10 ways to support a child with compensating dyslexia | Dyslexia UK

10 ways to support a child with compensating dyslexia

March 4, 2024 Keir Williams Comments Off

Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as the ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ disability. Because dyslexia does not affect intelligence, it is often hard to detect. Whilst difficulties with reading, writing and spelling skills are typically the first indicators that people consider when looking for dyslexia, often the signs exhibited can be more subtle. This is particularly true in people with compensating dyslexia. In this, the second of a two part blog, we will discuss how compensating dyslexia can impact upon reading and also provide advice on what you can do if you think your child has compensating dyslexia.

How can compensating dyslexia affect reading?

Compensating dyslexia can affect reading abilities in subtle ways that may not be immediately apparent. Children with this type of dyslexia may struggle with word-by-word reading, leading to difficulties with short passages and test questions that rely on specific word recognition. It is important for teachers and parents to be aware of these difficulties so that they can provide appropriate support and accommodations to help these children succeed.

The difficulties or deficits associated with compensating dyslexia often result in subtle word substitutions or the skipping of words. This can lead to significant underperformance relative to the child’s potential, particularly on tests. Children with compensating dyslexia may show good comprehension when reading lengthy passages or even long books, yet struggle or fail reading comprehension tests that involve short test questions or multiple-choice answers.

At first glance, it may seem paradoxical that children with compensating dyslexia can understand longer passages better than shorter ones. However, this difficulty can be better understood by considering the nature of the reading difficulties that these children typically experience.

Children with compensating dyslexia often struggle with word-by-word reading, skipping words occasionally and making word substitutions. Reading longer passages allows them to use compensatory techniques to make up for their deficits. For example, they can use their excellent language skills to fill in or correct errors in their word-by-word reading. They can also rely on the contextual cues and repetition that are usually available in longer passages.

However, short passages contain fewer contextual cues, have less repetitive content, and often have more condensed syntax. This can make it harder for children with compensating dyslexia to correct individual word errors and increase the likelihood of mistakes. As a result, they may struggle more with shorter passages than with longer ones, despite appearing to have good reading comprehension skills overall.

What should I do if I suspect my child has compensating dyslexia?

If you suspect that your child has compensating dyslexia, the first, and most important step, is to get a formal diagnostic assessment with a dyslexia assessor. Parents may find that their child’s school is less willing to devote special educational needs resources to a child who’s not visibly struggling. If this is your situation, it may be worth paying for a private dyslexia assessment – one carried out by a Specialist Assessor.

A formal diagnosis may entitle your child to allowances in exams and in the classroom. Getting these allowances, including extra time in exams, helps to put your dyslexic child on a level playing field with his peers.

It can also help your child to understand their dyslexic weaknesses – and strengths. Often, just the fact of the diagnosis can boost a compensating dyslexic’s self-esteem. Suddenly, they understands why their brain works the way it does – why they struggle in some areas and excel in others. A dyslexic child is no less able than a non-dyslexic child – they  just needs to learn to play to her strengths, rather than aggravating her dyslexic weaknesses.

Make an effort to find dyslexic role models and mentors for your child. They are likely to respond positively to relatives, friends, or teachers sharing stories of dyslexic issues and their coping strategies.

Parents understandably want to help their child with schoolwork, but if you push too hard, you risk wearing out and alienating them. Some things are worth working on over and over again (see: ‘missing pieces’, below), but other things may be better left in the homework bag, with a note telling the teacher that it was too hard for their current level of learning.

Many dyslexics struggle in school because they missed out on a certain ‘basics’. The root of the difficulty may be because it wasn’t taught to him in a dyslexia-friendly way. Filling in these blanks in knowledge can be the key to a dyslexic child making incredible progress. Finding a good tutor to help with this process is recommended for busy parents. There’s a misconception that tutors only help children who are bottom of the class. In fact, a few sessions with a tutor who understands dyslexia can be a huge boost, even for those who are doing well in school. Especially since a compensating dyslexic may only seem like they are ‘doing well’…

Technology can make a huge difference. Speech-recognition software allows you to write an essay simply by talking. Audio books and YouTube lectures can be preferable to reading books, while text-to-speech software can read aloud any document to you.

Dyslexic children often succeed by putting more emphasis on preparation, rather than relying on memory to ‘wing it’ in exams. And a compensating dyslexic, who’s used to working harder than his peers, usually has exactly the right mindset to do all the work that’s needed to allow them to fly.

In summary, here are 10 points to keep in mind if you suspect your child has compensating dyslexia:

  • Get a formal diagnostic assessment with a dyslexia assessor.
  • Consider paying for a private dyslexia assessment if the school is less willing to devote resources.
  • A formal diagnosis may entitle your child to allowances in exams and in the classroom.
  • Find dyslexic role models and mentors for your child.
  • Don’t push too hard on schoolwork and focus on playing to their strengths.
  • Fill in any gaps in knowledge that may be causing difficulties in school.
  • Consider hiring a tutor who understands dyslexia to help with the learning process.
  • Use technology to make studying easier, such as speech-recognition software, audio books, and text-to-speech software.
  • Encourage your child to focus on preparation rather than relying on memory in exams.
  • Recognise that compensating dyslexics often have the right mindset to overcome challenges with hard work.

For more information speed reading, read this post:  https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/speed-reading-what-it-is-and-how-to-do-it/

Or, read this post on encouraging reluctant readers:


Contact us to speak to a dyslexia assessor: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/#request-form