Teaching dyslexic students – a teacher’s perspective

Specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), like dyslexia, are becoming more recognised in the world of language teaching, which up until recently wasn't the case. In this article one of our experienced Arabic teachers, Rim, explores her discovery of dyslexia and how she supports her students.


During my time as a teacher for 12 years in Syria and 2 in Saudi Arabia within public and international schools, western embassies, and international missions, I never heard of dyslexia, nor was it ever brought up as a topic in teacher training.


Then, when I started teaching in government departments and institutions in the UK, I encountered a student who was struggling to learn Arabic despite the fact that she could speak several European languages. I started to look into the reasons why she was struggling and realized that she might have dyslexia, even though she had no inclination that this might be the case.

As I looked further into teaching dyslexic students, I realized that just as important as teaching methodology was the language itself. After this student, I taught two more dyslexic students and I learned a lot from each of them as to how to improve my whole teaching method within the context of the Arabic language, to benefit my dyslexic students.


Though dyslexia can make decoding words difficult, we can ease this by not asking the student to read out loud. Dyslexia can also impact working or short-term memory, simplifying structures, word order, and processing speed. The root-letter system in Arabic (most words are formed with 3 root consonants) can be very helpful in this regard for some dyslexic students, helping them to learn new items of vocabulary based on the same root.


Another good practice I adopted was giving the students more time to finish exercises and to respond to questions, in addition to allowing for a lot of repetition of the target language for processing and storage.


Finally, I learned to ensure drilling and repetition for vocabulary in every class, before each task, as well as allocating some time for the students to do that in their own time.

One good point I discovered was that grammar is not a problem for dyslexic students; they just need to be presented with repetition clearly and systematically to take account of the short-term memory function.


I enjoy teaching dyslexic students as much as I enjoy teaching other students. My advice to any dyslexic student would be that everyone is running their own race in their own time, and not to look to the performance of others. The language learning journey is a life-long journey that doesn’t end with the C1 exam – so relax and enjoy it! 



In 2021 PLS obtained  membership to the British Dyslexia Association, as part of our commitment to helping learners from all backgrounds achieve their language goals. Get in touch today to discover how we can help you reach your language learning goals.

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