Colorful Minds: Helping Dyslexics Build Writing Skills
Dyslexia is not a life sentence. Eventually, everything comes together and dyslexics learn to function in everyday life and beyond.
While reading, sequencing, organizational skills, and the mechanics of writing are areas of difficulty for dyslexics, this article specifically offers tips to get dyslexics writing.
Here are several methods and tools my daughter and I used to become better writers.
What Is A Colorful Mind?
My colorful background... I'm a dyslexic mom with two learning disabled teens.
One child shares my dyslexia, and the other has what's called an auditory processing disorder and cerebral palsy.
We found that kids who have learning disorders compensate in amazing ways to learn, love and lead an exceptional life.
- Start A List -
Almost every writer has a list of words they'll never spell correctly, no matter how hard they try or how many times they practice. Sometimes we can't even spell words well enough for spell-check to identify them.
My personal list of misspells contains about twenty words. Some of my words are:
Address ... their ... grammar ... necessary ... source ... senses ... scenes ... tomorrow
I've also seen fairly good spellers have problems with words like:
Nausea ... presence ... superfluous
Make a list of your problem words. Keep it by your side. This will save you the time and frustration of trying to find them each time you need them.
Special tip for parents: If your child is dyslexic, help him create a list and encourage him to use it.
Schoolhouse Rocks: Adjectives
- Start At The Beginning -
A dyslexic’s mental resources are exhausted in the primary grades. The point of grammar is often missed by students struggling to read and write because reading and spelling are the priorities.
When you decide to take up writing, get a good grasp on basic grammar rules.
Try the fun links above and keep an eye out for books, articles, and websites you enjoy.
Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies, and Mortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs, by June Casagrande, are a joy to read and will have you laughing.
Special tip for parents: Episodes of Schoolhouse Rock and The Electric Company are available for free on YouTube. They also have new computer games and programs available for home use.
- Find a Reader-
Ask someone you trust to read some of your work. Let them help you come up with a list of common grammar mistakes and errors spell-check doesn't correct because they are actual words.
This list might include... a/an ...your/you're...their/they're...loose/lose...yeah/yea...lay/lie...its/it's... bowl/bowel.
Plurals are another issue. Since dyslexics spell phonetically, plurals are often missed
Examples: tourist/tourists ... ghost/ghosts ... fist/fists
Keep your personal list with you while you edit as a reminder of common mistakes.
This is a nice simple article about Common Errors to help you identify other possible problem words.
Special note to parents: When reading your child’s writing, resist the urge to mark their paper. This is often described by dyslexics as a traumatic and humiliating event.
I corrected my daughter’s work using a separate piece of paper and letting her make the corrections only if she wanted to. Doing so made her more accountable for her work, and she earned the pride of doing it herself, especially when she got a good grade.
But don’t sweat it if they refuse to make changes, they'll learn once the teacher starts handing back papers marked in red ink.
Additionally, using the computer makes corrections much easier. Use one whenever possible.
How A Dyslexic Sees Letters and Words
- Sit On It -
After you write something it's very tempting to share it right away. Do your best to sit on it a day or two. Don't look at it. Don't think about it. Then print it and read each word aloud slowly .
Reading aloud slows you down.
Dyslexics have a gift for making visual corrections and filling in the blanks. Words appear where they don't belong or don't even exist outside of the dyslexic's mind. So, you need to really slow down to catch errors.
Special note to parents: The habit of allowing a time lapse between writing and revising will be crucial to your child’s higher education because the cool off period for editing is most useful in self-editing.
Help them understand this is the reason to get a good start on projects. Go over the editing with them, and have a good laugh. We all make typos and silly grammatical mistakes.
- Get A Good Reference -
The Quick Study Academic Grammar and Punctuation Sheet by BarCharts is a great tool for quick look ups. You can find one at a bookstore or Mailboxes USA.
There are hundreds of reference books on the market. Don't waste your time buying the "best" because it may only confuse you and end up on a dusty shelf.
Go to the bookstore, look through the selections, and find one that suits YOU, that is in a voice YOU can understand.
Special note to parents: Information at hand gets used. When a child needs to look up grammar and spelling in a book or online, they can get distracted and discouraged. Again, I stress the use of your lists and helping them find the answers.
Handing a dyslexic child a huge dictionary and telling them to look up a word will result in an unfinished assignment.
- Write Often -
Writing a lot will help you catch errors faster and make you a stronger writer. Daily blogs force you to write, so do incentives. Web info sites like, HubPages and Helium are easy to use and you can write articles on a variety of subjects while earning Adsense dollars. But please ... do it for the fun and not the fortune. Writing online will not make you rich.
Special note to parents: Help kids start a blog. A blog can be simple like, Pokémon of the day or Video game reviews. A blog can be an inspiration to your child since they can make drafts of posts ahead of time, edit and revise a day before, and then post.
But please ... use stringent online safety. Journals are discouraged since they could offer clues to your child’s whereabouts. I also suggest never using your name or your child’s real name in setting up an account for safety reasons. Also add no email contacts and no comments allowed in your preferences and do check the blog each day.
Famous Dyslexics (do not read the words:)
- Read -
For all dyslexics: Comics, tabloids,
books and blogs. It doesn't matter what you read as long as you are reading
daily. Reading simply makes better writers because their development is based on styles they enjoy.
Also my preference for reading reference books as a child, like encyclopedias, saved me from being a non-reader. My daughter loved manga, and my dad loved Reader’s Digest. We’re all avid readers now.
- Be Proud -
If you're writing and love it, be proud of your creativity and accomplishments. Pride will carry you past the jeers and nasty comments from grammar snobs and spelling bee champions who don't understand.
Special note to parents: Show your pride in your child’s writing accomplishments. Maybe they only wrote a strong closing or one awesome sentence, but point it out. My daughter gets an enormous boost when I share her writing with my Facebook friends. Praise works.
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