How to teach your child to read – What’s holding your child with learning difficulties back?

Hi everyone, it’s Liz Dunoon here.

I’ve created a series of videos to show you how to teach your child to read and spell from home. The first part of this process is understanding what may be holding your child back and that is what I cover in this article.

Watch the video here

Or you can read more here…

When they were younger, my 3 children experienced learning difficulties and I helped them to catch up at school and succeed in life. As a qualified teacher who specialises in learning difficulties and literacy, I have since helped 100’s of children to learn to read and spell from home.

When you have a child, who is a struggling reader, as a parent, the first thing you need to do is to establish why they are struggling. There are five areas you need to focus on.

These can be explained using my 5+1 model. Here are 5 areas you need to explore.

  • 5-1Visual processing
  • Phonemic processing
  • Auditory processing
  • Executive dysfunction
  • Memory

My +1 – Slow processing rates

  1. Visual processing also known as visual dyslexia has nothing to do with your child’s eyes and everything to do with the way your child’s brain processes visual information. It is important to get a standard eye test for your child to establish any eye problems, but they can still have perfect 20/20 vision and experience visual processing difficulties. Symptoms of this can be difficulty reading black text on white paper, distortions, text movement, tired eyes, fidgeting, headaches and more.
  2. Phonemic processing is your child’s ability to relate the 26 letters of the alphabet to the sounds that they make in words, also known as phonemes. A difficulty hearing the sounds in words is very problematic for the child who is learning how to read. For example, a child needs to know that the word ‘cat’ has three letters, with three corresponding phonemes or sounds; “cuh”, “ahh” and “tuh”.They must identify the letters C, A, T and know that these three phonemes represent them to decode and read the word. Children who have missed a lot of schooling, suffered from a series of early ear infections, or have phonological dyslexia, can have phonemic processing difficulties. Indicators can be the child who consistently struggles with reading irrespective of how good the teaching program is, the child who can’t hear rhyming words and the child who can’t decode new words via sounds after plenty of practise.
  3. Auditory processing is all about how your child’s brain processes sounds. Again, your child can have perfect hearing and still suffer from auditory processing difficulties. It is important however, to first get their hearing tested to rule this out. Because your child’s reading skill is dependent on their ability to hear the sounds of phonemes to decode words, auditory processing deficits can cause big trouble for the struggling reader. Indicators of this can be the child who has trouble following directions, struggles to pay attention in a noisy classroom, is always asking for extra instruction, may pronounce words incorrectly like “wiv” for “with” and who struggles to take in information during an oral presentation.
  4. school-1974369_1920Executive dysfunction is simply your child’s level of difficulty when it comes to organising their thoughts, their tasks and their possessions. This is the child who struggles to start a task, is always messy and disorganised and has difficulty completing schoolwork and homework.
  5. Memory deficits come in many forms. There is long-term, short term and working memory to consider. A child can have one or all of these. The child with visual short-term problems may struggle to remember how words look. The child with auditory short term memory problems may struggle to remember how a word sounds. Long-term memory relates to the ability to store information and retrieve it when necessary. This is the child who cannot remember their teacher’s name, where they live or how to spell a word they have seen many times before. Working memory is incredibly important for schoolwork as it is the ability to take in new information, processes it, act on it or manipulate it, and produce a result. It relates as much to reading a novel, writing an essay and doing a maths equation, as it does to learning a dance routine.
  • My +1 is slow processing rates, because this effects every area of difficulty when it comes to a struggling reader. Slow processing has nothing to do with intellect, it is simply the rate at which a child’s brain works. Some people’s brains process written information quickly and some people’s brains process information slowly. The child with learning difficulties invariably has slow processing rates. This is the child who can work their way through a task slowly and accurately, but will take much longer than the child with faster processing speeds. Both invariably get the job done and the right answer, however the child with the slow processing rates may need more practise and takes much longer.


It is important to consider your child and why they may be struggling to learn to read and spell. Only then can you understand the best way to help them. To establish the reason for your child’s learning difficulties, the best place to start is with a diagnostic assessment from an educational specialist or an educational psychologist who specialises in learning difficulties. Make sure their qualifications are recognised by your education Dept. or authority to allow for future accommodations if needed for their schoolwork.

Here’s the most important bit… Identifying your child’s learning weaknesses will also give you the opportunity to highlight your child’s learning strengths… And strengths are a great place to start when we want to help our child to make rapid progress with their learning. Tailor your child’s learning based on their strengths to allow them to overcome their weaknesses, make massive progress and catch up quickly.

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If you want more information on how to teach your child to read and spell and find out how to access posters and many more educational resources to help your child catch up at school fast…. Join me on my free webinar.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar

Now I want to turn it over to you. Which of the 5 learning difficulties we discussed today do you see in your child? You could also let me know how your child is going by leaving a comment below.


  1. Avatar Caroline Saunders   •  

    I have some questions but don’t want to post a public comment – I wasn’t sure if this was private. I’m sure you will have answers which can point me in the right direction.

  2. Avatar Liz Dunoon   •  

    HI Caroline, Please contact me directly at and I will be able to assist you. Kind regards Liz

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