Which Orchard Toys games are useful for dyslexia?

I’m often asked for recommended resources for parents and teachers to support children with a specific SEND. So this week I wanted to focus on which resources/games I’ve used and would recommend for children with dyslexia.

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to try out some of Orchard Toys’ learning games and I wanted to share with you which of their (many!) fantastic games are great for helping support dyslexic children with their reading, writing and spelling (and information processing). If you didn’t know already, Orchard Toys are a wonderful company and one of the leading manufacturers of educational puzzles and games. (Full disclosure, Orchard Toys has sponsored this post)

What is Dyslexia?

When we think of dyslexia, in my experience, most people think about it as something that makes reading and writing more challenging. A dyslexic child for example, may find that they struggle to spell words correctly, they may find phonics lessons particularly tricky or that reading is more difficult for them than their peers.

And whilst dyslexia certainly does have impact on literacy… it’s not the whole story. Dyslexia actually effects people’s ability to process and remember information and this in turn is what makes reading, writing and spelling trickier for them. Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence, so a child with dyslexia may be very bright and can explain things verbally very well, but struggles to get their ideas on paper.

There are lots of benefits to dyslexic thinking too, in fact ‘Dyslexic thinking skills’ are now a recognised skill on LinkedIn for adults! Children with dyslexia will have lots of strengths these can include (but are not limited to) being excellent at solving problems, being creative, being able to ‘think outside the box and great communicators.

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How might you notice a child is dyslexic at school or at home?

Every child with dyslexia is unique and as such they will have different strengths and weaknesses. But you may notice a child is dyslexic if they are finding literacy activities tricky, especially if this doesn’t match up with their ability verbally. So if a child is able to explain something really well to you but then is really struggling to get this down on paper, this may be the reason.

You could notice that they are finding it tricky to remember spellings. Maybe they have spelt the same word different ways on the same piece of paper. You may also find that they take longer to learn to read, find it tricky to blend letter sounds together to form a word (like ‘c-a-t’ being ‘cat’) and struggle to answer questions about what they’ve just read.

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As dyslexia isn’t just about literacy skills you may also spot that they have challenges with learning to tell the time, remembering the order of the days of the week and organising themselves. They may also find it difficult to concentrate and find it hard to follow instructions.

For younger children, it can be a bit more complicated to spot dyslexia as they are just starting to develop their literacy skills. It may be that you first notice they have difficulties when they are learning to talk. Things like reciting nursery rhymes, for example, might be trickier for a young child with dyslexia. The key is noticing if they are struggling a lot more and if these difficulties are lasting.

What do you do if you think a child is dyslexic?

I’m a huge believer in the importance of identifying dyslexia early as it means (in theory) you can help support the child earlier too. So if you suspect your child is dyslexic it’s important to speak to someone about it. If they are at school, the best person to talk to is their school’s SENDCO (Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinator). You may start by mentioning it to their teacher and asking if they can speak to the SENDCO about it.

Which educational games by Orchard Toys would I recommend to help dyslexic children and why?

As I said, I’m really passionate about identifying dyslexia as early as we can. And whilst they may not get a diagnosis early, if you suspect dyslexia you can still do lots to support them in the meantime. Young children learn through play so one of the best and easiest ways you can support a child with dyslexia to learn is …through play! Multi-sensory learning, so learning using different senses such as hearing, seeing, touching..can really help dyslexic children. And Orchard Toys have some fantastic games that can help you support their literacy skills whilst having fun. Here are my favourites and why:

Wiggly Words – This game is brilliant. It’s a really great way of giving children time to practise spelling and forming words without just writing down their weekly list of spellings on some paper (which lets face it…is boring!). To play, the children have to connect two worms together to make a word. The head of the worm has the start of a word written on it, so it might just be a letter like ‘m’ or it may be a digraph like ‘ch’ and then they have to find the body of another worm that can join to it to make a word. So it might be that they find ‘m’ for the head and ‘an’ for the body to make the word ‘man’. They keep connecting the worms until they’ve made a long length of puzzle. They can do this game by themselves, with family/friends and they could race if they wanted to. For dyslexic children, I’d recommend not racing against others but letting them try and see how many words they can make up in their own time. What I love about this game is it gets children thinking and remembering how words are formed, whilst playing! I’d recommend this for children ages 6+.

Alphabet Flashcards – For younger children these Alphabet Flashcards make a really great resource for introducing the letters of the alphabet and examples of simple words beginning with each letter in written form. I really like how brightly coloured and fun they are. The 26 cards are double sided, on one side is the letter and on the other side the corresponding word beginning with that letter and a simple cartoon image. There’s also a reference board of the letters of the alphabet that goes with it. The scope for these flashcards is huge, you can use them in so many different ways. This gives them real longevity as you may find them useful in a different way as the child gets older. I’d recommend starting with recognising the letters and then seeing if they can remember the picture/word on the back of the card beginning with that letter (remember memory skills are also important). So they could choose a card to start with, say the letter on the card and then try and guess/remember the word that began with that letter (or any other words too!). You can then build up to putting them in order of the alphabet (sequences can be tricky for dyslexic children) and then look at reading and the spelling of the words.

Alphabet Lotto – This game is one of my absolute favourites and I’d argue it’s one of a lot of children’s favourites too! A genuinely fun, family game that helps develop literacy skills. There’s four ways to play it, which like the flashcards, gives it longevity as you can use it for a wide range of abilities and ages. One way is to use it to help learn the letters of the alphabet – great for children at the start of their literacy journey. Everyone gets a board with 6 letters/digraphs on, you take it in turns to choose a tile (that’s face down in the centre) and if you have that letter on your board you can keep the tile. First person to get all 6 – wins! This is a lovely way of helping children to recognise letters, it’s also fantastic for memory skills. My favourite way of playing it, is to use it to help children learn the initial letter sounds of a word – that is to say, the letter sound the word begins with..so for ‘hat’ it would be ‘h’ and for ‘church’ is would be ‘ch’. To do this, they start with the board with the letters/letter sounds on and play the same game but this time match the pictures to the correct letter. This is great for speech and language skills too!

All of these games and more can be found on the Orchard Toys website here.

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