Learning Disabilities Articles
Guide to Getting Kids to Write
By Miriam Darnell
The following was taken from a presentation given at the Gifted Development Conference, July 2004. It’s very outdated, as The Brideun School closed in 2007, and I have been running Druidawn creative writing clubs online exclusively ever since, but hopefully the information is still valid.
My name is Miriam Darnell. Being a gifted/learning-disabled child has afforded me the unexpected privilege of discovering new regions of my brain that few have ever explored.
Because of this, I've come to look at things upside down and backwards. This tendency comes in handy while teaching Language Arts at the Brideun School for Exceptional children. Brideun kids are unique learners who have blockages in their input or output capabilities. Our job as teachers at Brideun is to find alternative pathways in order to get to the same knowledge destination.
Creative writing is my favorite thing to do and my favorite thing to teach. And it was my favorite activity when I was a young child too, though God only knows why.
I was a terrible speller. I couldn't sequence to save my life, and with my poor memory, I tended to lose track of where my story was supposed to be going. On top of this, my teachers dwelled endlessly on the importance of good grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and how to spot a verb, but never taught me how to tell a good story that would keep my audience interested. I was never taught how exciting the written word can be when presented in a thoughtful way.
My greatest barrier of all was that I was a poor reader to boot, so I couldn't learn by the example of other authors either.
Writing for me was feeling around in the dark with no guidance, other than how to put properly spelled words in a proper order on paper and make sure the periods were in the right places. I couldn't make my readers care about what it was that my words were saying. I had incredible stories with realistic characters going on in my head all the time, but no idea how to make them real on paper how to make other people see what I saw in my mind's eye.
Despite all of these disadvantages, I continued to write for my own pleasure all through my school years. No thanks to some of my Language Arts teachers, who, if I hadn't had such an internal drive to write, would have quickly driven all interest in writing out of me in the first year, with their aimless rantings about proper grammar. I learned my grammar all right, which came in quite handy when writing technical papers, but until just recently, I didn't know how to put two words together that had an emotional effect on my readers. How could I know? I was never taught this. I was never taught how to create a character that other people could relate to, or what elements went in to making an exciting page-turning story. I was never taught that concepts such as foreshadowing, symbolism and metaphor add depth to a story and give it an artistic edge.
A mechanically perfect paper devoid of decent content is nothing but a showcase of surface knowledge.
Now I know these things, but only because I've had adult writing mentors who have instructed me in the concepts. My sheer drive to write has guided me toward finding the help I need.
Most children aren't so lucky as to have an internal drive to write. When they have a writing disability and all they are taught is the horribly dry and seemingly pointless method of mechanically correct writing, they lose their creativity and imagination; they lose the joy of just telling a good story. For some of these kids it becomes mind-numbing just to lift a pen.
I'm not saying that grammar and spelling aren't important. Of course they are, but writing, just like math or science, has to be taught with the application of the skill being just as important as the skill itself.
At the Brideun School, I teach creative writing backwards, the way I wish it had been taught to me. Backwards, meaning the application of the skill before the perfection of the skill.
In ancient times, stories weren't written down at all. Spelling and grammar didn't exist. What was important was the story itself. The characters, the plot, the setting, the drama with which the story was relayed to a captive audience.
In my family, Sunday nights were reserved for read-aloud. My mother read to the family from a cherished novel, and we were carried away by the amazing fantasy worlds that unfolded for us. I was always so surprised by how different the experience was for me when Mom finished a book and I loved it so much that I read it again to myself. It never sounded or looked the same. The process of decoding words on paper when reading a story can diminish the narrative in so many ways. Just as focusing on mechanics in writing, especially in the first draft, can cause a writer to lose sight of the story and the characters the things that matter most.
So, to get back to the roots, the essence of the story and the character the things that matter the most to kids, I have created game. The game is so different from the typical process of writing that kids are used to trudging through in school, that they don't even know I've tricked them into writing. The interaction and sheer fun of the game is a wonderful disguise. It frees them from the mechanics of putting words on paper and allows them to create the stories that live in their imaginations a place where words are heard and scenes are visualized, but little is actually written at first.
In the game, we start with a character sheet. A very long, detailed character sheet, where the only thing the kids have to do is fill in the blanks. But the questions proposed on the sheet cause young writers to think about their characters on a much deeper level than what they're used to. They can't play the game until they have a fully fleshed-out person on paper who grabs them emotionally. Next, we start the story.
The story is presented in a completely verbal, interactive format. The game leader, or Legend Guardian, places the newly made characters into an imaginary setting, with a plot already planned. The setting is described in great detail, as settings should be, and then the conflict, the goal, and the reward for achieving the goal are all presented to the players. The players then set off on an imaginary adventure, led by the Legend Guardian, during which time they fight monsters, find treasures, discover new places and struggle for their lives against many obstacles. Finally, the ending comes when the players achieve their goal and win the reward. This game is played with nothing but paper and dice.
You find that when you start this game, kids who were tense in the beginning when they learned that they would be doing creative writing, are now happy, relaxed, and more than a little fired up. The pressure is off. This is fun!
The game part offers students a setting and a plot to use in their stories if they don't have any ideas of their own of what to write. But it is also a great lure. They don't realize that they already have been writing a story just by playing the game. The only thing they haven't done is translate it into words on paper.
Now here's the catch. The only way their characters can move up levels in the game is to put words on paper. Words are like money. They're very valuable. The more they use, the stronger their characters become. Kids understand the process of moving up levels. It's the basis of every video game they play. This is something they're quite familiar with. I'm not particular about what words they use at first. And I never check their spelling or grammar.
The only rule is that whatever they're writing has to be something they're willing to read aloud (maybe just to me, or maybe to the group). Kids won't write nonsense if they have to read it aloud. They'll write stories or poetry that matter to them. They'll also hear the flaws in their own work as they read it verbally. It will bother them enough that they'll want to improve the words so they sound better. And THAT'S where the mechanics come into play… later, in the second draft of their story, at a time when they've come to care about the words that are on their paper. When they want it to not only sound good but look good as well. That's when I teach the more advanced writing technique concepts to show them that there are millions of ways to manipulate words to get exactly what you want out of them. I like to show them how many fun ways there are to add depth to their work so that others will cherish the stories that they write.
The only way you can get children to care about written mechanics (unless they're natural writers who are self-driven) is to get them to care about the stories they've created first. Writing is an emotional process. If you're not emotionally attached to your characters and your story, you're certainly not going to care if it looks good on paper or not.
To summarize, in the game, the volume of words written is the key to moving up levels. Children will care more about these words because they have to write something they'd be proud to read aloud. The editing and mechanics come in later once they're hooked enough on their stories to seek out ways to perfect them. Finally, if they're really into learning all they can, they are taught the art form of writing (adding symbolism and metaphor to give the words depth and meaning), but not all kids will make it to this stage. Only the real writers will, which is how it should be anyway. Just like only the real mathematicians will make it to quantum mechanics.
It's teaching writing backwards. But it works to turn non-writers into writers like nothing else out there.
Helpful Hints to Get Children With Learning Disabilities to Write
By Miriam Darnell
Getting a child with a unique learning style to write can be a difficult process, especially if he has a learning disability. Though most bright children are good writers on the inside (able to create multi-chapter books in their minds), the physical act of putting pen to paper may be an agonizing task. The writing process involves a complex set of skills that nearly any learning disability can hamper. The first step is learning to recognize just where the difficulty lies. Then it's easier to make accommodations to help the child. Some examples of these disabilities are:
Auditory Sequencing Deficit: Affects ability to spell and to write sentences that follow a logical sequence. Also affects memory for small details such as grammar rules, sentence structure, and vocabulary usage. Children with this disability can't see their own errors until they are pointed out by someone else.
Visual-Perceptual Deficit: Skewed spatial relationships may make it difficult to write straight on the page. Words may have no spaces between them or may curve downward until they fall off the page, leaving half of the usable space untouched. Sentences may run on and on with no punctuation or paragraph breaks. Letters may be backwards, mirror image, or switched.
Kinesthetic/Fine Motor: Affects the ability to use the fingers efficiently, including poor pencil grip, difficulty in keyboarding, and poor posture when writing. The child may not have chosen a dominant hand yet, and neither hand is strong enough to write legibly. The weak fine muscles tire easily, which causes a great deal of exhaustion, frustration, and task avoidance.
Organizational Difficulties: May have too many scattered ideas, or one big idea with no knowledge of how to sequentially break it down into workable parts. The child may frequently get stuck with the beginning, middle or conclusion of his story and then promptly give up before seeking help.
Perfectionism/Giftedness: While this may not be considered a handicap in most cases, when it comes to writing, the desire for perfection (or getting the exact picture the child has in mind onto paper) can be overwhelming and stifling. The child's ideas are often too big and too complex for their writing skill level. Their frustration at their perceived inadequacy may cause them to give up before even attempting to write. When gifted-perfectionism is combined with a significant writing disability, watch out! You'll be lucky to get the child to pick up a pen at all.
ADHD: In the case of the ADHD child, writing simply takes too long. It's labor intensive, and the slow editing process, with all the attention one must pay to the minor details of proper grammar, spelling, and organization is enough to make a highly active and impatient child want to climb out of his skin.
The next step to getting any child to express thoughts through writing is to work with his areas of strength and interest. Mastering the finer skills of perfecting a written piece comes later. The most common areas of strength for bright children reside in their verbal expression and vivid imagination. Their interests tend to encompass things that engage their imaginations, affect them emotionally, and present them with open-ended problems to be solved creatively.
To tap into this, we've developed a creative writing game, Legends of Druidawn that gets children to write by capitalizing on these areas of strength and interest. It allows them to build up to more difficult forms of writing slowly, after they have overcome a long pattern of writing anxiety and frustration. Writing can be fun when using this role-playing system. It breaks down writing barriers on a fundamental level. But while this game is a great motivator to get students to write, some may still need an extra boost, especially if they have one of the aforementioned disabilities.
The following is a list of ways you can assist a child who has writing difficulties:
Tell the child to get their ideas on paper any way they want to with no worries about spelling or grammar.
Offer to write every other sentence for the child.
Allow the child to type the paper if handwriting is too hard. Encourage use of an Alphasmart or computer.
If nothing else works, allow the child to dictate the paper to you and work your way up to having them write small parts independently.
Another way to take the pressure off of poor spellers or the sequentially impaired is to have them dictate to you while you write or type it, then they have to copy the whole thing in their own handwriting or copy the typing. This relieves them from the pressure of spelling and organizing the information.
Remember that the first few times you do this, you may have to do more of the work for the child than you want to. Allow the child to get used to the system. It takes time and patience to help a child overcome writing anxiety.
Springboard into more complex forms of writing and editing techniques once the child has overcome anxiety and he has learned ways to compensate for his disabilities.
For further information on any of the disabilities listed above, consult the true experts:
The Gifted Development Center, Dr. Linda Silverman, 8120 Sheridan Boulevard, C-111, Westminster, CO 80003 303-837-8378
Reading With Dyslexia
By Miriam Darnell
Some Tips for Reading with Dyslexia
There are many books on the market that have great techniques for working with dyslexia in reading. I recommend doing a search online for such books, starting with The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis. The following is a list of tips that I use for working with my readers who have dyslexia:
Remember that these are very visual and tactile children. Find any way you can to make the words three-dimensional. For beginning readers, this might be writing words in sand, using raised, wooden or plastic letters, making letters out of clay, etc. For an older reader, using colored overlays helps a lot. You can use transparent plastic report covers that you might find at an office supply store to bring the print to life with color. Pink and green work best, but make sure they're light enough that you can easily see the letters through the colored overlay.
Enlarge the print. Help the child choose a book to read that has larger print, or enlarge the pages yourself on a copier.
Teach the child to use their finger when reading. This helps to keep his place, and helps to move their eyes along faster.
Most students with dyslexia have a visual tracking problem. Their eyes don't move properly when tracking or following a moving object. They usually have a disorder called "convergence insufficiency" as well. This is when the eyes don't work together, particularly when looking near. Go to a developmental optometrist (not an ophthalmologist) and have their eyes tested for these problems. Expect that the child with dyslexia will come out positive for a visual tracking deficit (or ocular motor dysfunction), and/or convergence insufficiency (or eye teaming difficulties). A process called Vision Therapy will be recommended. DO THIS! It helps tremendously!! Kids with dyslexia have enough to struggle against without the basic workings of their eyes impeding them. Without the vision struggles, they are able to overcome their dyslexia much quicker.
For children who get visually over-stimulated, try making a white card that blocks off most of the page, if not all of the print on the page, except for the word or few words that the child is reading at the moment. In the window of the card that displays only a word, or only a sentence at a time, you can tape the plastic overlay so that they still get their alerting color.
If the book is available on tape, get it, and have the child read along silently in their copy of the book as the tape plays. There are libraries for the blind online where you can borrow books on tape through the mail. You can also find many such books at your local library or bookstore.
Just as you might for a child who won't write, reduce the expectations. One way is by having the child only read every third sentence while you read the rest to them. Or you can alternate paragraphs.
Teach the child to skim for information, to look at the whole page at once and rise above the print, and then to zero in on one requested word. Tell them that the slower they go, the less they’ll comprehend. People with dyslexia are great abstract thinkers. They can read a few words of a sentence, and most of the time, understand exactly what that sentence is about. This process can be done in many different ways. I prefer to first have the child look at the whole page and get a general feel for what this page is going to be about (looking at headings and things in bold, how many paragraphs are there, whether or not there are any pictures that give them clues, etc.). It's evaluating the page as if the entire thing was a piece of art, instead of noticing the hundreds of little pieces that make up the whole. Then I give the child one word that I see on the page and send them on a hunt to find the word as fast as they can. This is pulling down from an eagle-eye view to focusing on one, minute detail. The third thing I do is teach the child to start at the beginning of the page, and move their eyes as fast as they will go across the words, using their finger as a tracking device. I'll have them do this for a paragraph or two, reminding them that they don’t need to read every little word in order to gain the general meaning of the sentence. When they’re done, I ask them to talk about what they comprehended from the passage. Usually, the child is surprised by how fast their eyes went across the page and how easily they understood what they were reading, even though they didn't really read it word for word. This is where some vision therapy can really come in handy! The eyes need to be able to move efficiently in order to do this exercise.
Choose emotional material for the child to read. It has to be emotionally engaging in order to motivate them to plow through it. Druidawn is a good place to start for a child who has a love of fantasy. Comic books are another. Comic books, and especially graphic novels, are wonderful tools to help overcome dyslexia. They're colorful, emotional, engaging, short, and fun to read. They're not always written at an easy vocabulary level, however, so choose wisely. I personally use the colored Elf Quest graphic novels by Wendy and Richard Pini, numbers 1-3 (now available for free viewing at Elfquest.com). I've had tremendous success with these graphic novels for 20 years now. They have an incredible storyline that imaginative children really get into; they're exciting and emotional and vivid - beautifully drawn! But beware - books 4-12 are not suitable for children under 13. They have some nudity and sexual situations. When using comic books with my dyslexic clients, I read the narration and some of the talking parts, and the child reads some of the other talking parts. It's less reading for the student that way, and creates a greater sense of accomplishment when we get through the book quickly. The fact that someone is talking on the page helps you to train the child to use inflection and take careful notice of punctuation (eyes skimming ahead to the end of the sentence so they know how to say the words). It's subtle, but it is a helpful skimming exercise.
Tell the child that skimming is something adults do all the time - it's like cheating (you're probably skimming - or scanning - this web page now, not reading it like you would a book). We peek ahead at where the sentence is going so we can go back and read it the way it's meant to be read. We learn to do this so fast that we don't even realize that we're doing it. It takes less than a second to look at the whole sentence without reading it, and find the punctuation at the end. This type of skimming is essential for learning how to be a fast reader. Your eyes have to get ahead of where your mouth is when you're reading aloud.
Encourage the child to try to make pictures in their mind of the story as they go. When they’re too focused on the words and there are no pictures happening, their visual mind isn't engaged, and they’ll have no comprehension or memory of what they read. When they read the word "cow" the picture of a cow should pop up in their mind. It's not just a word - it means something - something that you can put a picture to. Visualization exercises help a child to picture things while they’re reading. You can have them picture their bedroom and everything contained in it. Then you can have them draw a picture of their room. There are millions of visualization techniques and many books on that topic as well.
Remember that these kids will struggle with the easy words, but often not as much with the hard ones, especially ones that are logged in their sight vocabulary (remembering words by the way they look instead of sounding them out). That's because the easy words like "was" or "were" or "this" don't have a picture that you can associate with them. "Refrigerator" has a picture that goes along with it, so it's easier to read than "when," believe it or not.
Phonics don't usually work. Phonics is the traditional process of sounding out words. These kids often have auditory processing difficulties (trouble distinguishing sounds with their inner ear). Auditory processing is linked with sequencing, and when one of the two isn't functioning properly, the other likely isn't either. They can learn to break words down by their sounds, but it's very hard. Much harder than memorizing each individual word by how it's shaped. A good way to practice phonics and train the inner ear is to try to read names out of a phone book. Names are usually terrifying to a person with dyslexia because they may not be pronounced the way they look. This is a good way to practice sounding out words and learning some of the less common rules of language that give you hints as to how to pronounce new words, such as the silent letters in French words, or that "ie" together at the end of the word generally makes an "e" sound.
Rewards are also very motivating. Remember to be patient, loving, and always reward hard work!
Writing With Dyslexia
by Miriam Darnell
Children with Dyslexia aren't impaired, they're special, unique, visionary. Their brains simply learn in a different way. What most people think of when they hear the word "dyslexia" is a reading disability. They think of backwards words and transposed letters. What so few understand about dyslexia is that it affects writing every bit as much as reading. The newest term for written dyslexia is dysgraphia - meaning difficulty with writing. Dyslexia also affects a person's ability to sequence, as is required for math and spelling, as well as their lifestyle in general, and the way they perceive the world.
In order to help children with dysgraphia, it is important to first understand the nature of dyslexia. According to Ronald D. Davis' The Gift of Dyslexia, this condition is not a disorder but rather a unique formation of the brain that causes a person to see the world in three dimensions rather than two.
For instance, pick up a book or (any other three-dimensional object within your view). If you turn that book (or object) upside down, is it still a book? If you turn it on its side, is it still a book? Yes, because that object exists in three dimensions.
However, numbers and letters on paper are two-dimensional, so if you rotate them, they change their identity. A "p" becomes a "q," a "b" becomes a "d," an "m" becomes a "w" if you turn them upside down or sideways. To a dyslexic mind, this is highly confusing and frustrating.
The gift of dyslexia is being able to see the whole picture at once.
It's being able to make huge intuitive and creative leaps in thinking that lead a person to the problem's answer without having to take all the usual steps to get there. It's having the unique perspective to see all possibilities from all angles. It's being completely confounded by the small, mundane, rote, basic forms of learning, yet able to master the advanced, abstract concepts meant for older, more experienced students without even trying.
A dyslexic child who can't add two numbers together without a calculator, might be able to easily grasp physics.
Maybe they can't spell a four-letter word correctly, but the words that they use in their daily language are quite advanced for their age. If able to dictate, this child might be the most poetic and verbally gifted child in school.
The world is a very exciting, colorful, multi-dimensional place for a dyslexic, until they are forced to decode or write a bunch of two-dimensional symbols on a two-dimensional surface.
In addition, dyslexia extends far beyond the classroom. Adults with dyslexia, like Shannon and myself, will tell you that this special structuring of the brain dictates exactly how you go about cleaning your home, how you remember directions to a friend's house, how you shop for groceries, even how you relate to the people around you. See examples below.
The most common difficulty that comes with dyslexia is the inability to, or difficulty with, a concept called sequencing, the step-by-step way in which most people solve problems and organize their lives.
Since dyslexia enables a person to see the whole picture at once, all the little details that help to form that picture get lost. All the steps that go into solving the problem are superseded by the need to have a whole perspective solution. In other words, puzzles are difficult while mazes are easy; algebra and chemistry are confounding while geometry and physics are second nature; spelling is a nightmare, but imagination and verbalization are plentiful.
Small details are easy to miss or forget, so when cleaning or forced to organize something, we tend to gather everything from the edges first and shove it all into one pile in the middle of the floor. Too many scattered things to look at on the fringe is visually overwhelming, and the lack of sequencing ability can cause the mind to shut down until everything is gathered into one place, to form a cohesive picture. Then sorting can begin.
To a dyslexic mind, the world is a series of pictures, images and ideas, not a bunch of steps that lead from one point to the next.
People with dyslexia tend to have a great sense of humor and a love of fantasy/science fiction/imaginary worlds. They make wonderful artists, architects, computer programmers (funny enough, even though this requires a lot of sequencing), moviemakers, writers, politicians, doctors, photographers, craftsmen, scientists, psychologists, counselors, musicians, athletes, and teachers. Of course, people with dyslexia can do any job they put their minds to, just like anyone else, but they tend to have a special talent in the above career choices.
Anyone can learn to sequence well.
For people with dyslexia, it just comes a whole lot harder and slower. There are lots of books written about how to help a dyslexic child learn to read. I personally use comic books with my dyslexic readers. For more information on how the comic book reading system works, read: Reading With Dyslexia.
If your goal is to help a child with dysgraphia with writing, here are some good tips:
Make sure the child is very emotionally engaged in what they are writing. Always work from a place of strong interest. The story they’re writing needs to form full color, moving pictures in their mind as they’re creating it. It also needs to grab them emotionally. They have to care about their characters. The best way to pull the heartstrings is to put the main character through many hardships. Really beat them up. Make them think that all is hopeless, the way Harry Potter felt at the beginning of the first book in the series. Then give the character a triumph. It's the most classical way to get emotionally involved with a story. By the way, fan fiction is a great way to get started as a writer. If the child loves Harry Potter or Pokemon, let them write stories about that. Writing is extremely hard for the child with dysgraphia. It's hard physically (fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination are most likely dysfunctional as well); it's hard organizationally (what to write first, second, third, etc.); it's hard from a perfectionist stand-point (if they’re bright, there's no way they’re going to be able to write on paper exactly what they see in their mind - they don’t have the skills yet); it's hard because it's an agonizingly slow and meticulous process - nearly impossible to sit still for if you have ADHD; and it's hard because of the three dimensional mind forcing itself to look at a two dimensional surface. Have some patience and understanding with this process. Most of these kids can tell a story just fine if you ask them to speak it aloud. It's the writing part that "hurts" (quite literally). The best place to start is to make sure they care enough about what they’re writing to make it worth the pain.
Motivation is the key. Try the Druidawn writing clubs and tutoring for this. If that's not of interest to you, find other ways to reward and motivate the child. You're about to ask them to do the hardest thing they’ve ever tried to do - make it rewarding!
Allow the child to dictate as much as needed until they are emotionally engaged in the story and/or feel motivated enough to do some of the writing themself.
Forget grammar and spelling in the first draft, and for a younger child, forget it altogether, unless you go over the editing with them. You can make the corrections while they watch and learn. Grammar and spelling should be learned as separate skills when trying to help children with dysgraphia. Focus first on the joy of creating stories or poetry that are emotionally engaging. Content first, then mechanics much later. Once the child is over the anxiety of the writing process, they’ll be much more interested in fixing their story mechanically so that it's something they can be proud of. Keep in mind that many of the world's best writers are terrible with mechanics. That's what professional editors are for.
Try getting the child an alphasmart or laptop computer. Teach them how to keyboard. It will take half the pressure of writing off for them to be a fast typist. Likewise, if the child learns computer programming, they will overcome their sequencing difficulties faster than you would believe. You have to sequence a whole lot in order to program a computer, and it's motivating to keep at it if the child is interested in computers.
Use lots of colors and illustrations - have child search the internet for pictures that they can use as models for their main characters, settings, important objects, etc. Or they can illustrate their own work. Tape or paste the pictures onto the back of the written pages, or staple them, or keep them close by in a folder. Anytime you bring writing into pictures, you'll have their attention and engage them emotionally.
Have the child search for appropriate music to accompany their characters and the scenes that they are writing. If they’re writing about a bad guy, have them listen to some powerful bad guy songs or themes (i.e. Behind Blue Eyes by The Who, Darth Vader's Theme on the Star Wars sound tracks.). Movie soundtracks are the best place to look for mood-setting themes.
Realize that if a child is tired and shut down, it's time to stop. Time to look for pictures, listen to music, take a walk outside and think about their setting, etc. It's not good to push writing when their mind is exhausted and shut down. No writer can function under these circumstances.
Try partnering children up on writing projects so they can have fun with it together and feed each other’s enthusiasm. They can take turns with the writing chore while they share ideas.
Break large writing tasks down to smaller, easier-to-handle concepts. If a story needs to be written, start by outlining the plot in ten major plot points or start by just creating a character for the story. Give the child small writing tasks that will eventually build up to the goal of creating a whole story. Remember that organizational skills are severely impaired. Things that might be obvious to you, might not be so clear to them. Even the concept that all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end might not be fully understood by the child, regardless of their age.
In conclusion, remember that these children aren't impaired, they're special. They are here in this world to accomplish great things. They have some skills that you might never achieve unless you have dyslexia yourself. But they also need your help and your infinite patience so they can function in a world that requires a great deal of two-dimensional thinking.