Today we’re talking about which teaching methods really work with dyslexics. The majority of what I am telling you here was learned through years of researching the most effective ways to teach my own dyslexic kids how to read and, more recently, from my studies to become a certified Orton-Gillingham dyslexia tutor. The bottomline in knowing how to teach kids with dyslexia to read is that there are methods and approaches that have been proven to work and those that haven’t.
The traditional methods that are readily available in forms ranging from inexpensive paperback books to elaborate game-based ‘systems’ won’t work with kids with dyslexia. That is because people with dyslexia learn differently. This post will briefly cover how and what to teach kids with dyslexia. For more in depth information, including information on many of the ‘alternative treatments’, see my 1-hour course, Reading Instruction That Works.
The How of Teaching Reading to Dyslexic Kids
All people with dyslexia can learn to read with the right methods. Effective methods must be:
Personalized: People with dyslexia have similar difficulties but dyslexia can be mild, moderate or profound and it can affect other areas of learning such as spelling, writing, math, organization and attention or focus. An effective reading program will be personalized for the individual student. In practical terms, this means that when you purchase a reading program to teach your dyslexic child at home, it will not just magically be a perfect fit for your child, even if it is an Orton-Gillingham-based program. You will need to modify it as you go. Some things will need more review and others they will master more quickly. Sometimes you will need to be creative and find ways that will help your child learn. By understanding the way your child learns best and the methods of teaching reading that work, you will have the skills you need to customize your child’s reading instruction at home.
Multi-sensory: Reading instruction should include as many of the senses as possible: seeing, hearing, feeling (tactile), and awareness of motion (kinesthetic). The more senses used, the more areas of the brain that are going to be stimulated and more learning is going to take place. By making instruction multi-sensory, say by building words with tiles and tapping the sounds to read, we are using sight, hearing, and feeling. For more troublesome tasks such as say learning sight words, we can add in more kinesthetic exercises like tapping on the arm to make information more sticky. The more senses used at once the better as well.
Direct and explicit: Everything in each lesson is explicitly taught – all content is explained to students – what is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how it is to be learned. It should never be assumed that a dyslexic learner will infer information that has to do with reading. Everything must be taught, practiced and discussed.
Systematic: I never fully understood this until I did my dyslexia certification course. What this means is that each rule, that is directly and explicitly taught, is taught in the same manner – or systematically. For example, when I teach the closed syllable – I teach the rule, provide a rule card for reference, demonstrate the rule with letter tiles and then word cards and have my child sort word cards with both open and closed syllables. Then when I teach each new syllable type (there are 6 or 7 depending on who you ask) I follow the same routine. The idea behind this is that the progression becomes familiar and less brain power is used to grasp the method and is saved for more important task such as remembering and practicing the rule being taught. Also, lessons are the same every day.
Sequential and Cumulative: Instruction begins with the simplest of tasks and moves in a logical fashion to more complex tasks – only after mastery. So readers will not have any words that they cannot sound out with the rules that they have been taught. There will be plenty of practice that works the previously learned materials into the practice.
Synthetic and analytical: Synthetic refers to presenting the parts of language and showing how they can be put together to form different parts of language. For example, we have taught the sound-symbol correlation or phonics. Next we teach how these sounds can be placed together to form words. Analytical is the opposite – this is providing a word and breaking it apart into its individual sounds. Going both directions, so to speak, can help a child really understand the material and is a precursor to spelling.
These attributes are the the basis of the Orton-Gillingham approach. It is not a curriculum or a method per say. Rather they are what needs to be included in any instruction that is used with a dyslexic learner.
Best Reading Programs for Teaching Kids With Dyslexia
If you are like I was when I first began on my dyslexia journey, this post was completely overwhelming! There is good news. There are several affordable, effective, research-based programs that can be used at home without becoming a certified dyslexia tutor. Here are our top picks:
All About Reading All About Reading and their spelling program All About Spelling are hands on, simultaneously multisensory introduction into the written word. Every lesson comes with an engaging phonemic awareness activity that is so fun, your kids won’t know they are learning one of the most foundational skills of reading success. Lessons are completely scripted so there is little prep time for mom. The customer service at All About Learning Press is top notch. Specifically designed for the homeschooled student that struggles with reading. This program has all of the elements of an Orton-Gillingham research-based reading program. For more information, click the image below