Dyslexia and Note Taking: How to manage?

REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON AUGUST 13, 2022

Dyslexia is the inability to read, write and spell. Children with dyslexia often find it difficult to read and write even basic words and differentiate similarly structured letters such as ‘b’ ‘d’ or ‘p’ ‘q’. They take pauses while reading and produce distorted words often. Research has suggested that they lack adequate spelling knowledge[1], produce distorted[2] words, and show deficits in phonological processing.

As simple as note-taking may sound, it can become a cumbersome task for affected learners due to their existing deficits in spelling and writing. Writing down what they are being taught absolutely correctly is unlikely. During this, they may face trouble in producing the exact word they are hearing. 

Dyslexia and note taking: Connection explored

One of the major symptoms that this learning disability is centered around is the inability to read, write and spell correctly. This can cause significant academic problems for students, especially after 3rd or 4th grade when they are expected to start being independent. Note-taking can be a perplexing task when children have deficits in writing and spelling appropriately. Children have reported difficulties with a wide range of academic tasks, notably note taking, organizing essays, and expressing ideas in writing in a study[3] done to explore the difficulties with study skills. 

Phonological processing[4], that is the ability to hear, register, store, recall, and make different sounds is deficient in learners with dyslexia. This indicates that dictation or a lecture where they are required to jot down their own notes can be a tough job for them. Deficits in phonological processing will make it harder for them to take note of information correctly. Due to this, they might find themselves to be blank when they look at what they have taken down after the class. In the same way, producing distorted words in a non-sequential manner that may not match with the content shared in class may do the same harm. 

In addition to that, studies[5] indicate there to be deficits in attention span comorbid with phonological processing. This could imply that students will have trouble while listening to the teacher, seeing what they are doing in class, and writing notes. Multi-tasking is a difficult skill to learn given the underlying deficiency in paying attention for longer periods of time and inscribing what is heard at the same time.

Slow handwriting is another reason that note-taking can give students a hard time. In a general scenario, handwriting becomes automatic for most students; they hardly think about the order of the words or how to spell each word. However, children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia have a problem with automatic letter writing and naming. This takes away from them the ability to take notes smoothly and follow the class. 

Strategies to improve note-taking for dyslexia 

Note-taking can be quite difficult for children with dyslexia. Existing deficits in spelling, writing, attention and phonological processing among other deficits make note-taking a cumbersome task. However, certain strategies to improve note-taking may make this easier. 

1. Mind Mapping

To begin their journey of effective note-taking, students can start with the technique of mind mapping. Mind maps are a form of notes that are made in the form of a mind map or a flow chart. This is done by writing the main topic in the center and its corresponding characteristics or features around it with the use of arrows. Mind maps are more likely to be registered than plain theoretical notes because of the visually stimulating structure that makes them easier to comprehend as well. 

2. Visual Note Taking

Using visual tools or drawings to note down what one understood from the information shared is a good way to record knowledge. This also helps in retention and recall. Visual notes can be made in the form of Venn diagrams, tables, charts, and so on. These types of notes also make comprehension of concepts easier.

3. Tech Support

If there is access, children should make use of their devices to either take photographs of the content being shared or record the lesson if it is allowed. Children can also make use of software like OneNote which is a tool for collating notes by saving photographs, and handwritten or typed notes in one place. 

4. Paraphrasing and Precision

Rather than focussing on what is being shared in a lesson, students should focus on taking down what they understood from what is being taught. Making notes of concepts in their own words and precisely mentioning them in points will be helpful and leave less room for the pressure to write down everything that is being taught. In this way, children can also use short forms of words that are subjective to them or their own language further making note-taking easier. 

5. Reaching Out

Taking help for their notes from other students, and what they missed in a lecture can turn out to be quite beneficial and even aid in completing their notes for children. Studying and taking notes in a collaborative way with the help of one another and reaching out to their peers when they stumble is a sound approach to make the process of learning easier. 

Conclusion

Students with dyslexia exhibit deficits in writing and spelling. Low attention span, lack of phonological processing, slow handwriting, and a tendency to produce distorted words can make it difficult for them to keep up with most academic skills, particularly note taking. 

Note-taking requires students to write down their understanding of what has been taught while it is being taught which can perplex students. Above mentioned deficits make note-taking a difficult task. With the use of strategies that make note-taking smoother and easier, children can do better in their classrooms. This may include taking help from peers, using visual notes such as diagrams, and flow charts, writing in their own language, and making their notes precise. 

References

  1. Do Dyslexics Misread a ROWS for a ROSE? (2012, April). Beth A. O’Brien, Guy Van Orden, and Bruce F. Pennington.
  2. Naming Ability and Oral Fluency in Dyslexic Adolescents. (1988). E.G. Sterling, E.G. Stirling, and T.R. Miles.
  3. Dyslexia and difficulties with study skills in higher education. (2007, January). Tilly Mortimore.
  4. Development of Phonological and Orthographic Skill: A 2-Year Longitudinal Study of Dyslexic Children. (n.d.). Manis Franklin R. https://doi.org/10.1006/jecp.1993.1026
  5. Attention span. (n.d.). https://1library.net/article/attention-span-attention-deficits-in-dyslexia.ydkdnggq

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