very quickly and automatically in fluent readers. Making sure your child can quickly recognize letters when given their sound and the sound when given the letter is something you can move towards practicing every day. It is the speed element which is critical as we are strengthening automaticity. While you don’t want to push your child before they are ready, some children are ready and able to do this before starting school.


  • Play speed based letter recognition/sound recognition games. For example, playing a tune on a xylophone by the adult saying letter sounds and the child hitting the notes (stick lowercase alphabet letters in a random order on the keys…music lovers will hate me for this but it does work really well), or 'Letter Hunts'- hunt for particular letters in text. This is great as part of story sharing.

  • In terms of words and naming, encourage children to find the word, even if it takes a little longer (what thing? What’s your friends name again?). If you feel they are getting frustrated provide the name along with the answer (oh, you were playing with Samuel, his name is Samuel) but then ask for the same information a little while later.


  • Get so good at guessing what your child wants or is trying to say that they barely have to speak.

  • Accept pointing as a request when they are able to speak.

  • Get frustrated because your child hates any time pressure. Generally people don't like activities they are not good at. Just work on making it fun.

Giving your dyslexic preschooler the best start

Model and encourage good reading behaviors-

  • Ask them to turn the page so they get used to which page comes next.

  • Ask them where to start reading, getting them to find the front of the book, the first page, the first line and the first word.

  • Run your finger under text as your read. Ask them to point. If they go fast, speed up your reading and when they are slow, slow down. This gets them to associate the writing on the page with what you are saying.

If you are worried your child is dyslexic you want to send them to school more prepared than the other children, as it will be a bigger challenge for them. You need to make language a richer and more engaging part of their childhood than it is for other children, because the increased exposure and interest will help offset the effects of their dyslexia on their learning.

Most of all surround you child in a language/literacy rich environment. Talk to them lots and listen to them. Sing songs, rhymes and lullabies. Share books and make sure that the bedtime story is the best bit of the day. Challenge them with long words. Play with words and sounds together. Having a love of language and stories will have a bigger effect than any amount of directed teaching they receive.

Starting school

If you possibly can, establish a really good relationship with their class teacher. Explain why you are concerned and what risk factors your child has (e.g. three siblings who have been identified as dyslexic). Check what sounds they are learning in class so you can do that little bit extra at home, preferably ahead of time.  Make sure you get regular updates to avoid surprises the end of the year.

You may be lucky and have a fantastic school, rapid assessments and fabulous support. However, that is not always the case. Warning factors to watch out for are stalled progress or if the teacher describes your child as distracted, lazy or slow. They may be all these things, but those behaviors can also reflect unmet needs. Check what support is in place and if you have concerns speak to the school SENCO. Above all, support your child, because they are AWESOME...and dyslexic.

Find out more about Dyslexic Logic

What makes you think your preschooler is dyslexic? How do you support them?

When Bad Handwriting is a Sign of Hard Work

extract from the literacy support programme Part 1

extract from the literacy support programme Part 1

I wrote this in my book, but feel it is actually SO important I would like to share it more widely. It is something we get wrong time and time again. In forcing children to focus on their handwriting, spelling and punctuation we limit their ability to think and crush their creativity, the very things that are most likely to help them as adults with dyslexia.

This is not to say that there is never a need to focus on handwriting, punctuation and spelling. Of course there is. But it is easy to underestimate just how great an impact higher order thinking can have on the presentation skills of someone with dyslexia. So I am going to use myself as an example.

This is my Turkish homework, which i knew would be seen by other students.

This is my Turkish homework, which i knew would be seen by other students.

This is my handwriting when I'm writing private notes

This is my handwriting when I'm writing private notes

Read it before you judge it

As an adult who has spent 20 years in education this is the difference between my writing for 'public' and 'private' view. It shows how little is automatic for me. Letter formation, spelling and punctuation all go to pieces when I shift my focus on to the content of what I write.

Yet teachers and parents would probably consider the top piece of work 'better'. Even children tend to judge their own success on how their work looks, but get so caught up in what they are writing that when they finally sit back they are horrified by the state of their own work.

If you have a poor working memory, as many of us do, you have to capture those ideas fast. When children with dyslexia are really thinking hard those 'automatic' skills (which are never fully automated for us) suffer. Understanding and appreciating this difference is key to supporting children with dyslexia.

It is hard as a teacher or parent to put content first. We tend to respond instinctively to what we are presented with. But take time, look at the content, and then judge whether the child is lazy or sloppy. The handwriting can't tell you that.