5 ‘off the Page’ Dyslexic Children’s Speaking and Listening Symptoms

Dyslexia is often associated with reading and writing difficulties. However, many children with dyslexia also experience challenges beyond the written word, impacting their speaking and listening skills. These “off the page” symptoms can often go unnoticed, creating additional frustrations and hindering their learning journey.

This article explores five key “off the page” speaking and listening difficulties that children with dyslexia may experience, along with helpful tips for parents and teachers:

1. Difficulty Following Multi-Step Instructions:

Children with dyslexia may struggle to process and retain a sequence of complex instructions, especially when delivered verbally. This can manifest in:

  • Difficulty remembering the full set of instructions: They may forget parts of the instructions or mix them up.
  • Taking a longer time to complete tasks: They may need the instructions repeated or broken down into smaller, simpler steps.
  • Appearing frustrated or confused: The inability to follow instructions can lead to feelings of inadequacy and hinder their ability to complete tasks independently.

Helpful Tips:

  • Break down instructions into smaller, manageable steps.
  • Try to use visual props, such as pictures or checklists, to support the instructions.
  • Allow for repetition and rephrasing of instructions.
  • Provide opportunities for the child to confirm understanding by asking them to repeat the instructions in their own words.

2. Challenges with Auditory Processing:

Auditory processing involves understanding and interpreting spoken language. Children with dyslexia may struggle with listening in the following ways:

  • Filtering out background noise: This can make it hard to focus on the speaker and understand what they are saying, particularly in crowded environments.
  • Distinguishing similar sounds: They may confuse words that sound alike, such as “bat” and “cat,” or “bed” and “fed.”
  • Following rapid speech: They may have difficulty keeping up with the pace of conversation, especially in lectures or group settings.

Connection between dyslexia and auditory processing

While the exact link between dyslexia and auditory processing difficulties is still being explored, research suggests a strong connection. The auditory system is important in several foundational skills for language development, including:

  • Phonological awareness: The ability to identify, manipulate, and segment the sounds within words.
  • Auditory discrimination: The ability to distinguish the subtle differences between sounds, such as different phonemes (e.g., “p” and “b”) or word endings (e.g., “s” and “st”).
  • Auditory memory: When the brain can store and recall auditory information, such as spoken instructions or sequences of sounds.

Difficulties in any of these areas can significantly impact a child’s ability to learn and process language, leading to the reading and writing challenges commonly associated with dyslexia. Additionally, children with auditory processing disorder (APD) often display similar symptoms, further blurring the lines between the two conditions. However, it’s important to note that not all children with dyslexia experience APD, and vice versa.

Here are some potential explanations for the connection:

  • Brain processing differences: Studies suggest that individuals with dyslexia may have differences in the way their brains process auditory information. These differences may affect how they decode sounds, filter background noise, and integrate auditory information with other sensory inputs.
  • Shared underlying difficulties: Some experts believe that dyslexia and APD may share common underlying causes, such as genetic predispositions or brain development issues. This could explain why these conditions often co-occur.

Understanding the commonalities between dyslexia and auditory processing is crucial for developing effective intervention strategies. Addressing both the “on the page” and “off the page” challenges can significantly improve a child’s learning outcomes.

If your child presents signs of Dyslexia, claim your 20 minutes FREE consultation valued at $125 with our expert

How the Tomatis® Method addresses listening challenges


The Tomatis® Method is a non-invasive auditory stimulation program designed to improve listening skills and auditory processing. It involves listening to specific sound frequencies, filtered music, and spoken language exercises through specialised headphones.

Tomatis® Method claim can help address various challenges associated with dyslexia, including:

  • Improved auditory discrimination: By training the ear to focus on specific sounds and frequencies, the method aims to enhance the ability to distinguish similar sounds and phonemes.
  • Enhanced auditory memory: The program emphasises listening to and recalling specific sequences of sounds, potentially strengthening auditory memory pathways.
  • Increased attention and focus: By filtering out background noise and promoting auditory processing efficiency, the method may improve a child’s ability to focus and concentrate on the speaker.
  • Improved sensory integration: The Tomatis® Method incorporates activities that integrate auditory and other sensory modalities, potentially leading to better overall sensory processing.

The Tomatis® Method can greatly complement therapy used alongside established educational interventions. As with any intervention for dyslexia, early identification and personalised support strategies personalised to the specific needs of each child are important for successful learning outcomes.

Tips for Parents as well as Teachers to Help Dyslexic Students:

  • Minimise background noise when communicating.
  • Speak slower and clearly, and enunciate your words.
  • Use short sentences and simple language.
  • Paraphrase what the child says to ensure understanding.
  • Encourage the use of assistive listening devices in noisy environments.

3. Difficulty Recalling Words and Phrases:

Children with dyslexia may experience:

  • Tip-of-the-tongue feeling: They know the word they want to use but cannot recall it.
  • Word substitutions: They may use the wrong word, often similar sounding but with a different meaning.
  • Difficulty expressing themselves clearly and concisely. This can lead to frustration and possible meltdowns.

Tips to help Dyslexic Children:

  • Provide picture dictionaries or word banks to help them find the right words.
  • Use visuals and gestures to support their vocabulary development.
  • Offer multiple-choice options when they struggle to find the right word.
  • Focus on building vocabulary through games and activities.
  • Be patient and allow them extra time to find the words they need.

4. Difficulty with Rhyming and Wordplay:

Children with dyslexia may struggle to:

  • Identify rhyming words. This can directly impact their ability to participate in activities like singing nursery rhymes or reading rhyming books.
  • Understand puns, metaphors, and other forms of figurative language. This can limit their comprehension of jokes, stories, and figurative speech.

Speech impediments associated with dyslexia

While not everyone with dyslexia experiences speech difficulties, some individuals may exhibit certain speech impediments. These can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Articulation difficulties: This can involve difficulty pronouncing specific sounds or forming words correctly. Children with dyslexia may struggle to produce specific sounds, such as blends (“fr,” “bl”) or complex consonant clusters (“str,” “thr”).
  • Stuttering: Some children with dyslexia may also experience stuttering, characterised by hesitations, repetitions, or prolongations of sounds while speaking.
  • Word retrieval difficulties: This involves difficulty finding the right words to express themselves. They may struggle to recall specific words or describe things clearly, leading to frustration and communication breakdowns.

It’s important to distinguish these speech difficulties from a specific speech sound disorder (SPSD). While some children with dyslexia may co-occur with SPSD, they are not the same. SPSD is a separate condition characterised by specific patterns of difficulty producing speech sounds, not necessarily linked to underlying difficulties with language processing.

Several factors may contribute to the connection between dyslexia and speech impediments:

  • Shared underlying difficulties: As discussed earlier, the brain processing differences associated with dyslexia may also impact motor planning along with coordination involved in speech production.
  • Phonological awareness challenges: Difficulty manipulating and segmenting sounds within words can translate into problems producing those sounds accurately in spoken language.
  • Language processing deficits: Underlying language processing difficulties can affect a child’s ability to retrieve and express themselves fluently, leading to speech disfluencies.

If your child presents signs of Dyslexia, claim your 20 minutes FREE consultation valued at $125 with our expert

Tomatis® Method interventions for improving speech

The Tomatis® Method, while not a direct treatment for speech impediments, may offer potential benefits for improving speech through its focus on auditory processing and sensory integration.

Here’s how the Tomatis® Method might contribute to improved speech in individuals with dyslexia:

  • Enhanced auditory discrimination: By training the ear to distinguish subtle differences in sounds, the method may improve the ability to perceive and produce speech sounds more accurately.
  • Improved auditory feedback loop: The Tomatis® Method emphasises listening to one’s own voice while speaking. This enhanced auditory feedback loop may improve speech motor control and awareness of pronunciation errors.
  • Potential for improved motor planning: The Tomatis® method may also enhance neural connections involved in motor planning, potentially benefiting the coordination required for speech production.

While research on the Tomatis® Method’s specific impact on speech impediments in dyslexia is ongoing, studies suggest potential benefits in areas like articulation and fluency.

Tips for Dyslexic Children to Help with their speech difficulties:

  • Engage in rhyming games and activities to build phonological awareness.
  • Read books with strong rhyming patterns.
  • Explain the meaning of figurative language in simple terms.
  • Focus on the literal meaning of words initially, then gradually introduce figurative language.

5. Difficulty with Storytelling and Narrative Retelling:

Children with dyslexia may struggle to:

  • Organise their thoughts and sequence events logically. This can make it difficult for them to tell stories or recount experiences.
  • Recall details and specific information. They may miss important elements of the story or jumble them up while retelling.
  • Express themselves creatively and spontaneously. This can decrease their interest in participating in storytelling activities or creative writing.

Tips to help Dyslexic Children organise their thoughts better:

  • Provide sentence starters or story prompts to help them structure their narratives.
  • Use visuals, such as pictures or storyboards, to help them sequence events.
  • Encourage them to practise storytelling in low-pressure settings.
  • Focus on the main crux of the story rather than specific details.
  • Celebrate their creativity and effort, regardless of the final product.

Every child with dyslexia is unique and will experience these challenges differently. It’s crucial to seek professional evaluation to understand the specific needs of each child and develop personalised support strategies. By acknowledging and addressing these “off the page” difficulties, we can help children with dyslexia to thrive in all

Also, while dyslexia is primarily associated with reading and writing difficulties, many individuals with dyslexia also face difficulties with speaking and listening. Understanding these challenges and seeking appropriate support, including potential interventions like the Tomatis® Method in consultation with healthcare professionals, can significantly improve their overall learning outcomes and communication skills. Schedule a 20-minute free consultation with our expert, Francoise, to get a better understanding of the Tomatis® Method and how it can help your child with dyslexia.

Françoise Nicoloff

Official Representative of Tomatis Developpement SA in Australia, Asia and South Pacific, Director of the Australian Tomatis® Method, Registered Psychologist, Certified Tomatis® Consultant Senior, Tomatis® International Trainer and Speaker, Co-author of the Listening Journey Series, 45 Years of Experience, Neurodiversity Speaker

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