Dyslexia and Punctuation

A good dyslexia tutor helps a student develop their reading fluency over time, and one of the ways that they do this is through emphasis on punctuation. A dyslexic child tends to have a lot of difficulty with punctuation, sometimes ignoring it entirely when they are reading. As a result, a dyslexic child may read an entire paragraph like it is one large sentence, never pausing for commas or periods, or adding the right sort of emphasis or tone when there is an exclamation mark or question mark. Additionally, a dyslexic student may read constantly in monotone, not adding any emotion or variation in their voice as they read. When combined with a lack of emphasis on punctuation, this lack of emotion can make a dyslexic child’s voice seem more like a drone when reading rather than a narrator reading a story. In my years working as a dyslexia tutor, I have seen many examples of this.

When helping a dyslexic child with their reading, there are several different methods a dyslexic tutor uses to help them emphasize punctuation. One method a dyslexic tutor can use is to have their student overemphasize each bit of punctuation until they start to see and react to punctuation marks in a regular fashion. This overemphasis may involve having them pause longer than normal every time that they come upon a comma or a period. One option is to have them make a definite pause at commas, and then have them double the length of that pause when they come to a period. Now, to a listener, these techniques may make the narration sound a bit odd, but the point of the exercise is to help the dyslexic student pay more attention to punctuation; once they begin to do this, the overemphasis can be dropped.

Another strategy a dyslexia tutor may use with commas is to have the student take a deep breath when they come upon one. This has the benefit of adding a physical reaction to the punctuation mark, which will help the dyslexic child remember it better;  it also gives them enough breath to continue with the rest of the sentence. With question marks, a dyslexia tutor will often ask their student to make a dramatic rise in their voice at the end of the sentence, to indicate beyond doubt that the sentence is a question.

By helping a dyslexic child master punctuation, a dyslexia tutor helps that child become a more fluent reader, as well as helping them gain a better understanding of the structure of the language. Once a dyslexic sees how punctuation is used to structure sentences, it gives them the another piece to use in putting together the puzzle of language fluency.

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