I once heard dyslexia described as like trying to read a James Joyce novel after having a bottle of wine. As a prolific reader, writer, and wine drinker, I can fully attest to the veracity of this sentiment.

But while there isn’t much one can do to improve one’s complex reading post-wine, there are thankfully quite a few helpful strategies for learning with dyslexia, particularly for younger learners whose minds are still developing.

So today we're going to dive into the question of whether flashcards can be one such tool to help your kids (or students) power through their dyslexia, to better process written information and finally remember what you teach them.

We hope you enjoy our analysis and tips!

Hi! We’re Brainscape

We’re the brains, minds, and hearts behind the world’s smartest study app. We’ve brought together top students, professors, and experts from all over the globe to compile comprehensive collections of digital flashcards for a vast spectrum of subjects, from your child’s ABC’s to the AP subjects, and from high school biology to the Bar Exam.

What sets Brainscape apart from any other study app is that its adaptive learning algorithm leverages decades of cognitive science research to help anyone learn TWICE as efficiently as traditional study methods. And because of this, our flashcards can be used as a game-changing tool for parents and teachers who are trying to help young, neurodivergent kids and teens become better, faster readers and more knowledgeable humans.

(Check out our expert-curated flashcards for Early Childhood Education—kids aged 3-9—and broader Knowledge Genome for any subject your kid might be studying in school.)

So, now that you know who we are and why we know a thing or two about the science of learning, let’s answer the following questions:

  1. What is dyslexia?
  2. What causes dyslexia?
  3. How can you teach kids and students with dyslexia?
  4. Do flashcards help with dyslexia?
  5. How can you use flashcards for dyslexia?

[You might also be interested in our guide ‘Test Prep Tips for Students with ADD/ADHD’]

What is dyslexia?

What is dyslexia

Imagine the brain as a vast library full of books of information. The neurotypical has those books organized via the Dewey decibel system. The dyslexic’s, on the other hand, have been organized by a sugar-rushing army of toddlers. Plus, someone’s turned off the lights and it’s blacker than the inside of your eyelids. Good luck finding what you’re looking for.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that presents as difficulty reading due to problems matching up different letters and words with their associated speech sounds. But more than making reading a nightmare, dyslexic brains have these four key differences:

  1. The dyslexic brain struggles to sequence tasks. Since writing requires a swift sequence of events (synthesizing a thought, thinking of words to articulate it, and then writing those words down) when faced with rows and rows of words, the dyslexic brain becomes quickly overwhelmed.
  2. The dyslexic brain has poor memory recall, which is why it can feel like your kid understands something when you explain it to them but quickly forgets it the minute you change the subject.
  3. As a result of poor memory recall, the dyslexic brain struggles to automate processes, which is why your kid never seems to remember to do small, simple tasks (and why their bedrooms tend to look like a tornado has passed through it).
  4. The dyslexic brain is powerfully right-sided and therefore CREATIVE, a most wonderful benefit! And so, dyslexic people tend to be out-the-box, abstract thinkers, which makes them talented in the arts and humanities subjects.

So, it’s not all bad!

(For more on the difference between left brain and right brain dominance, check out the linked article.)

However, not being able to read all that smoothly or recall information from memory is lousy for your kids. It makes them stand out in class, and not in a good way. It also makes learning and studying in formal environments like school or college mighty difficult (though not impossible). Now throw in the fact that people with dyslexia are often assumed to be lazy or stupid and you’ve got a condition that makes life REALLY HARD for those who have it.

This is why it’s so important that you are reading this. As a parent or teacher, you have the power to completely change the course of your child’s or student’s learning experience … for the better!

What causes dyslexia?

Understanding what causes dyslexia

People with dyslexia have processing weaknesses in the left hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for language, reading, writing, calculations, and memory. It’s something you’re born with and it tends to be genetic; passed down from generation to generation. (So it’s quite possible that you or your partner or your parents or grandparents may have had this condition, perhaps undiagnosed!)

Because of these processing weaknesses, dyslexics tend to rely more on the right hemisphere of their brain, which is the region responsible for storing visual and photographic memories. This explains why boring, black-and-white text can be so hard for dyslexics to decipher: they’re using the wrong tool for the job!

But it’s within the problem that we can find learning strategies for dyslexia. If the dyslexic brain is right-heavy, then the key to overcoming the associated difficulties is to bypass the processing problems in the left brain and focus on learning tasks that engage the right brain more.

How can you help your kids or students do this? By creating more visually engaging learning materials and experiences

This pretty much flips the script on traditional, formal education. But then again, it’s about time someone did that anyway. If you’ve got kids or students with dyslexia, then within your home or your classroom, things should be different.

How can you teach kids and students with dyslexia?

Teaching kids with dyslexia

Educate yourself: awareness is key

The trick to learning with dyslexia is that instead of forcing the brain to learn the way neurotypical brains work, you should leverage its hardwiring to help it learn the way it WANTS to learn.

So your first step as a parent or teacher of kids with dyslexia is to really understand how the dyslexic brain works so that you can (1) be patient when things get hard and (2) try different learning strategies that actually work for their wonderfully unique brains.

Awareness is truly the best path forward for parents and teachers of students with dyslexia so we really encourage you to dive into the scientific literature on the subject. It will empower you to understand your kids and help them learn more efficiently, which makes life a whole lot easier for them.

Leverage learning experiences that engage the right brain

The next step to helping kids with dyslexia to learn is to leverage learning experiences and media that engage the right side of their brains. This means liberally using multisensory media to bring the material alive for them in three dimensions.

For example, when teaching a young kid about a new letter, word, or number, use colorful images, video, and audio to show them that concept and how it sounds when spoken. Draw upon engaging pictures of animals, for example, to connect the dots between the word “dog”, how it’s said, and the animal itself. You have to appeal to your kids’ creative, visual brains to help the information stick.

The very same thing applies to teaching older kids more complex vocabulary or subjects like biology, history, and geography. Lean heavily on pictures, videos, and audio to help them make faster connections between the appearance of a black-and-white word or concept and its full, rich meaning. You can also pepper their education with more hands-on activities and excursions to museums, for example, where they can see the things they’re learning about in school.

But this is just the first part of teaching kids with dyslexia. The second part is equally as important, and it’s spaced repetition

Teach through repetition

The forgetting curve visually illustrates the drop-off of memory retention after several days of exposure to that information. With repetition, however, that drop-off becomes less and less steep as the information becomes permanently ingrained in the brain.

I cannot overstate the importance of using spaced repetition to help dyslexic kids and students learn: it’s how ALL human brains are programmed to retain information but with the dyslexic brain, repetition becomes even more crucial to memory retention.

The forgetting curve (above diagram) visually illustrates the drop-off of memory retention after several days of exposure to information, such as new vocabulary. The more time that passes, the hazier your memory becomes until eventually, you forget it entirely. This is why progressing through a subject in a linear fashion, without ever looking back or reviewing older concepts, is almost guaranteed to yield shoddy test results.

But by repeating your exposure to that new vocabulary, regularly at first and then over longer time intervals, the neural pathways your brain builds to the new words you’re learning become stronger and stronger until they become permanently ingrained.

With the dyslexic brain, however, this memory drop-off is much steeper and more persistent, requiring many more repetitions to permanently ingrain new words than a neurotypical brain. And so the key here is to teach using spaced repetition: exposing your kid or student to the same concept again and again, over intervals of time that are personalized to how well they remembered that concept from before.

How the heck can you do this, especially if you have other children and students in the classroom?

Using flashcards.

More specifically: Brainscape’s digital flashcards for web and mobile, which are delivered by a spaced repetition algorithm that is personalized to the user’s unique pace of learning, making them the perfect tool and learning strategy for dyslexic kids and students!

Do flashcards help with dyslexia?

I kinda already answered this question but, YES, flashcards do help with dyslexia! And for many reasons. Flashcards combine several important factors that play to the strengths of the right-heavy dyslexic brain.

For starters, flashcards—particularly smart, digital flashcards like Brainscape’s—are way more engaging than having to trudge through textbooks. We’ve already established that the dyslexic brain doesn’t like to learn by reading black-and-white text.

With flashcards, however, information is delivered via short and punchy bite-sized nuggets, which you can spruce up with colorful images, pictures, and even audio. This greatly helps to break up the intimidating monotony of rows of text found in typical readings.

Here’s an example of a flashcard you might make for a young kid learning important vocabulary and how to spell and sound it out …

For kids, you can create flashcards for ABCs, numbers, high-frequency words, and sight words. Better still, you can use our expert-curated collection of Early Childhood Education flashcards, which are specially designed for young kids who are only just starting to learn fundamental skills like reading, numeracy, communication, and emotional intelligence. Through repetition, the word (and how it’s spelled and sounds) will become increasingly familiar, until they’re able to recognise them without any trouble in written language.

Read: How to use Brainscape to teach your kids

The same applies to more complex vocabulary. The dyslexic brain will just take a lot more repetition practice than the neurotypical brain, but that’s okay because Brainscape automates the rate of repetition according to the individual’s unique pace of learning. What this means is that your older kids and teens can also improve their reading proficiency through the use of flashcards. They can also lean on Brainscape’s flashcards to help them learn any content-heavy subject, like AP biology, for example!

Flashcards for older students with dyslexia
For older kids and students, flashcards can be used to break down any subject into its constituent facts, which they can then drill themselves on using Brainscape. They can also search through Brainscape’s vast Knowledge Genome to find already-made user-generated or expert-curated flashcards for any subject they’re studying, saving them the time and trouble of making them.

As we can see from the above examples, flashcards can be used for many learning challenges, and for people of all ages (from young kids to college students, or even adult learners). They’re also easy and intuitive to use, automating the delivery of content at precisely the right frequency for your brain.

Now, throw Brainscape’s spaced repetition algorithm into the mix and you’ve got a personalized study tool that matches your kid’s or student’s unique pace of learning; drills them on your weaknesses (the concepts they struggle with the most); and saves them time on repeating the words and concepts they do know well (without letting them forget them)!

How can you use flashcards for dyslexia?

Teaching kids with dyslexia

The key to helping kids and students with dyslexia learn more efficiently is to (1) engage the right brain in the learning journey and (2) implement a spaced repetition strategy, which you can easily do with Brainscape.


  • Make flashcards using plenty of colorful, engaging imagery and photographs. This helps students build visual associations with certain facts or words.
  • Make each flashcard as unique as possible, helping students to differentiate between concepts easier.
  • Help your kid or student to build solid study habits by setting the expectation that they spend 20-30 minutes per day, every day, running through their flashcards. You could even tempt them with an exchange: for every minute spent studying flashcards on Brainscape, they earn one minute of screen time.
  • If your kids or students are very young, sit down to frequent flashcard sessions with them. (Read: How to use Brainscape to teach your kids).
  • You can also use flashcards to help kids memorize their multiplication tables much faster and, great news, they also works really well for those with dyscalculia!

Reminder: humans are all essentially hardwired to remember through repetition. The more you’re required to use a piece of information, the deeper ingrained it’ll become in your memory bank. Brainscape’s flashcards have been engineered to leverage this core learning principle, which is why it’s so effective at helping people learn quicker … and why it can help dyslexics greatly improve their processing skills.

Final thoughts on using flashcards for dyslexia


We’ve traversed a fair distance in this guide, from defining dyslexia to addressing how flashcards can be used as a tool for improving reading skills and long-term retention of important facts. Now, before I sign off, I’d like to leave you with this super important thought:

Just because your kid’s or student’s brain is different, doesn’t make them any less capable or intelligent than any neurotypical person.

As we’ve seen countless times in human history, it’s the divergent humans who typically accomplish the most extraordinary things. And as a parent or teacher, you can help your kids to accept and love their brain by taking good care of it, while working with their hardwiring rather than against it in order to learn. So, learn about their uniqueness, spread awareness, and lean on Brainscape, and your kids or students will rise to any challenge you set for them!