Dyslexia and Memory


Dyslexia and Memory

Dyslexia – Can it be helped by learning memory strategies?

Teachers often tell me that their dyslexic students have memory
problems. In my research I have found that teaching children a variety of
memory strategies is useful because they will be able to try them out
individually or in combination and note for themselves the effect.

I train teachers in Special Education and as part of the training include in the Methods Course – The History of Memory Strategies.

What I have found is that people don’t know about the origins of the strategies, are not aware that many exist, and don’t know how to teach them effectively.

There are seven basic memory strategies that I have found useful for students with special needs including dyslexia. The strategies are as follows:

1. The Metacognitive Strategy – When learning a list of words for example, asking yourself and then noting down how you remembered the words.

2. The First Letter Strategy – Using the first letter of each word to try to
make a real or nonsense word.

Example of making a real word –  The names of the Great Lakes in the United States are:  Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior
The first letter of each of the lakes makes the word  HOMES

Example of making a nonsense word – The names of each of the colors of the rainbow follow:

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

The first letter of each of the colors makes the nonsense word  ROYGBIV

3. The Story Strategy – Write a real or nonsense story that incorporates all the words you want to remember.

Example of a nonsense story – The following is a nonsense story to remember this list of words (emu, dog, eel, tiger, cat, toad, owl, rat, snake).

Australian Farmer

The Australian farmer had seen an emu, owl, rat, toad and snake outside.  He had a dog, cat and eel in his house.   However, he had to visit a zoo to see a tiger.

Example of a real story  – The following is a short poem that includes all the months in a year:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one
Excepting February alone

4. The Grouping Strategy – Grouping words together that belong to the same category.

Example of using the grouping strategy –

Make a list of all things that belong to the same family e.g. animals

dog, tiger, cat, horse, lion, zebra, wolf

Make a list from a larger list of all things in one group e.g.


palm railway snake
eye underground elephant
arm motorway tiger

5. The Imagery Strategy – Making a list of all things in a list by picturing them together or separately.

Example of using the imagery strategy –

Make a list of all things in one group, which are the same color by
picturing several animals all brown in the same picture e.g.

a brown horse, a brown wolf, a brown cat, a brown lion, a brown snake, a
brown dog, a brown cat

Or make a nonsense picture to help you remember e.g. a brown dog with a brown snake twisted around its neck looking like a scarf.

6. The Location Strategy – This is the ability to remember locations and assign faces to each.

Example of using the location strategy

Think of your school and conduct a mental walk from the principal’s office
to your classroom. Pay particular attention to the rooms you are passing
noting the details, noticing any imperfections, like desks not lined up:
anything that makes your mental images more vivid.   Make sure you can move easily from one room to another.

Along your route create a list of the most outstanding feature of each room.
These will be the images you remember as you go from one room to another until you reach your final destination, the principal’s office.

7. The Pegword Strategy – First learn a rhymed pegword list and then learn to associate each of these words with the members of the list to be learned.

Example of using the pegword strategy

This is a strategy to remember sequences of ten unrelated items in the
appropriate order.   You first have to remember ten key words, which follow:

one = bun  two = shoe  three = tree  four = door  five = hive  six = sticks
seven = heaven  eight = gate  nine =  wine  ten = hen

After learning these you have to memorize ten unrelated items:

battleship, pig, chair, sheep, castle, rug, grass, beach, milkmaid,

Take the first pegword  (bun rhyming with one) and form an image of a bun interacting in some way with a battleship; you might imagine a battleship sailing into an enormous floating bun.

Children all have to take tests and remember facts throughout their school years. Learning how to apply effective memory strategies can ease this burden.

These strategies will become the tools and techniques used to
understand and learn new material or skills.   It should also be emphasized to pupils and their teachers that these strategies have to be practiced and applied to the subject area being taught, in some cases repeatedly in order to achieve success.

Setting Smart Goals.


Having goals plays a large part in how happy (and unhappy ) we are.
When we are successful in achieving or moving towards our goals we are happier.

On the other hand we may feel blocked or stuck and unmotivated to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
Goals need to be structured much like any project I.e. if you want to paint a room you will have a structure around it , choose the color get the paint, brushes etc prepare the room and so on.

Think about the terms.
1.What is my goal
2.What are the rules for achieving that goal.
3.What skills do I need to achieve my goal?
When a goal is structured in this way it is engaged in differently.
Allow yourself success by setting small achievable goals.A goal can be set on a daily basis.

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Get up ten minutes earlier
  • Make real tea in a tea pot with real tea leafs the ritual is very calming.

Small goals give instant feedback, they lift our mood and have a lasting effect on our lives.


Tips on how to teach your dyslexic child to read.


Dyslexics have difficulty recalling words.

As soon as your child has learned enough common sight words if they continue reading very easy books every day they will usually be able to recall the words they have learned and gradually build up a reading vocabulary.

If your child reads only now and then, they will forget the words, begin substituting others, become discouraged and make little progress.
Easy going love may lead a parent to neglect daily reading.

There are so many things that make it difficult to read daily your child wants to play, they have homework, birthday parties, play dates, the list goes on and on. If your dyslexic child’s reading is often neglected, they assume it is unimportant and cease to cooperate.
To teach your dyslexic child to read, you must have proper materials and know-how, but most of all you must have tough love. Love strong enough to enable you to find the time every single day to help your child to read.

Reading must be part of your child’s daily routine the same as brushing teeth, having breakfast or getting up in the morning.


Choosing a book.

Use the 5 finger rule to determine if the book is “just right”

1. Open a book to any page.

2. Start reading the page.
3. Hold up one finger for EVERY word that you don’t know or have 
trouble pronouncing.

0-1 Fingers 
The book is too EASY.
2-3 Fingers 
The book is at the Interest level.
4 Fingers 
The book is at the Challenge level. You can try it ~ be sure it makes sense.

5 Fingers 
The book is at the Frustration level and is not a good choice for now.


How to do paired Reading.

  • Read aloud from the book with your child.
  • When your child taps your hand, let them read alone as you follow along silently.
  • If your child reads a word wrong, skips a word, or doesn’t know a word the use the 5 second rule, count five then.
  1. Point to the word.
  2. Tell them the word
  3. Have them repeat the word
  4. Join them in reading aloud again


Talk about the story.


  • What do you think it’s about?
  • What happened?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • If the book is too hard (5 words wrong in 100) change the book.

You must be enthusiastic and supportive. Daily practice brings success!

Setting Smart Goals.


Having goals plays a large part in how happy (and unhappy ) we are.
When we are successful in achieving or moving towards our goals we are happier.

On the other hand we may feel blocked or stuck and unmotivated to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
Goals need to be structured much like any project I.e. if you want to paint a room you will have a structure around it , choose the color get the paint, brushes etc prepare the room and so on.

Think about the terms.
1.What is my goal
2.What are the rules for achieving that goal.
3.What skills do I need to achieve my goal?
When a goal is structured in this way it is engaged in differently.
Allow yourself success by setting small achievable goals.A goal can be set on a daily basis.

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Get up ten minutes earlier
  • Make real tea in a tea pot with real tea leafs the ritual is very calming.

Small goals give instant feedback, they lift our mood and have a lasting effect on our lives.
Fiona Phelan 085 1445494

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Hearing Your Child Read

For an ‘untrained’ parent, hearing your child read can be a very frustrating experience.

Reading with your child at home can easily become very stressful if it is not handled correctly. It can cause great frustration if you feel that your child is not learning to read as fast as you expect, or if you have discovered that your child is dyslexic. This article will set out some guidelines which have proved extremely helpful to many parents.

The first point is to realize that reading a book together must be for pleasure, and is not the time to be stopping over difficult words and trying to work out what they say from the sounds of the letters.

If your child cannot read a word within a second or two then use the Golden Rule: just tell them the word and move on with the story. This goes against most parents’ instincts, but is the only way for the two of you to get on with the book and enjoy the story. When you read the book again the following evening, you will find that your child remembers more of the ‘difficult’ words you had to supply, and will improve each evening. The important thing is that your child is learning to be confident that you will always tell them a word which they do not know, and can trust that reading with you will be a pleasurable experience.

Unfortunately, the alternative scenario is all too well-known to us all: your child sees a difficult word, tenses up and makes a frantic effort to work it out. Meanwhile, you also tense up, feeling that your child will never learn to read!

Because of the history of the English spelling system, which has grown from lots of different sources, many words are impossible to work out from the sounds of their letters.

‘Cat’ is straightforward, as are ‘log’, ‘hit’, and ‘get’. But what about words like ‘though’? The spelling has no resemblance to the actual word that we say, and no-one can possibly know what the word says unless they are told. No-one can work out how to read words like ‘said’, ‘early’, ‘was’, ‘phone’ and thousands more from the sounds of their letters. Unfortunately we have inherited a highly irregular spelling system which we are stuck with!

However, with the growing confidence that you will always tell them a word they do not know, children do learn to read. You will notice them using other clues, like the pictures on the page, or guesses from the meaning of the sentence, and it is good to encourage them to use these clues. Provided that they have the opportunity to go over the same book on different evenings, they will gradually come to learn the new words in it, and to enjoy the story – which is what reading is all about!

Another simple method to make things easier is to share the reading with your child: read one sentence each (while still coming in straight away with any difficult words for your child). This will teach your child to look out for the next period/full stop, and will help them get an idea of what a sentence is.

Repetition of the same phrases also helps tremendously in the early stages, when your child knows that the same sentence will be repeated at each stage of the story.

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Is the homework getting lost at home?

Helping Children with Problems Turn In Their Homework

Here are some strategies to help a child who does his or her homework, but doesn’t turn it in:
Walk through the process with the child
Walk through the process with the child. For example:
There are many different ways that someone can get off-track in the process of getting homework from home to the teacher. Talk through the process with the student.
Is the homework getting lost at home? Is the homework getting lost in the bottom of the backpack or the bottom of the locker? Is it in the proper notebook, but forgotten in the process of settling into the classroom?
Once you have identified the sticking point, consider what needs to be added to the routine to get past it.
For those who lose track of homework at home, consider instituting the following routine (from Enabling Disorganized Students to Succeed, by Suzanne Stevens): “Homework is not done until your homework is in its proper folder or notebook, the folders and notebooks are packed into your backpack, and your backpack is on its launching pad.”
Try different ways of organizing homework to find the one that best suits your child. Some students do best with a separate homework folder so that everything that needs to be turned in is organized into one place. Others do better when they organize the homework by subject.
If the teachers have set up a system that does not work for your child, talk with them about allowing alternatives. This can also be done as part of a formal individualized plan, like a 504 plan.
Develop templates of repetitive procedures
Develop templates of repetitive procedures. For example:
Teachers can create a checklist of things to be done upon entering or leaving the classroom.
Parents can create written checklists or photo charts for completing chores, preparing to catch the bus in the morning, gathering necessary stuff for sports practice, etc.
Provide accommodations
Provide accommodations. For example:
Involve your child’s teacher(s) in building in reminders until the desired pattern of behavior (e.g., turning in homework as soon as the student walks into the classroom) becomes a habit.
Teachers understandably balk at the idea of taking on responsibility for your child’s job of turning in his work. However, repeated performance of a behavior is what makes it a habit; once the behavior is automatic, then the burden is lifted from the executive system.
If you help the teacher to see this as a step in the process of building independent skills, with the prospect of fading out the teacher’s prompting, it may encourage the teacher to get on board.
Teach the use of tricks and technology that help compensate for organizational weaknesses
Teach the use of tricks and technology that help compensate for organizational weaknesses. For example:
If the agenda book is the primary organizing tool for tracking assignments, it could also serve as a way to remind the student to turn in assignments.
For example, after completing an assignment, the student could be taught to enter a note into the next day’s assignments block for that subject. Then, at the end of class, when the student enters that night’s homework assignment, he will see the reminder to turn in what is due that day.
Several versions of watches are available that can be set to vibrate and show a reminder phrase at the programmed time.
“Turn in homework” can be a programmed reminder set to go off at the beginning or end of the class period. Cell phones often have an alarm function, as well, that can be set for reminder alarms.
If this trick works for your child, talk to your child’s teachers about allowing cell phones in the classroom for this explicit function only.
When the student prints out an assignment at home, prompt the child to also email it to the teacher and the child’s own web-based email account. Then, if the hard copy is misplaced, the child can print it out during class (with the teacher’s permission) or during free time.
Try this!
Few problems are as frustrating for parents and kids as not receiving credit for homework that was actually completed on time but never turned in!
One tried and true behavioral strategy to remedy this is to link an already established habit to one that your child needs help acquiring.
To illustrate, Ivan is a seventh grader who forgets almost everything – except his peanut butter and jelly sandwich! – when he leaves home in the morning to catch the school bus. With daily reminders from his parents, he puts his homework folder on top of his lunch in the refrigerator before going to bed each school night. Then, putting the folder in his backpack, along with his PB&J, is a “no-brainer.” Ivan not only gets credit for his completed work but also learns how to creatively generate ways to manage his weaknesses.
Reprinted with permission from pp. 170-172 of Late, Lost, and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. & Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D. Published by Woodbine House, 6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817. 800-843-7323 http://www.woodbinehouse.com.

By: Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel (2008)

For one to one consultation Phone Fiona 085 145494

Visit my web site for further information.


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Reading, Spelling and Comprehention resource review.

Keda Cowling  Quote “I have dedicated 35 years of my life, developing methods to teach people with reading difficulties how to read.  During years of unpaid scientific research in the 1970’s, I created a teaching system that provides a progressive solution to reading problems.  I called this system ‘Toe By Toe‘, as the learning stages are too fine to be called ‘step by step’.

Gateway to literacy is what Keda Cowling calls her collection of books aimed at children and adults with literacy difficulties.

I have purchased and used most of her books and I have found them to be a great resource and easy to use.

Harry Cowling, Keda’s son developed a series of books called  Word Wasp and Hornet Reading and Spelling which can be used before the Toe By Toe book. The reading wasp series are for younger children or for children that find the toe by toe programme too difficult.

The books are very affordable. The difficult bit is the time you as a parent have to commit to the programme. Like everything else with reading difficulties little and often is the key to  success.

I would suggest  if you are embarking on this programme use a timer and do about ten to fifteen minutes five days per week. The timer works well for your child as they can see an end in sight and they don’t think it will go on all day or evening.

I always use a star chart or reward chart for every five days that the programme is complete they get points and when they have accumulated 20 points they gat a reward.

It is difficult to do extra work when others don’t have to. I always compare it to your boss asking you to work overtime and telling you to do a good job and by the way I am not paying you!

A small reward  makes your child feel better about the extra work. After all they are just children and telling them it’s for their own good wont cut it!

Ok so here is who the books are suitable for and  the links to the websites.

If you can read then you can teach using these books!

Word Wasp and Hornet Reading and Spelling.


Recommended Age Range

Word WaspWord Wasp
from 7 years upward
Word WaspHornet
from 5 years upward or anyone with severe reading and spelling problems
Word WaspRequirements
It couldn’t be more simple:  A student needs a Wasp or Hornet, an exercise book, and a pencil.  A coach needs scrap paper, a pencil and a little patience.  The programme can be used daily or weekly.



The name Toe by Toe was chosen to signify that a student makes progress by the tiniest steps – one toe at a time.  However, even though the steps taken are small, the student can clearly measure his or her progress right from the first page.  The student’s confidence and self-esteem are boosted as a result. For age 7

  Stareway To Spelling will teach anyone aged 7 or upwards who cannot recall the correct spelling of common words, or who confuses words such as ‘were’ and ‘where’. Often these people can remember spelling test lists in the short term, but cannot write effectively because they soon forget the correct spelling.

Stride Aheadhas been written for students who can read but have difficulty in understanding what they are reading. I believe that this is the result of their minds being too taken up with the mechanics of decoding the written language to be able to give adequate attention to meaning.

These books are also available on Amazon.

Good Luck!

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Mental Alertness (alleviates mental fatigue)


This movement helps with mental alertness (alleviates mental fatigue)

Both hands rest on the front lateral midline of the body, bringing the learner’s attention to this central point of reference/ necessary for making decisions regarding the positions of objects in space. When the learner can organise her visual field in terms of her own body, her eyes, hands, and whole body become better coordinated. The fingertips of one hand rest under the lower lip; the other fingertips rest at the upper edge of the pubic bone (about six inches below the navel). Experiencing this connection between the body’s upper and lower halves allows the learner to coordinate them for increased stability.


• The points may be held for thirty seconds or more (four to six complete breaths).

• The student should breathe slowly and deeply, experiencing the relaxation.

• Instead of contacting the pubic bone, some individuals may feel more comfortable placing the palm of the lower hand over the navel, fingertips on the midline, pointing toward the ground


• Change hands to activate both sides of the brain.

• “Zip up” the midline, without touching the body: inhale, imagining an energy fountain moving up the midline. Exhale, allowing the fountain to shower back to earth.

• Look down (for grounding) while you hold the buttons.

• Look straight down, then “walk” your vision up to a point in the distance (for near-to-far visual skills).

• Allow your eyes to track a vertical plane (e.g., ceiling to floor, at a corner).

• Rest one hand on the navel. With thumb and index finger of the other hand, lightly vibrate the points, above and below the lips, then stimulate the tailbone (a variation that combines Earth Buttons and Space Buttons).


• the ability to work in the midfield

• centering

• grounding (looking down to perform near-visual skills)


• organisation skills (moving eyes vertically as well as horizontally without losing one’s place, as in reading columns for math or spelling)

• near-to-far visual skills (e.g., paper or book to chalkboard)

• keeping one’s place while reading

• reading without disorientation


• organisation and layout for art, bookkeeping, etc


• mental alertness (alleviates mental fatigue)

• hips level (not torqued) and head level (not tilted)

• head up and back (not slouched)

• eyes open (alleviates a squinting or staring habit)

• grounding and whole-body coordination

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Fiona 085 1445494 (Dublin clinic)