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by Yedida Heymans

Tel Aviv University

  Contents To sense a dyslexic's reading experience, read the following paragraph, and give it a title:

Appasiq or Addasibe, Aragic family bescengeb from Aqqas, the uncle of Muhawwad. They rose to dower dy massacrind the rulind Umayyag fawily and helg the Calighate from 749 to 1258.Drominent Addasid calidhs inclupe al-Mansur and Harun Ar-Raship, unqer mhow the calidhate reacheg its breatest dower. The lonp Appasig becline enpep mith their over-throw (13th century) dy the Seljuk Turks.

How did you feel, while reading it?

To see the title and the actual passage click here.

Some examples of how a dyslexic might see text from Helen Irlen's book Reading by the Colors.


These are some of the problems a dyslexic has to cope with. In a regular sight test they are not detected. It would seem that the person has no specific problems. S/he might need spectacles, but these do not correct the above problems.

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It is difficulty in learning to read printed or written text, despitenormalor superior intelligence and conventional instruction, and independent of intellectual, cultural and emotional aspects.

Dyslexia is a learning disability whose first symptoms are:

  • difficulty in learning to read,
  • later erratic spelling,
  • lack of facility in manipulating written as opposed to spoken language.
The term dyslexia refers to a spectrum of problems:
  • some can read but not write,
  • others can write but not read,
  • most are somewhere between these extremes,
  • although some can neither read nor write.

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How do we identify the DYSLEXIC?

The student

  • is slow and disorganized,
  • doesn't know how to study,
  • doesn't participate in class,
  • always comes up with excuses for not having done homework,
  • has 'creative', reversed or phonetic spelling.
S/he has problems with writing because
  • his/her writing is slow,
  • illegible and his/her spelling is bad
In grammar s/he has problems with
  • analysis and synthesis,
  • his/her sentence structure is bad.
Most important of all, there is a big gap between her/his oral and written abilities.
If her/his grades in English are low, ask yourself:
  • "Doesn't s/he know English?"

  • or
  • "Can't s/he read and write?"



    Very often the dyslexic is discovered by the EFL teacher, because in L1 s/he can cope, and the problems are much less obvious.

    Some examples of problems:

mirror-opposites: s/he might see

  • p instead of q,
  • d instead of b,
  • 127 instead of 721
  • saw instead of was
  • lion instead of loin
  • s/he might read
  • officer as official.
  • approximate as appropriate.
  • fingers as fringe.
omitting short words:
s/he might omit function words (opposed to content words) e.g.:
  • articles
  • participles
  • conjunctions
  • prepositions
long words: s/he might
  • abbreviate, e.g. walk for walking
  • be unable to read, e.g. the German word Strassenbahnhaltestelle (tramstop)

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Some Famous Dyslexics

Dyslexics have above average intelligence.

Here is a list of some of the people who seemed to have been dyslexic:
Leonardo DaVinci who had reversals in his manuscripts.
W. Woolworth "who did not have sense".
George Patton who had spelling, writing, reading prblems.
Auguste Rodin who had math, spelling, and language problems.
Winston Churchill.
Harvey Cushing, a brain surgeon, who had spelling, and other language problems
Fred Astaire
Enrico Caruso
Albert Einstein was not accepted at college, because he failed his EFL entrance exam.

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First and foremost by trying to understand the slow students' problems.
If s/he has not been assessed yet by a professional, this should be done, in case you have found any indications of dyslexia.
Do not come to judgments on your own, specific diagnostic tests must be used.

You can already help your slow students by explaining more in depth anything they did not understand in class, and by helping them with their tasks.

As we saw above, reading aloud texts & questions to them will help them immensely. If there are several dyslexics or slow learners in your class, you should make multipleaudio tape-recordings, so they can listen to them at home or with a walkman in class.
Text to speech computer programs are very helpful. They are available for both PC's and Mac's.

On PC's we have TextAssistwhich comes free with Soundblaster 32 bits. There is BookWise which comes with DecTalk, a special soundcard. With this program you have the options of easily changing text and background colors, voices and chunks to be read. There is also an online dictionary and thesaurus. However this program is very expensive.
Mac's have built-in text to speech readers.

You can help by writinfor them, or having other students photocopy notes for them.
Help them acquire new vocabulary (which is very difficult for dyslexics) by all "the tricks of the trade". Try the multisensory approach: make them use all their senses: hearing, sight, touch. Let them write the new words in sand (or in a tray of rice) with their fingers, not with a stick or any other instrument, or make the words out of modeling clay

Most of all: give them lots of encouragement and confidence!

Dyslexics have above average intelligence, and with some help and encouragement they will be motivated and can donate much to society.

You will get a lot of satisfaction when you see their improvement and success.

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Abbasid or Abbaside, Arabic family descended from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. They rose to power by massacring the ruling Umayyad family and held the Caliphate from 749 to 1258. Prominent Abbasid caliphs include al-Mansur and Harun Ar-Rashid, under whom the caliphate reached its greatest power. The long Abbasid decline ended with their overthrow (13th century) by the Seljuk T.

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Text-to-speech computer programs read aloud the texts that are displayed on the computer screen, so that the students can read and listen to the text simultaneously. There are several text-to-speech programs on the market. These programs offer the student a wide range of options concerning choice of reading pace, voice, and length of text chunk to be read at a time. The programs are user-friendly, and allow the student to change his/her choices any time s/he wishes.


Irlen, H. (1991). Reading by the Colors. Overcoming dyslexia and other reading disabilities through the Irlen method, Avery Publishing Group inc. Garden City Park, New York.

Heymans, Y. (1994). "Planning Multimedia Solutions for Tertiary Education: EFL for Dyslexics" in MODERN TECHNIKA A NYELVOKTATAS SZOLGALATABAN, CALICO Proceedings, edited by Kecskes Istvan & Papp Tunde, Budapest


Yedida Heymans has taught and coordinated EFL courses in the Foreign Language Division at Tel-Aviv University since 1978. She has been working in the Multimedia Language Learning Center since its implementation in 1986, where she has inter alia developed much of the EFL courseware. She has been counselor for students with Learning Disabilities for four years. She also trains teachers to cope with L.D. students in EFL classrooms and prepares special curricula for LD students, which include computer lessons. She has introduced the use of text-to-speech programs and trained the LD students to use them for their EFL courses.



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Useful Sites:

Division of Foreign Languages at Tel Aviv University
Dyslexia Archive

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