Student with Dyslexia Help

Hi, I run a Japanese language club and I have a student with Dyslexia. I didn’t know if anyone had experience working with teaching the Japanese language and how to best work with a student with dyslexia with it. Any advice would be appreciated.

Note: I am not proficient in Japanese this is just a group of students coming together to try and learn to the best of their abilities without having the resources for a true Japanese class within hundreds of miles.

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I recall one person a while back had trouble with the kanji for dawn. the reading was akebono, but he couldn’t remember that, so I had come up with a mnemonic saying that, “I’m sure you know bakemono means monster, and monsters only come out during dawn” When you rearrange and whatnot you get akebono, the actual reading.

And coincidentally, OP was dyslexic and said that mnemonic spoke to him. Thread here

I’m not dyslexic, nor a teacher, I don’t really know how it works, but maybe you could pay extra attention to the mnemonics your student uses, if they can’t remember a certain thing, change the mnemonic to something that could work with dyslexia.

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I will work on that to see what works best for them! I know with English there are special typesets as well as various tools that can be used to help students out. I wasn’t sure if there were any studies done about dyslexia and the japanese written language. The mneumonics being especially important makes sense. In fact I think I can even use this idea to better help my students in our regular classes. Thanks!

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I’m an English teacher in Japan. One of my friends who teaches English at a different school has a student who he thinks is dyslexic. He’s been talking to other teachers about how to support this student, done a lot of research, etc. Basically what the consensus seems to be is that dyslexia is still pretty unknown in Japan. There’s not a lot of research related to dyslexia and Japanese, teachers generally don’t know how to help students, testing is limited, and resources are few. I also have a student who’s dyslexic, though I’m less involved with managing his accommodations. From what I can tell, the accommodations seem to consist of assigning him a designated helper teacher who helps him in all his classes. That’s it.

All that to say, while there are lots of resources and pedagogical methods to help English speaking kids/people with dyslexia, not much exists for Japanese, be it for native speakers or learners. There are no purposely dyslexic friendly fonts in Japanese like there are in English, etc. My advice would be to try to take whatever dyslexia related pedagogy you know for English and just try to apply it to Japanese as best you can. Or maybe a dyslexic person on here has a technique they’ve created that helps them.

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Specific strategies for Japanese - not so much - however, I’m a speech-pathologist, and do a fair bit of work with dyslexia/reading disabilities/literacy, and it’s something I love. I don’t know how much specific dyslexia knowledge you have, so feel free to skip some of this. It’s probably an excessively long rant.

A bit of dyslexia theory

There’s a lot of disagreement in English about what constitutes ‘dyslexia’ (currently DSM terms it ‘specific learning disability in reading’) - when do we know the person has dyslexia, versus (as is extremely common in schools in the US and Canada - can’t speak to other countries) has had poor literacy instruction. Most commonly, dyslexia gets defined as the person having good oral language and poor decoding - sounding out words - and/or poor reading fluency - slower, less automatic reading. Their reading is worse than we would predict based on their other skills.

There is general agreement that vision is not a component - it’s a persistent belief, but doesn’t hold up in most research. Some people with dyslexia report that the letters feel like they’re moving around, but this seems to be more of an effect of how hard the reading task is.

Often there is a phonological component - difficulties processing/breaking down the sounds in words. One theory on that piece is that the person’s ‘mental representation’ of the sounds are kind of blurry - they have a general sense of what that word sounds like, enough to match it when they hear it to get the right word, but if they’re trying to access it more closely, for example to spell it, they don’t really have the details stored well. Another phonological challenge can be difficulty with blending the sounds together and recognizing the word.

The other ongoing theoretical piece (that I’m aware of off the top of my head) is the transition to automaticity. As you read words over and over, they gradually change from words you sound out each time, into ‘sight words’ - you recognize them just by looking at them - I’m sure you’ve seen those sentences with internal letters flipped around that you can read perfectly well - your brain can read those words well enough that they recognize the general shape/form on sight instead of going through the more auditory path of sounding it out. It seems like people with dyslexia have more difficulty and take much longer to transition words from needing to be sounded out to being recognized on sight. Obviously this has a significant impact on how fluently you can read.

People with dyslexia do note that some fonts are easier than others - specifically to help with differentiating letters when they’re trying to read faster etc. As far as I know, Japanese doesn’t have those, but it would likely be beneficial to look for materials with a pretty clear/consistent font to get started (though eventually practicing other fonts would be helpful for accessing different media etc). I’d particularly look for one where similar looking kana look pretty different.

I suspect more repetition, and particularly practice at ‘sounding out’ words in kana will be helpful as far as increasing fluency there. It might be helpful to focus on a few kana at a time (if they haven’t mastered this already), to build up fluency and comfort - it will likely be slower than for some of your other students. I would work the other way too, on typing or writing the word they heard, to help with sound awareness (honestly, probably a good idea for most foreign language learners).

I assume you’re not trying to treat this student’s dyslexia in the club, so I would also look at accommodations to help them keep language learning, even if their reading is lagging behind other skills - trying to do more oral practice, using reading passages that have an audio version available for them to listen along with if reading the passage feels out of reach (obviously their listening level will have an impact here), or even having peers reading the passages aloud together. Generally I recommend that you get input from the person with dyslexia about how they feel about taking a turn reading aloud - some are comfortable, and some really hate it.

And, of course, ask them what else they’ve found helpful in classes or other environments, or what you can do to help support them. Maybe they would like to have some one on one time to sit with you and practice their reading to feel more comfortable, maybe they’d love to have a specific buddy in the club to bring their reading questions to. Maybe they’d just like to do their best for now, and will let you know if there’s help they want. They know how their dyslexia feels on the inside, and are the best expert as far as accommodations/supports that they want to have and find helpful.

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So, not an expert on dyslexia, but I do have it. My experince of dyslexia is very much rooted in the phonologial dificulties, unless I’m really tired there is no moving or blurring of text. So I don’t use special fonts, but I will use text to speach software to help me read sometimes.

I have read some studies that suggest how dyslexia affects Kanji based writing system might be differnt to how it affects langaues with latin style alphabets.

I can’t really say that I find reading kana and kanji easier than the latin alphabet, but there is something about how regular the kana pronouncation is that I do find helpful. And the other side of that is romaji is really confusing to read if you don’t know the kana that you should be breaking it down into. For example is arigatou, a-ri-ga-to-u or a-rig-a-tou and why are we saying tou like toe? This is problems introduced by romaji that can just be avoided by learning kana.

I guess my advice is to make sure to get students on to using hiragana as soon as you can, romaji is not that good anyway and it might be even less helpful to your dyslexic student than the others.

I think the other thing is that if you use mnemonics, make sure to encourage your students to come up with their own, you want them to have mnemonices that instantly link to the spelling/sound that they are learning in their brain not someone else’s, if they try to use someone else’s and have to go via a english word that has a confusing spelling to them it’ll just be unhelpful.

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No experience on dyslexia or anything regarding speech and phonetics, but for the “reading dyslexia”, sorry, can’t remember the correct name, some ppl find helpful (usually pink) tinted glasses or a piece of colored overlay for the screen or book.
I actually use yellow tinted glasses when I need a bit of help to focus or to spook my procrastination friend away, and yellow naturally blocks blue light from the screens, so it’s a win win for me =P