Indications, Hints and Tips: Primary

The information contained on this page is specific aimed at primary school aged children

1. General.
2. Written Work.
3. Reading.
4. Numeracy.
5. Time.
6. Skills.
7. Behaviour.
8. Practical Aids
9. Resources to support literacy

We have all come across the situation. A child who is struggling with spelling, writing or reading, or perhaps numeracy. A child who does not progress as quickly as his/her classmates – or worse, does not seem to progress at all. And yet there are obvious inconsistencies; the child clearly has areas of ability as well as weaknesses.

You think the child will improve in time – but you see no change. Then someone mentions dyslexia and you start to wonder. But you tell yourself that children often get over such early difficulties and you hope for the best. Yet you still feel uneasy. This child is different.

So how do you tell if a child may be dyslexic? There are some obvious signs, if you know what to look for. But not all children have the same cluster of abilities or difficulties.

Look out for the following areas of weaknesses which will appear alongside abilities, which may be in areas of creativity or in highly developed verbal skills:

1. General.

  • speed of processing: spoken and/or written language slow;
  • poor concentration;
  • has difficulty following instructions;
  • forgetful of words.

2. Written Work.

  • has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • produces messy work with many crossings out and words tried several times, eg wippe, wype, wiep, wipe;
  • is persistently confused by letters which look similar, particularly b/d, p/g, p/q, n/u, m/w;
  • has poor handwriting with many ‘reversals’ and badly formed letters;
  • spells a word several different ways in one piece of writing;
  • makes anagrams of words, eg tired for tried, breaded for bearded;
  • produces badly set-out written work, doesn’t stay close to the margin
  • has poor pencil grip;
  • produces phonetic and bizarre spelling: not age/ability appropriate;
  • uses unusual sequencing of letters or words.

3. Reading.

  • makes poor reading progress, especially using look and say methods;
  • finds its difficulty to blend letters together;
  • has difficulty in establishing syllable division or knowing the beginnings and endings of words;
  • pronunciation of words unusual;
  • no expression in reading comprehension poor;
  • is hesitant and laboured in reading, especially when reading aloud;
  • misses out words when reading, or adds extra words;
  • fails to recognise familiar words;
  • loses the point of a story being read or written;
  • has difficulty in picking out the most important points from a passage.

4. Numeracy.

  • shows confusion with number order, eg units, tens, hundreds;
  • is confused by symbols such as + and x signs;
  • has difficulty remembering anything in a sequential order, eg tables, days of the week, the alphabet.

5. Time.

  • has difficulty in learning to tell the time;
  • shows poor time keeping and general awareness;
  • has poor personal organisation;
  • has difficulty remembering what day of the week it is, their birth date, seasons of the year, months of the year;
  • difficulty with concepts – yesterday, today, tomorrow.

6. Skills.

  • has poor motor skills, leading to weaknesses in speed, control and accuracy of the pencil;
  • has a limited understanding of non verbal communication;
  • is confused by the difference between left and right, up and down, east and west;
  • has indeterminate hand preference;
  • performs unevenly from day to day.

7. Behaviour.

  • employs work avoidance tactics, such as sharpening pencils and looking for books;
  • seems to ‘dream’, does not seem to listen;
  • is easily distracted;
  • is the class clown or is disruptive or withdrawn (these are often cries for help);
  • is excessively tired due to amount of concentration and effort required.

A child who has a cluster of these difficulties together with some abilities may be dyslexic.

Your next step should be to consult the school’s SENCo immediately and to decide whether the parents should be informed and the child given appropriate help.

8.Practical Aids.

  • Whiteboards and whiteboard markers
  • Highlighters
  • Post-it Notes
  • Pastel coloured paper/exercise books
  • Coloured overlays and reading rulers
  • Crossbow Write and Wipe Pockets
  • Wooden letter: upper and lower case.

‚Äč9.Resources to Support Literacy.

There are two well recognised dyslexia reading schemes:

  • Alpha to Omega.
  • Hickey Multisensory Language Course.
  • Toe by Toe is also a useful resource.
  • There are number of computer and non-computer based resources:

Computerised Resources.

  • Teach Your Monster to Read. A series of free, fun games to practise the first stages of reading.
  • Units of Sound Multimedia (based on Hickey). A multimedia and multisensory reading and spelling programme.
  • Nessy Reading & Spelling is a comprehensive learning programme designed by dyslexics and educational psychologists. Computer adaptive assessments set differentiated learning targets aligned to student ability, providing a differentiated learning path which is structured and importantly fun! Nessy works for all abilities, especially for children with dyslexia and those that need to catch up. To access Nessy follow this link.
  • Rapid Reading for struggling pupils at KS2.
  • AcceleRead/AcceleWrite. Literacy support for WAVE 3 intervention using text-to-speech software to improve reading and writing.
  • Lexia. A popular and fun product including Early Reading, Foundation Reading, and Strategies for Older Students . Using the Strategies for Older Students programme gives a mature interface so no problems with older students feeling patronised.
  • It does, however, address the needs of very poor literacy skills down to phonics with the addition of worksheets to print off. Data is automatically held by the programme re progress and areas of difficulty which can be picked up later by staff.
  • Lexion: is even more fine-grained and highly regarded by speech and language specialists and specialist dyslexia teachers.
  • Wordshark (based on Alpha to Omega) using games to reinforce learning.

Try before you Buy. Many programmes come with free demo discs so you can trial things through first. Lexia offer a free trial with good support in its use.

Other Multi Sensory Learning Resources.

  • Launch the Lifeboat to Read and Spell
  • Beat Dyslexia
  • The Active Literacy Kit

Reading Resources.

  • Dandelion Readers
  • Read Write Inc., Structured practice in decoding words and reading through phonics.
  • Stride Ahead. For students who can read but have difficulty in understanding what they are reading.
  • The Magic Belt, Totem, Talisman and Alba series. For struggling readers 8-14yrs.


To learn how to pronounce phonics correctly, see this video

For information on synthetic phonics, see

Synthetic Phonics methods are recommended for all beginning readers by the 2006 Rose Review.

Synthetic Phonics methods are derived from the Hickey Multisensory Language Course for dyslexic learners. The principle is to teach one phoneme (sound of one or more letters) and its written form (grapheme) at a time, and read and write words that can be made from the letters learned so far. High frequency tricky, irregular, words are introduced gradually.

There is a list of government approved schemes and matched funding grants for schools.

Phonicshark software has been approved by the Department for Education for 50% match-funding. This is created from Wordshark and provides a low-cost resource to support the teaching of synthetic phonics in KS1.

Phonics Books.

Dandelion Launchers:
Jolly Phonics.

Games and Aids.
There are a number of games and various aids which can support dyslexic learning, for example:

Trugs: Teach Reading Using Games.
SWAP: Reading.


Difficulties with short term and working memory are a common feature of dyslexia. Games such as Lucid Research's Memory Booster and Nintendo's Brain Booster may be helpful.

Touch Typing Tutors.

Pupils struggling with handwriting could benefit from learning to touch-type and using a computer for written work. The following are designed to support dyslexic pupils:

Engish Type Junior.
English Type Senior.
Nessy Fingers.
Touch Type Read & Spell.

For further information see the BDA Technologies website.