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Dyslexia- sequencing and repeated patterns

5th February 2021

How has Childrens Mental Health Week gone for you? I hope you found some time at some point of the week to talk, slow down and reconnect.

To continue, maybe have a look at a selection of books which have been chosen to build young people’s empathy

Also to help in supporting your child through the jungle of emotions, have a look at this video where author Tom Percival, talks about his books and shares his top tips for looking after your mental health.

I did spend time with my camera and think this photograph shows my emotions now we are in February. Theres a glimmer of hope the sun will shine and things will recover and grow again. Starting to feel more hopeful, I hope you are too.

Small Steps

Small steps can lead to great things but what if the steps are taken in the wrong order?

Normally, I would say it doesn’t matter how you got there (do it your way) the most important thing is to to reach your goal. But what if the order of the steps do matter like in a long division maths problem? Or following a recipe? What if the end result is not the perceived goal as you took a wrong turn along the way. Now I am not talking about ‘life’, that’s a whole different article but what about procedural steps in an operation/task/plan?

Sequencing Issues

I imagine most people have, from time to time, been in the middle of something and then got distracted by a phone call say and then forgotten to do the next step in whatever they were doing. There is a difference between that situation and for individuals who have a constant issue with following the relevant steps in the right order.

Does the individual know the correct steps, can talk you through them, understand them but, due to the distraction, forgot this time? Or does the person not understand ‘sequencing’ at all. May say words in the wrong order consistently, doesn’t understand the terminology of ‘first, second, next etc’, may find it hard to plan and put their own thoughts and past history into order?

Why is not knowing how to sequence such a big deal? You maybe saying, it doesn’t matter if I do not know the order of the alphabet now I am an adult? But it’s so much more, sequencing issues can lead to language difficulties as, if you think about it, every word consists of letters in a specific order. If you don’t know the days of the week order, how could that affect your day to day planning in work or at home?The ramifications of sequencing issues can go on.

Dyslexics may, together with phonological language issues, have difficulties with sequencing. Obvious signs people often refer to is the individual not knowing the order of the days of the week, months of the year and their ABC. As always, dyslexics are individuals and some may have difficulties in this area, some may not.

Also it can be common for individuals to have co-existing difficulties. Such as Dyslexia with ADHD, or Dyslexia with an issue with Auditory Processing, or Dyslexia with Dyspraxia etc.

Why do some people have issues with sequencing?

Lets look at some of the possibilities:

Attention difficulty

Has the individual the ability to obtain and keep attention in order to fully carry out a task or follow instructions?

What are the possible barriers  in developing attention? (as stated in ‘Kids sense’ – Attention and Concentration)

  • Sensory Processing
  • Executive Functioning
  • Self Regulation
  • Receptive (understanding) Language
  • Auditory Processing difficulties
  • Hearing impairment
  • Learnt helplessness
  • Limited motivation
  • Environment

If ‘attention’ is an issue this could lead to details of a list of instructions being missed and being easily distracted away from the task at hand so no completion.

Memory Issues

Sequential Memory is where you are trying to remember items/procedures in a particular order, this can be both visual and auditory. Whilst reading a story, problems with sequential memory could lead to loss of comprehension of what you have just read or heard.

For a more in depth read on memory I would refer you to my article on the issue:

According to the International Dyslexia Association approximately 10% of the population as a whole and approx 20/50% of dyslexics have weak working memory.

Working memory is like a ‘go between’ for the short and long term memory store. In the scenario of a long division maths question, a person needs to keep the numbers in short term memory at the same time as recalling the correct sequencing of steps needed from the long term store to get the answer.

Auditory Processing Disorder

For a definition and information have a look at the NHS website:

There seems to be a breakdown in the brain’s ability to process sounds and language. With problems remembering what they heard, identifying and distinguishing small sounds, and the inability to remove the background noise and focus on the important sounds.

Dyslexia evaluations can look at the ability to listen but not a particular Auditory Processing Disorder. To look further into the Central Auditory Nervous System an investigation can be made by a Audiologist.

Important to note that the individual can hear the sounds but the brain does not process the correct meaning of the signal.

There are different types of Auditory Processing Disorder. Important to identify the actual difficulty type, this can be addressed and then in turn this could help the success of other reading and spelling interventions.

One of the types of disorder is ‘Auditory Sequencing’ which is where you have difficulty understanding and recalling the order of sounds received. This would lead to a possible issue with following verbal instructions in the correct order.

Individuals with an auditory processing disorder may have attention issues which maybe a separate issue or part of ADHD.

The crossing of difficulties into different medical conditions can make the identification and diagnosis of an individuals issue a minefield!

This article addresses the development of the auditory system for anyone who maybe interested. Taken from the article:

‘There is a clear prolonged maturation of auditory development well into the teenage years. Maturation of auditory pathways and non auditory changes (attention, memory, cognition) play important roles in auditory development.’

So consideration of a child’s age and stage of development also needs to be considered.


Individuals with dyspraxia can exhibit cognitive difficulties as well as with motor control. Difficulties with sequencing and structuring information and organisational skills. As always there can be co existing difficulties such as Dyspraxia with dyslexia or ADHD.


May have difficulty understanding the concept of words such as the days of the week or seasons, what is a Tuesday or What is a Autumn? What does ‘first’, ‘after’ and ‘next’ mean? Problems with connecting comprehension to the word. May have limited vocabulary range.

Executive Functioning skills

These are a set of mental skills which help us to plan, set goals and achieve. The 3 main areas of Executive Function is

  • Working Memory
  • Cognitive Flexible Thinking
  • Self Control

Individuals who struggle with EF skills may have trouble with sequencing and time, planning and organisation. They may be disorganised and lose things and their place in a story. They may have problems with identifying what steps need to be taken to enable them to reach their goal.

Weakness in Executive function is not a recognised diagnosis on its own but a lot of people with learning differences may struggle with Executive Functioning skills.

RobinStyle photos


  • On a daily basis find time to ‘talk through’ with your child the steps of how to do a certain activity.
  • Use instructional language such as ‘First’, ‘Second’, ‘before’, ‘after’…
  • If a visual learner, prepare and always have available picture prompts to show order.
  • Allow time for child to actually understand each step not just memorise.
  • Discuss stories and films with a ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. Consider the ‘Story Mountain’ in planning a story.
  • If Auditory sensory issue then reduce background noise. Consider a microphone system such as Roger Focus System which sends the teachers voice directly to earpieces worn by child. This improves clarity and the distinguishing of important sounds from the background.
  • Multi Sensory approach to deliver instructions – say it, show it and written reminder.
  • Ask child to repeat the list of instructions back to you in correct order.
  • Develop listening skills – Activities such as both having a piece of paper hidden from view. You give instructions on how to draw an object or symbol that only you are thinking of. As always, use the instructional terms ‘first’, ‘next’ etc. Fun to see if both pictures turn out the same or completely different.
  • When learning such things as Months of the year and seasons it is important for the child to truly ‘understand’ not memorise. Have available objects and pictures such as leaves and scarves, sunglasses and daffodils etc. They can use all their senses to really know what February and Winter are like.
  • Tell a story then provide 3 picture prompts and ask child to place them in correct order of story; beginning, middle and end.
  • If memory is the issue, think about grouping steps/items together. Trying to remember a long telephone number in the correct order, maybe easier when split into a few smaller groups.
  • Make a cake together and discuss the relevant steps.

Then we are back to where we started again, talking is valuable and important.

I would love to hear from you with any comments or suggestions for future posts. Either comment below or via email as in my contact page.

Take care, be back next week.


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