A toolkit for the identification and support
of learners exhibiting literacy difficulties


Teaching approaches and strategies


All children and young people need support to help them learn and develop. The needs of the child or young person should always be central to the identification, planning and provision of support. Support should be appropriate, proportionate and timely.


Appropriate strategies to enable the effective learning and teaching of learners with dyslexia should be multi-sensory in nature, well-structured and interactive. A wide range of inclusive teaching approaches, strategies and resources are used across early learning and childcare settings and schools to help learners who have dyslexia and it is important to appreciate that they can also support learners who are not dyslexic. These supports are provided within what is called  'Universal support'.  

Universal Support 

Universal support starts with the ethos, climate and relationships within every learning environment. It is the responsibility of all practitioners to take a child-centred approach which promotes and supports wellbeing, inclusion equality and fairness. The entitlement to universal support for all children and young people is provided from within the existing pre-school and school settings.


Some examples of universal supports are highlighted below within each of the purple boxes. Please note these lists are not exhaustive.

It is common for everyone at some point to experiences low feelings, anxiety and stress. However when this is ongoing and has an impact on someone’s ability to do things then it can become a bigger problem. Some people whose dyslexia has not been recognised may have feelings that cause them emotional and physical distress.

Providing a supportive child centred school ethos which nurtures positive relationships is extremly important for all learners. 

  • Ensure that all staff are aware of their learner's profile. Understanding the learner’s profile, maximising their strengths and supporting areas of difficulties
  • Supporting the learner to understand their dyslexia - their strengths and areas of difficulties.
  • Allow a range of formats for the learner to demonstrate their learning
  • Mark on content – not only spelling
  • Set achievable targets
  • Encourage independent learning 
  • Peer support and buddying
  • Cooperative learning which enables the learners to demonstrate their skill set and develop confidence
  • Small group or individualised learning
  • Specialist input from support for learning staff

Select 'here' to access further information on Helath and wellbeing across a learning community from Education Scotland 

  • Supportive inclusive school ethos
  • Environmental literacy audit of classroom and school
  • Differentiation of materials, media, flexible means of response, individualised homework
  • Multi-sensory approaches and resources
  • Visual prompts, including alphabets, number lines, visual timetables
  • Extra time to complete tasks
  • Use of more accessible fonts on printed materials
  • SQA digital question papers
  • Coloured texts, paper and overlays
  • Help boxes in classrooms
  • Use of Toolkit literacy circles
  • Literacy games
  • Audio books
  • Animation techniques /apps/software
  • ICT to support reading and writing – (accessible digital formats)
  • Encourage talking, telling stories
  • Resources to support the Pre-Phonics stage
  • Phonological awareness and ‘fresh start phonics’
  • Graded, high-interest readers
  • Reading Recovery and Writing Recovery programmes
  • Cooperative learning
  • Adult support, including reading and scribing
  • Phonic dictionaries
  • Mastery-learning spelling programmes.

Difficulties with numeracy is one of the associated characteristics within the Scottish working definition of dyslexia, but may not be experienced by all dyslexia individuals - for some it may be a strength.

Some problems with maths therfore may be related to dyslexia, however, these problems are different from, but may overlap with, difficulties caused by dyscalculia.

Supports which may help. 

  • Help with reading the words in the question - the learner may understand the 'how to' of numeracy but is struggling reading the text or processing the steps of the question in the right order. 
  • Help with the vocabulary - an illustratedl maths glossary can be very useful to show that several words can have the same meaning;for example subtract, takeaway and minus. 
  • Hands on learning helps learners understand the why behind concepts. The use of multi-sensory, concrete, active teaching and learning opportunities (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) to support visualisation and working memory can support the acquisition of number bonds.
  • Times tables square (in class and assessments)
  • Drawing dots for sharing / division
  • Addition/subtraction/time jumps etc on an empty number line
  • Visual prompts e.g.  graphics of fractions, number squares, number lines, visual timetables.
  • Use of memory techniques.  Encouraging learners to record their working and thinking as they go will allow them to track their work and can support memory and focus. Additionally, allowing time for learners to communicate and share their thoughts/thinking is helpful as this can shift the focus onto understanding the process, and to identify if, and where, these are breaking down.
  • Make it fun! - use numeracy games, talk about numbers
  • Establish if the learner understands the concept of 'time' , do they know how to tell the time? 
  • Effective use of approriate IT e.g.  calculators, talking calculators select 'here' to access further information on the Toolkit provided by CALL Scotland. 
  • Provide key information - this may need to be in a digital format 
  • Digital/Write-on worksheets where possible
  • Appropraite film clips which provide a quick overview of the topic or process. 
  • SQA Assessment Arrangements– course work and exams (will require evidence) For example:
  • Extra time to support working memory/processing,
  • Use of calculator – (ensure learner is confident in how to use it)
  • Digital papers

Further information on SQA Assessment Arrangements is availbel on their website

Select 'here' to download Dyslexia Scotland's leaflet - 'Ideas for supporting maths. developed for learners, families and staff.  Select 'here' to access the audio version of this leaflet. 

Difficulties with organisational skills is one of the associated characteristics within the Scottish working definition of dyslexia. Time management, structuring ideas and remembering things, names, numbers and dates may require additional time and a range of strategies, it is important to remember that we are all individual and not every dyslexic learner will use the same strategy as they may not work for them in the same way they work for someone else. 

  • Ask the learner what works for them - encorage them to explore a range of strategies 
  • Provide clear, step by step instruction
  • Allow for processing time
  • Provide overview at the start of the  lesson
  • Mind mapping, use of key words
  • Maximise the use of lists - written or audio
  • Memory games
  • Use of subject glossaries
  • Scaffolding techniques to support writing
  • Visual timetables
  • Make use of colour coding 

Select 'here' to download Dyslexia Scotland's leaflet - 'Mind Mapping' 

Select 'here' to download Dyslexia Scotland's leaflet - 'Study Skills' developed for learners.

Select 'here' to access the audio version of this leaflet.

  • Effective communication between school staff, the learner and their parent/carer
  • School strategies and approaches shared with parent/carer for home use
  • Familes given the oppertunitiy to share with the school starategies and approches which can work at home
  • Effective communication and partnership working between practitioners - ensure that all staff working with the learner has access to their profile so they understand the learner's strengths and areas which may require some additional support. 

Click here to access the resource section of the toolkit.

Further information is available to download on the Dyslexia Scotland Website leaflet page.