Dyslexia Tips for Teens

Throughout my school life I constantly struggled to keep up with the rest of the class and found it very hard to follow instructions, due to my Dyslexia. It wasn’t until year 10 that I decided I had two options: 1. Continue to try to do my school work like everyone else… and continue falling behind, or 2. Come up with my own way of learning, altered in a way that allowed me to use my strengths to my advantage.

Can you guess which option I chose?

Collecting and creating a range of new, useful techniques that helped me excel was not as difficult as I initially thought. First, I listed the things I was struggling with the most, then I used the internet, the advice of my friends and family, and even advice from my teachers, to find a different way to overcome each challenge. Below I have provided several of the most useful tips and shortcuts that I came up with to help me get the best out of my education and reduce the anxiety and stress that was wearing me down. Using these little tricks when completing school work helped me to go from the girl who used to write completely backwards, to top of the cohort for English in year 12! I hope they serve you well!

  1. Does your English teacher insist that you read a novel as a class but whenever she pulls out the book, you realise that you are still a chapter or two behind everyone else?

I have never been a fast reader, what makes it worse is that I also struggle to absorb the things I read. This meant that whilst everyone else had almost finished the class novel, I was still learning the names of the characters. To overcome this, I went in search of audio book versions of the novel. If you can’t find the audio version of the book you need in your school library, community library or on an app, try simply typing it in to YouTube. I think you will be surprised at what you can find if you look hard enough. Often, I would sit with a notepad and take notes or even do drawings to remind me of important parts of the book (make sure you record the chapter and even page number if you can too just in case you have to do an essay on it later!)

  1. Do you get home and the thought of homework fills you with an overwhelming amount of dread?

You’re not alone! After a long day at school I’m sure that the last thing you want to do is more school work. Unfortunately, the best mindset you can adopt here is to (I know your parents say this all the time) get it over and done with. It can be hard to focus after a long day so I used to walk home from school to clear my mind and get some fresh air. When I got home, before even changing out of my uniform, I sat down and smashed out an hour or two of homework. Afterwards I was able to truly relax. If you choose to do your homework last thing at night, chances are that it has been in the back of your mind, wearing you down, for hours. This means that you haven’t really had a chance to turn off and properly relax and will most likely find it even harder to complete.

  1. Does your mind go blank when asked to write an English essay on a text?

Probably the most useful tool I found, which boosted me up in year 11 and 12, was a website called SparkNotes (https://www.sparknotes.com/). This incredible, free website gives you a rundown of every chapter of a book, descriptions of each character and how they relate to each other, the ideas and themes of the novel, important quotes, key symbols and much more! You can also use the website to help you understand what is going on in Shakespearian text and even some movies! Obviously don’t just copy and paste everything you read into your essay, instead let it inspire you to think deeply about the meaning behind certain elements in a novel and aid your writing. If one particular chapter summary seems to cover some important content, perhaps make sure you remember to read that chapter and take notes throughout. If the text you are studying isn’t on SparkNotes, a very similar website you can use is called Shmoop (https://www.shmoop.com/).

  1. Does your usual study method for a test include cramming every single thing you have learnt into your memory as quickly as possible?

I have no idea why it took me so long to pluck up the courage to reach out to my teacher for help when I knew a test was coming up. Perhaps I was afraid that the teacher would think I was stupid for having to ask ‘easy’ questions, or perhaps they would get angry that I was taking up more of their time. In fact, I found that quite the opposite was true. A good teacher will respect their students even more if they are not afraid to ask for help and demonstrate that they truly care about their subject. If I knew I had a test coming up, I would ask my teacher to specify which particular topics I would be tested on and which I would not be. This does not mean that you should totally forget the things that won’t be in your test, but perhaps dedicate more of your time to the things that you know you will be tested on and save your poor brain from getting fried with too much knowledge! Write a check list of topics you need to ace and tick them off one at a time. Remember that the precious time you spend stressing over the number of things you need to do, could be spent doing some of those things. Even if you accomplish 1/20 tasks, that is still a positive achievement.

The most important tip I can give you is to remember that these are things that worked for me and everyone is different. So perhaps you can take some of my ideas, write a list of things you struggle with, and create your own learning plan. I know school can be daunting and terrifying at times but please stay hopeful, let others help you, and surround yourself with people who are dedicated to lifting you up and watching you shine!

Best of luck!


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