5 Tips for Teaching English to Children with Dyslexia

If learning English is already a challenge for some children, for children with dyslexia it can become a real odyssey. How can we teach them a second language?
5 Tips for Teaching English to Children with Dyslexia
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Some children find it difficult to learn a second language, but for some children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, it can be a real challenge. Does your child have dyslexia and find it difficult to learn a second language? Let’s take a look below at some tips for teaching English to children with dyslexia.

When children with dyslexia enter school, they have to learn a second language, usually English. But if it’s already difficult for them to overcome the difficulties of learning their own language, imagine what it might be like to learn English, whose characteristics are different, and make this process quite difficult.

Why is it so difficult for children with dyslexia to learn English? Do you want to know some tips for teaching English to children with dyslexia? Read on to find out the answer.

What’s dyslexia?

Even if I’m sure most of you know what dyslexia is, it’s appropriate to start with a definition.

A child with dyslexia needs to be addressed in the classroom in an inclusive manner.

Dyslexia is a language disorder that affects oral and written comprehension. Children have normal overall development but have difficulties in understanding written texts, as they tend to make inversions in monosyllabic words. This problem doesn’t indicate an intellectual disability.

What may be the causes of this difficulty?

There may be several factors that influence the acquisition of a second language. The age, the language teaching methodology, or the way of decoding. Let’s take a look at them.

Age of the child who starts learning English

It’s very important not to start teaching English if the mother tongue isn’t well consolidated unless the child is bilingual.

If children are in the process of learning their native language, until they’ve mastered reading and writing, the reading and writing of another language shouldn’t be introduced. Therefore, in these cases, we should wait to introduce English at the end of the first year of primary school or the beginning of the second year. If it’s introduced earlier, we’re making a serious mistake in the teaching methodology.

Methodology and way of teaching a language to children with dyslexia

Normally, at school, children are asked to learn grammar, they’re taught in a more abstract way, without starting from reality in communication. In this way, children lose motivation and the natural way of learning, because it’s not in a real context.

If children haven’t learned their mother tongue correctly, we can’t expect them to learn a second language, because, in the end, they won’t be able to learn either of them. Sometimes, the way of teaching at school can be the main issue for children.

Tips for teaching English to children with dyslexia

In order to teach English to children with dyslexia, it’s very important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the little ones in order to approach this matter in a more personalized way.

Sometimes, some of these children have a low tolerance to frustration or present, in addition, an attention deficit. Therefore, it’s important to see the personal characteristics of each child for a better approach. If we do it individually, the learning process will be much more effective. Here are some tips that can help both parents and teachers.

Teaching English to children with dyslexia: rule out a hearing impairment

Evaluate if there’s a hearing problem that makes it more difficult for the child to learn a language.

Adapt the learning process to the pace of each child and change teaching methods

Each child has his own pace and, as we’ve said before, we shouldn’t introduce a new language until the first one has been consolidated. It’s also important to change the way we teach reading and writing so that children don’t lose interest.

Teaching English to children with dyslexia: use simple songs in English

If the songs have short phrases and simple words that they can understand, children will be motivated because they’ll understand some of the words they hear.

Girl listening to children's songs in English to learn the language.

Teaching English to children with dyslexia: use various multisensory methods

We can use different methods that include other senses besides sight. For example, write the word in sand or draw the word in English and fill it with colored paper balls. Then, with your finger, go over the word.

Use videos or flashcards to associate English words with their pictures

If, in addition to listening to the English word, we associate the word with an image, we facilitate its learning. For example, we show the word “cat” and the image of a cat. The images have to be simple without many ornaments. In this way, you won’t distract their attention from the image of the word they’re learning.

Strategies for the child to learn a second language

When learning a second language, it’s advisable to avoid starting the teaching with reading and writing. You should rather begin with oral and cultural teaching. Empathize the communicative aspects more than the grammatical or correction aspects.

Some guidelines for teaching children with dyslexia:

  • Teach language with visual and oral support.
  • Don’t force the learning of English prematurely.
  • Watch movies and cartoons in English without dubbing.
  • Teach in a practical way and always start with topics that are interesting to the children. Thus, you’ll awake their communicative interest.
  • Make cultural exchanges with children of other nationalities and camps to make them express themselves in another language.

The importance of teaching English to children with dyslexia

In short, it’s important to always take into account the learning differences in children with dyslexia, not only in languages but in all other topics. We can teach English to children with dyslexia, but their learning process will be slower than that of children without dyslexia, especially if we use traditional methods.

We hope that these tips and strategies can help you better manage this difficulty, in which perseverance, patience, and understanding are very important.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hernández, F., Hernández, L.A., Valencia, M.T., Ramirez, F.J., & Abril, M.A. (2018). Guía de enseñanza del inglés: Para alumnos con dislexia y otras dificultades. Consejeria. (1º ed.). Murcia: Educación, Juventud y Deportes.
  • Rascón, D., & Ballesteros, C. (2019). Dislexia y aprendizaje de inglés en Primaria: una propuesta metodológica. Revista de Educación Inclusiva12(2), 187-210.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.