More help …

Just wanted to say thank you for helping me understand my daughters. Our girls are 15 (twins) and have struggled all their lives with learning. I never explored dyslexia, because I thought it only meant seeing letters backwards. When we did your tick list, the girls ticked nearly every box. It helps to have a “name”, as now I can research it and learn more. Also the list of famous dyslexics was encouraging to them. But what do I do now? They are 15. We homeschool through a distance ed. program, and they are seeing success, but its hard for them. They are not at grade level. Do I have them tested? Can I get them help at this point? Is it too late? Anyway, thank you for what you have been able to help me with. I first heard you being interviewed by Richard Glover on the radio. Keep up the good work. Cathy

My books and teaching are written for parents to be able to follow. You will find them useful. The phonics program should improve their spelling.

They should be word processing. If you can get them both laptops ready for TAFE and make sure that they can type their ideas into words. Insist they use the spellcheck and then put words that they cannot spell check into their own dictionaries. Details on this are available as a freebee “My fun dictionary?”

In the book Dyslexia – how to win I talk about what to prioritize as how to teach older kids. there is a chapter on this. Its important now that you prepare for TAFe rather then trying to keep up with the entire syllabus. Prioritize what is important for them as adults. there is also a section on basic maths and how to teach it.

Helpful downloads from our site

Hi, I am the mother of a gorgeous eleven year old who has dyslexia. I have read many books on the subject in the last few years and yours is by far the easiest to understand and the most relevant to Anna that I have come across. I only downloaded it today and can’t keep away from the computer. So THANK YOU so much.

Worried Mother …

I am the mother of three children aged 6, 8 and 10 who are all dyslexic. Although we have moved to a village where the school has excellent references etc My children are not benefiting after 5.5 years of primary school my 10 year old only has a spelling age of 7. I have been in constant contact with the school since my son started as I thought he was dyslexic although not as bad as his father. We have had him privately diagnosed as moderately dyslexic.

His peers also do not seem to be too keen on him and his behaviour appears to be more immature and attention seeking (he gets quite high). He is out going and fairly confident, he will give most things a try. He goes to cubs and karate and has recently started snow boarding lessons. He is also fairly good at swimming.

He loves factual books and has a good vocabulary. He is okay at maths although does not enjoy it. He is enjoys topic is interested in sharks, astronomy and the ocean.

Following his recent diagnosis Aug’08 we have started private tuition for an intense phonics programme with Dyslexic Action in Glasgow. However the school and I are at odds as they have taken my son of the core programme following a basement by a temporary learning support teacher – this has also happened to by middle child I have moved my youngest child due to bullying and poor progress and low confidence. They have also started an alternative spelling programme as opposed to reinforcing the DAs programme.

I am at a loss as what to do and my anxiety is increasing as my son has a year and half until he goes to high school.

I also can not find out what I can expect and no one will answer this – not the ed psych, not the head teacher and not the DA.

Everyone is rather polite but no one is very helpful in the way forward and how to maximise my children education in the 3 RRRs before they leave primary school or what I can expect.

I am focusing my efforts on additional support for the eldest as he only has a year and half until he moves from a school of 70 children to an 1100.

What can I expect what more can I do? Where can I buy your books?

Oh dear and you’re from my old hunting ground. I used to work for the Dyslexic Centre in Glasgow. And they sold my first books on dyslexia.

Now a dyslexic will never be a good speller. i rely heavily on editors. There is a massive, and in my opinion, misguided stress put on spelling when what is needed is strategies and good writing. Try to concentrate on content.

So this is what you do. You teach him word processing and get him a lap top. He can use this at home and at school. Then your target is to get his spelling good enough to be recognized by the spellcheckers. The words he cannot spell that are stupid, ie the words that are spelt stupidly, you collect in a personal dictionary, instructions to be found on my site, Dyslexia Testing as a freebee. He can then look them up whenever he needs them and will then start to learn how to spell them. Its very simple and takes away the stress because the kids end up writing fun, silly sentences and learn that writing can be a fun thing.

You then teach phonics skills at the same time. I have written a phonics course, available from the same site, and written for parents so is dead easy to use. All my books are written because no one else wrote easy, plain english books to help parents. Your answers are to found in these books and games.

Now the really important thing is to find out what your kids are gifted at. All dyslexics are gifted at things and it is these gifts that they will use in life. Please remember that Jamie Oliver is very poor at spelling also and dictates his books. But he is gifted at so many things.

Hope this helps

Anyone and everyone … purchase Dawns book Dyslexia – How to Win

I wanted to leave a message to advise anyone and everyone to purchase Dawns book Dyslexia – How to Win. After my daughter was diagnosed by Dawn as being Dyslexic I purhcased her book and read it cover to cover. I also purchased her book for teachers and the parent guide. All are easy to read, are very interesting and include relevant case studies and behaviours relating to a dyslexic person and even non dyslexic people (such as myself).

This book allowed me to understand my child completely, like why she brings home the right book to do her homework, but can’t remember which excersises to do. Why she asks me again and again, “Can I wash my hair tonight, Mum?”, why it is hard for her to go to sleep, why she can’t do her homework while I talk to her little sister and why she still can’t spell simple words, especially when she has had a busy day a school.

To say I am grateful that we met and saw Dawn and then read her book would be the biggest understatement of my LIFE..
My daughter is and has always been very obviously intelligent so I no longer am frustrated by these things (mentioned above), as I understand WHY. I now NEVER get angry at homework time, or reading time, or when I am asked questions again and again as I understand the workings of a dyslexic brain as Dawn explains it.

I now know my daughter so well that I am able to go to her school and advise how SHE learns (very different to every other Child in the classroom) so teachers can specifically structure work for her which she understands. She WAS easily the lowest achiever in her classroom (despite her intelligence), but now having met with her teachers and discussed how she learns speicifically, she keeps up, is placed in the middle of her class, and her homework has redically reduced. We have also discovered many many things that she is quite brilliant at, (again in the book), and her teachers have allowed her to teach the class in these areas (you can’t imagine the improvement in self esteem).

The improvement in my whole families life, just by understanding and decreased pressure on my daughter, can NEVER be meassured. The cost of Dawns book in relation is the best spent money ever. (and not very much money at all)

Every school and every household should have one.
A heartfelt THANK YOU Dawn!

10 easy tips to help dyslexic kids with math

There is a big difference between mathematics and arithmetic.

Dyslexics are generally good at mathematics, if taught properly, but not always good at arithmetic.

Arithmetic involves calculating sums.

It is the act of adding, subtracting, multiplication or division. Mathematics involves arithmetic and problem solving.

Albert Einstein, who worked out the theory of relativity that unified space and time, is generally thought to be one of the best mathematicians of all time, but his wife would help him with the arithmetic.

Primary schools tend to focus on arithmetic rather than math and dyslexics often go onto High School believing that they are no good at math, when it is most probably the arithmetic that is holding them back.

So tip …

1 is try to focus on math or problem solving and not merely arithmetic.

Dyslexics learn best by working out, so if a problem is given that involves the student having to work out HOW to solve it, then they remember how they did it rather than what they have been told.

However …

I do not consider sum sentences, which go a bit like …
…”Margaret and Jasmine each bought 4 sweets. How many did they have altogether?” as real problem solving because for a start the dyslexic may not be able read “Margaret” and so will be unable to do the sum. Also many dyslexics that I have worked with find the reading of these questions hard and then refuse to believe that the sum only involves adding 4 and 4 together so look for something difficult and get confused.

2 Try to keep reading to a minimum in work sheets.

At best the dyslexic will get eyestrain and headaches from all the reading and at worst s/he will be unable to read it correctly. Always check to see that your dyslexic can read ALL of the worksheet. If there is a problem with the reading then try to place the dyslexic pupil next to a good reader who can help.

3 Try not to merely explain a new process orally.

Most dyslexics have some Auditory Processing problems so will be unable to remember the instructions. Then they will get confused and may never learn the concept properly.
Always illustrate the method with workings out and show an example that can be kept for reference. Use as many concrete materials as possible so that the dyslexic can work out how to get the answer for her/himself. Children remember best what they have worked out for themselves.

4 Teach only one kind of math sum at a time.

Use this rule also when revising. So many worksheets chop from one type of sum to another throughout the sheet. Dyslexics find this very difficult because our brains process new information more slowly that other people. However we do process new information better than other people. So once your dyslexic has learned something properly then s/he will remember it forever.

5 Encourage any pupil who does not remember his/her number bonds to dock on and off using fingers.

Blocks are used merely to teach the concepts and, with dyslexics, there will be a big gap between understanding the concepts and remembering the number bonds. Sometimes this gap will last a lifetime. I have known university professors who still dock off using their fingers. For more details about docking off see chapter 17 in Dyslexia – How to Win by Dawn Matthews.
Please encourage fingers, rather than a ruler, for docking on and off with because the child will always have his/her fingers on him/her. It seems silly to teach them to add and take away with a ruler because then they have to spend the rest of their lives carrying a ruler with them everywhere.

6 Allow any pupil who does not remember their times tables to use a times table sheet or calculator for multiplication or division sums.

If you do not know your times tables then it is near impossible to do long multiplication or long division without the use of an aid. And remember calculators are here to stay. They even put them on mobile phones. There is a times table square available as a freebie on this site. See this for instructions as to when to let a student use one of these aids.

7 Teach by exploring and doing rather than by observing.

Keep everything as practical as possible. Encourage the pupil to find out for him/herself rather than being told. Dyslexics are good at this.
Sir Richard Branson said that math make no sense at all until he ran his own business and then it became very simple. And believe me there is a LOT of math involved in running a business.

8 Print math worksheets on blue or green paper.

This makes it easier for most dyslexics to read but some dyslexics find yellow or red paper easier. If the pupil has been tested for this then encourage him/her to use the overlay or tinted glasses s/he has been given.

9 To find out if the pupil has learnt a new concept or process completely test a week after it has been taught.

If a thing has been properly learned and understood then it will be in the long-term memory and will still be there a week after it has been learned. Testing immediately after a process is taught only establishes that it is in the short-term memory and it can then be forgotten again. This is what happens with many dyslexics.

10 For a dyslexic harder can actually be easier.

We dyslexics think and learn differently from other people. What we find hard is often very easy for other people. And often what we find easy is hard for other people. If a pupil cannot complete a task do not assume that s/he has to be given easier tasks. Often something more difficult, involving more actual math and less arithmetic, can be easier. Just look at Albert Einstein and Sir Richard Branson.

Tips to help with kids story writing

I use the Fun Writing Game” (sold downloadable at $8.00 from this site) to get kids to enjoy writing. Some kids are natural writers and when given this game they blossom into little authors.
Others may struggle when it comes to writing more than a few sentences. Not many primary teachers actually teach story writing nowadays. Mostly kids are given an idea or a beginning and then told to write a story, project or an assignment. Some kids then freeze up and don’t know how to write enough.
So what do you do?

Tip 1

Well all assignments, stories etc are actually giving us information based on the following questions.

They are …

• What?
• Who?
• When?
• Where?
• How?
• Why?

The clearer the kid answers these questions the more s/he will write and the better marks s/he will get.

For example

If you were writing a story about a giant and a little girl then it would be good to know.
• who the giant was
• where he lived and came from
• what he looked like
• when the story took place
• why the giant was there
• what the little girl was like
• where she lived
• where the story took place
• what happened
• who her family was
• why they were doing what they were doing
• how it ended
• how it happened
• etc.

if you were writing a project on Romans it would be good to know:
• when they lived
• how they lived
• how they built
• what they believed in
• what they ate
• what the schools were like
• why you find them interesting
• where they lived
• who were the most important
• etc

Tip 2

Ask your child to describe what the main characters were like. I ask kids to think of 3 words describing each character – and they all have to be different.
Write each of these words down and spell them for him/her. Kids often play safe with words because they cannot spell them. Difficult words that they want to write can be put into their own fun personal dictionary (available free and downloadable from this site).
If they find this hard then ask them to base their character on someone or something they know.

Tip 3

Makes rules about word usage.

When children have spelling problems they tend to play safe with their lexicon. Here are a few ways to encourage them to use a broader vocabulary.
• Only allow “and” to be used twice in every sentence.
• Limit the use of some words such as “went”. “said’ and “big”. Before the kid starts the story work with him/her to get a list of alternative words to these. For example:
“Went” can be replaced by, drove, ran, walked, strolled, jumped, crawled, scampered, danced, cycled etc.

Tip 4

Some children do actually work better if listening to music at the same time. Be scientific. Test this out and see rather than just banning the music.

Times Table Square

Please note …

Before encouraging a pupil to use this times table square as an arithmetic aid, ensure that the pupil understands the concepts of both multiplication and division.

You can test for this by showing times and divide sums and asking the pupil to predict the answer.

CLICK HERE for accompanying file

  • If s/he gets the answer totally correct every time then s/he does not need this aid.
  • If, on the other hand, the pupil is able to make a fairly accurate guess then s/he most probably understands the concepts and may find this aid useful.
  • If the pupil’s guesses are wildly out then s/he needs to be taught the concepts before being given this aid.

More on this can be found in chapter 17 of “Dyslexia –How to Win” by Dawn Matthews.

Please print out the “Times table square” on off-white or white paper or card.

It has been designed to be multi-coloured and some text will be lost if printed out on coloured paper. It will be easy to read, even for those with Irlen Syndrome, because no black is used.

Please laminate before use.

Do not stick it into a math book, as then the pupil will have to be constantly flicking backwards and forwards from math sums to times tables sheet. Please keep it separate so that the pupil can put it next to the sums.

You will note that each horizontal line is a different colour and each vertical line a different font.

I do understand that this breaks every law of design but the varied colours and fonts are used to make tracking, both up and down and side to side, easier.

It can be used for both multiplication and division.


Find the intersecting point between the bold numbers on the top row and on the side row. Eg. 4×5 find 5 on the left hand side and 4 on the top and follow 5 horizontally and 4 vertically downwards and you will find 20 is the point where these lines meet


eg. 21÷7 Find 7 on the top line and look vertically down the line until you find 21. Then go horizontally across to the left dark numbers and you will find 3. 3 is the answer.

10 tips for parents and teachers to help dyspraxic kids

  1. Teach them to totally understand time.

    Because these kids do not always perceive properly, time is not a constant for them and one minute can actually “be” a lot shorter than another. They have to know the length of a minute and an hour. So time things, count in seconds, watch a second hand go round the clock and keep doing these until the child can predict when a minute, 5 mins, and hour etc finishes. Dyspraxic adults can end up in permanent day care because they are unable to understand time properly and sort out their days by themselves.

  2. Keep a diary of what the child needs and has to do every day at school and prepare the day before.

    Teachers and parents should check that the kid has correctly entered details in this diary as these kids are not always totally aware of what has been going on and this is not their fault.

  3. Time how long tasks take and always leave more time than this to do a task.

    These kids panic because they do not believe they can complete something on time or because they try to complete a task in insufficient time. When these kids panic they can get into a real state very quickly so you have to do anything you can to prevent this from happening.

  4. Do lots of activities involving hand eye and body coordination.

    These should include catching and throwing, kicking, crawling through obstacle courses, climbing, standing on wobble boards (see Dsypraxia a guide for parents and teachers), walking on planks while holding objects and sporting activities. This helps correct the perception problems and the neural pathways in the brain, and the kid will then do better academically and socially.

  5. Try to keep routines and order constant from day to day.

    When you have perception problems the world becomes scary if it keeps changing. These kids take some time to learn the routines and learn that they work. If this changes then they get scared that time will run out or things will get forgotten. If you have to change routine then try to do in consultation with the kid.

  6. Try to keep the contents of their world in the same place.

    These kids take a long time to learn where their world and its contents are in space and how they relate to these. When these things move then they get scared because they may not notice and run into them or just not cope with the change. If you have to move items or his/her desk, bed, or toys etc. do it in consultation with the kid.

  7. Neither Developmental Motor Dyspraxia nor Verbal Dyspraxia can be cured or overcome by giving the child amphetamines.

    Please do not give these kids drugs.

  8. Help them establish friends, prevent bullying and cope socially through role-play.

    Because of their perception problems these kids miss some information, reactions and body language. This makes it hard for them to “read” people and situations well. Also they often seem clumsy and awkward and this attracts bullies. They have to be prepared for situations and learn by acting situations out in advance. This is specially needed to cope with bullies.

  9. Teach in a tactile multi sensory way.

    You have to involve as much of the brain, attention and thinking as possible in a teaching situation. If you merely tell them something then they might not “hear” all of the words, but if you tell them, show them and encourage them to do it all at the same time, then they are much less lightly to miss information – as are all kids.

  10. Work with their strengths.

    These kids are creative, sensitive and very caring. They spend a lot of time living in their own heads and inventing and creating things. They also learn to develop their own ways of doing things. These ideas should be encouraged and used. It is far too easy to spend most of a child’s time catching up with and focusing on his/her weaknesses.

For more information and help please read “Dyspraxia – a Guide for Parents and Teachers” by Dawn Matthews

10 tips for presenting worksheets for dyslexics

  1. Use as few words as possible.

    Dyslexics are slow and painful readers and we are put under stress by being given lots of text to read in a short time. We are frequently unable to read the given text in the time teachers give us. The fewer the words the easier it is for us to complete the task.

  2. Vary the font, colour and style of writing so it does not just look like a mass of black letters crammed on a page.

    This makes it easier for us to read as letters and words appear to move about on the page for dyslexics. Also a whole page or plain text is scary for someone who finds reading hard.

  3. Print text on blue or green paper whenever possible.

    Most dyslexics find this easer to read as we actually see too clearly so that harsh black text seems to bleed out and move about on bright white paper.

  4. Leave as much blank space as possible between words, lines and paragraphs.

    This makes the page seem more friendly to us, the text less daunting to read and the words do not appear to move about as much when we read it.

  5. Please put only relevant pictures onto the sheet.

    We learn to use pictures to help us read and irrelevant pictures confuse the dyslexic.

  6. Highlight, or embolden key words and phrases so that the dyslexic can find these easily when re-reading text.

    If the text does not contain this teach the dyslexic to highlight key words.

  7. Avoid using upper case letter for whole words.

    This is much harder for the dyslexic to read as dyslexics learn to recognise words partly by shape. For example the word “train” has the shape of an old-fashioned steam train but the word “TRAIN” is merely rectangular like every other word in upper case letters.

  8. Whenever possible give text in spoken form to a dyslexic.

    There are many spoken books and a variety of software that can read text on a computer. Please see for web addresses.

  9. Try to keep the content interesting.

    When reading is the hardest thing you ever do you are not likely to want to put enormous effort in to decoding something that is of little interest to you.

  10. Allow more time for the dyslexic to read any sheet of text or s/he will not be able to complete the task.

    It is always possible, with the correct teaching, to teach a dyslexic to read but it is not possible to teach them to read quickly. I still have to “say” every word in my head when I read silently.

For more information go to or read Dyslexic – How to Win by Dawn Matthews