Phonics And Dyslexia: What You Need To Know

Written by Dan

Last updated

As an educator, a parent, or someone dealing with dyslexia, it’s essential to understand the role of phonics in this context. In today’s digital age, where information is readily available, it’s crucial to have accurate and helpful insights.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on “Phonics and Dyslexia: What You Need To Know.” This guide is designed to not only inform but also empower you with knowledge about the relationship between phonics and dyslexia.

Whether you’re looking for effective teaching strategies, trying to understand the challenges faced by individuals with dyslexia, or simply seeking to broaden your understanding, this guide is for you.

We’ll dive into the basics of phonics , discuss its importance, and explore how it can be used to help those with dyslexia. We’ll also provide practical examples and tips, all in an easy-to-understand, inclusive language.

Understanding Dyslexia

what is dyslexia

What exactly is dyslexia? Put, dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing, and spelling. It’s not a reflection of a person’s intelligence or potential – instead, it’s a unique way the brain processes language.

So, how do we recognize dyslexia? Common signs can range from difficulty in spelling words correctly, trouble with reading quickly, problems with reading comprehension, difficulty in recognising familiar words, and struggling to pronounce words correctly.

These symptoms may vary from mild to severe, often appearing differently in different people.

But what does this mean for daily life and learning? For individuals with dyslexia, these challenges can make academic tasks more difficult and time-consuming.

It can impact one’s self-esteem and can even affect social interactions. However, with the proper support and strategies, dyslexic individuals can excel in their learning journey and beyond.

Understanding dyslexia is the first step towards creating an inclusive, supportive environment for all learners. So, let’s delve deeper into this topic and explore how we can empower individuals with dyslexia.


The Basics of Phonics

What exactly is phonics, you may ask? Phonics, in simple terms, is a method used in teaching reading and writing of the English language.

what is phonics

It’s a systematic approach that involves associating sounds with letters or groups of letters. Think of it as the building blocks of language – foundational pieces that, when put together, form words, sentences, and ultimately, stories.

So, what role does phonics play in language and reading development? A significant one, indeed! Phonics lays the groundwork for children to transform strings of letters into meaningful words.

It empowers them to decode words independently, fostering a sense of achievement and sparking their interest in reading. With phonics, learners can make connections between what they hear and what they read, enhancing comprehension and fluency.

Why is phonics so important, then? Well, without a solid foundation in phonics, learners may struggle with reading and spelling. This can lead to difficulties in academic areas that require strong reading skills.

Moreover, mastering phonics early on can instill a love for reading, opening up a world of knowledge and imagination for learners.

Phonics and Dyslexia: The Connection

Now, you may be wondering, “How does dyslexia intersect with phonics?” It’s a great question and one that gets to the heart of this discussion.

Dyslexia, as we’ve learned, can make it challenging for individuals to process and decode language.

This difficulty often stems from a disruption in phonological processing – the ability to see or hear a word, break it down to discrete sounds, and associate each sound with letter combinations.

So, where does phonics come into play? Well, phonics is like a guiding light for those grappling with dyslexia.

By teaching the association between letters and sounds, phonics offers a structured approach to reading.

It empowers individuals with dyslexia to break words down into smaller, manageable chunks, making reading less daunting and more accessible.

But don’t just take our word for it—numerous scientific studies back the efficacy of phonics in dyslexia intervention.

For instance, research published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that a phonics-based intervention significantly improved reading accuracy in dyslexic children.

Another study in the Annals of Dyslexia found that intensive phonics instruction not only improved reading skills but also increased brain activation in regions associated with reading.

Effective Teaching Strategies

So, how can we effectively teach phonics to individuals with dyslexia? The answer lies in combining tried-and-true strategies, innovative techniques, and a personalized approach that respects each learner’s unique needs.

Firstly, explicit and systematic phonics instruction is crucial. This means teaching phonics rules and patterns in a clear, deliberate manner, progressing from simple to more complex concepts.

For example, a teacher might start by introducing single letter-sound correspondences before moving on to digraphs (two letters that make one sound) and blends (two or three letters that make two or three sounds).

Secondly, multisensory techniques can be powerful tools for enhancing phonics instruction. These methods engage multiple senses simultaneously, making learning more interactive and memorable.

Think of a student tracing a letter in sand while saying its sound aloud – they’re seeing, touching, and hearing the letter all at once, reinforcing their understanding of its phonetic value.

Moreover, incorporating games and technology can make phonics fun and engaging.

Apps like “Phonics Hero” and “Reading Eggs” transform learning into an exciting adventure. At the same time, traditional games like “Boggle” or “Scrabble” encourage learners to apply their phonics knowledge in a playful context.

But what about tailoring these strategies to individual needs? Here’s where differentiation comes in.

Some learners might benefit from additional repetition, while others may need extra support with certain phonics rules.

By observing and assessing each learner’s progress, educators can adapt their instruction to meet these varying needs.

Let’s delve into the case of Mia, a bright girl in year three who was grappling with dyslexia. Her main challenge?

Understanding vowel sounds. Despite her best efforts, she found it tough to distinguish between the different sounds vowels could make, causing her to stumble over words and lose confidence in her reading abilities.

Recognizing Mia’s struggle, her dedicated teacher, Mrs. Thompson, took an individualized approach. She meticulously crafted a personalised learning plan tailored explicitly to Mia’s needs.

This involved focusing intensively on vowel sounds – the obstacle hindering Mia’s progress.

The first component of Mia’s plan was extra practice with vowel-heavy words. Mrs. Thompson compiled a list of suitable words, such as “meat”, “seat”, “rain”, and “coach”.

Each day, she would work with Mia, breaking down these words into their individual sounds and patiently guiding Mia through the process of blending them.

Next, Mrs. Thompson introduced multisensory activities to enrich Mia’s learning experience. Using various materials like sandpaper letters and play-doh, Mia was encouraged to trace and shape the vowels while verbalizing their sounds.

This tactile approach helped Mia link the physical shape of each vowel with its corresponding sound, making the learning process more concrete and memorable.

Finally, Mrs Thompson incorporated technology into Mia’s plan, using a vowel-focused game on Mia’s favorite phonics app, “Phonics Hero”. This game, titled “Vowel Ventures”, allowed Mia to practice identifying and pronouncing vowel sounds in a fun, low-pressure setting.

Over time, these consistent, individualised strategies began to pay off. Mia slowly but surely started to grasp the concept of vowel sounds. She became more confident in her reading abilities, and her progress was evident in her increased reading fluency and comprehension.

Her story is a testament to the effectiveness of personalized, phonics-based strategies in assisting dyslexic learners, underscoring the importance of patience, creativity, and adaptability in teaching.

Empowering Individuals with Dyslexia

Dyslexia, while presenting its unique challenges, need not be a stumbling block on the learning path. Instead, it can pave the way for innovative teaching methods, resilience, and personal growth.

The key here lies in creating supportive and inclusive learning environments that empower rather than inhibit.

So, why are such environments critical? Well, they provide a safe space for individuals with dyslexia to explore their strengths, work on their challenges, and grow at their own pace.

They foster a sense of belonging, boost self-esteem, and promote active engagement in learning – all essential ingredients for academic success.

Now, you may be wondering, “How can I contribute to creating this kind of environment?” Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or both, there are several steps you can take.

  1. Embrace Different Learning Styles: Understand that every child learns differently. Some may benefit from visual aids, while others might prefer auditory or hands-on activities. Tailor your teaching methods to suit these individual learning styles.
  2. Celebrate Small Victories: Even the smallest progress deserves celebration. This can motivate dyslexic individuals to keep trying, reinforcing the idea that effort leads to improvement.
  3. Promote Open Communication: Encourage dyslexic individuals to express their thoughts and feelings about their learning journey. This can help identify potential hurdles and brainstorm effective solutions.
  4. Invest in Assistive Technologies: Tools like speech-to-text software or phonics apps can significantly aid reading and writing tasks, making learning more accessible and enjoyable.

But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s look at some inspiring success stories. Take Steven Spielberg, for instance. Despite struggling with dyslexia, he went on to become one of the most influential filmmakers in Hollywood.

Or consider Agatha Christie, who, despite her dyslexia, authored numerous best-selling mystery novels. These examples underscore the fact that dyslexia doesn’t define one’s capabilities or limit one’s potential.


As we wrap up this comprehensive exploration into dyslexia and the power of effective teaching strategies, it’s important to remember that learning is an ongoing journey. It’s a process filled with trials, triumphs, and an endless array of opportunities for growth and understanding.

Through our discussion, we’ve unveiled the complexities of dyslexia, the potency of personalized phonics instruction, and the necessity of fostering supportive, inclusive learning environments.

We’ve showcased real-life examples of these principles in action and celebrated inspiring success stories of individuals who have overcome dyslexia.

But our journey doesn’t end here. Far from it. This newfound knowledge serves as a springboard, propelling us towards more informed, empathetic, and effective ways of supporting dyslexic individuals. As parents, educators, or simply interested readers, we all have a part to play.

So, what’s next? Well, that’s where you come in. We urge you to take this information, apply it, and witness the transformative impact it can have.

Use these insights to enrich your teaching methods, foster classroom inclusivity, or better support a loved one navigating dyslexia.

Share your experiences, successes, and lessons learned with others, contributing to a more informed and compassionate community.

Remember, every step taken towards understanding and supporting dyslexic learners is a step towards a more inclusive, empathetic world.

So, let’s continue learning, growing, and making a difference, one small victory at a time. After all, the power to effect change is in our hands. Are you ready to wield it?

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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