Dyslexia is a neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain. Research indicates that dyslexia has no relationship to intelligence; individuals with dyslexia are neither more nor less intelligent than the general population. However, some say the way individuals with dyslexia think can actually be an asset in achieving success as they are often highly creative.

Source: International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Dyslexia At a Glance

Definition

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Definition adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. International Dyslexia Society (IDA), Definition of Dyslexia

Types

Learning disabilities range from mild to severe. Students with mild dyslexia will be able to learn to read, write, and spell by using compensating skills they have picked up along the way, but will seldom feel confident in those areas. Students with moderate to severe cases of dyslexia will need intensive intervention to learn to read, along with accommodations and assistive technology to succeed. Intervention should begin as early as possible, therefore parents need to watch for early signs as some symptoms may emerge as early as four years old.

Characteristics Checklist

If your child exhibits many of these characteristics, he or she may have dyslexia. Please complete the dyslexia screener provider by International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Screener for School-Age Children  to determine if a full evaluation is warranted.

Preschool

  • Calls things by the wrong name; may struggle with naming numbers, colors, and letters
  • Difficult time learning to talk; mispronounces of words (psghetti instead of spaghetti)
  • Trouble filling in rhyming words and creating a rhyme
  • Does not follow multiple step directions; may hear the first step but miss the others

Grade School

  • Trouble sounding out new words; does not like to read aloud because uncertain of the sounds (often guesses)
  • Exhibits anxiety around school and specifically reading or speaking in front of a group
  • May read long words, but misread small common words (was, saw, it, the)
  • Will be resistant to reading and may think it is boring because she reads so slowly
  • May not remember the details of the story since he is concentrating so hard on decoding the words
  • Often confuses letters that look similar (b, d, p, q) and letters with similar sounds (d/t; b/p; f/v)
  • May mispronounce common words 

High School

  • Skips words when reading
  • Struggles with comprehension because of strained decoding
  • Difficult time expressing ideas (expressive language)
  • Has a hard time learning a foreign language
  • Language processing deficits make it difficult to understand jokes, abstract language
  • May struggle with spatial concepts such as navigating while driving or working with graphs and charts

Sources:

Understood.org Dyslexia in Children

International Dyslexia Association provides screening quizzes for both school age children and adults, Dyslexia Screener for School-Age Children

Diagnosis

If you feel that your child may have dyslexia and are considering an evaluation, please carefully read through the following before moving forward:

Evaluation and Testing,

Diagnosing Dyslexia and

Misconceptions About IQ Tests.

 

TIP: ADHD & Dyslexia 

ADHD and dyslexia are distinct conditions that frequently overlap, thereby causing some confusion about the nature of both. ADHD is one of the most common developmental problems and is characterized by inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. It is estimated that 25-40% of those with dyslexia have coexisting ADHD, meaning the two conditions often occur together, but they do not cause each other. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, spelling, and reading decoding. 

Sources:

The Reading WellDyslexia Statistics

International Dyslexia Association, ADHD & Dyslexia

Strategies

1. Flexibility

Because students with dyslexia need individualized, systematic, direct instruction in reading, spelling, and writing, homeschooling is increasingly becoming a viable option. In meeting federal and state mandates, less time is afforded to meet individual needs in traditional schools. Also, subjects that students may excel in such as art, band, and sports are frequently sacrificed for more reading and math instruction, thus demotivating an already struggling student.  Be flexible as you work on using appropriate accommodations.

International Dyslexia Association, Why Homeschool a Student with Dyslexia? 

2. Structured literacy

Research-based evidence has proven that structured literacy is the most effective method for teaching reading and language arts to students with dyslexia. When choosing reading curricula, please ensure that all of the components below are addressed:

  • Phonology/ phonemic awareness – sound structure of spoken words
  • Sound symbol association – mapping phonemes to letters (graphemes)
  • Syllables – syllable division rules
  • Morphology – smallest unit of sound; affixes that unlock meaning of words
  • Syntax – grammar, sentence structure and the mechanics of language
  • Semantics – word meaning

What Is Structured Literacy?

3. Multisensory strategies

Historically, multisensory or multimodal instruction has proven helpful in teaching all subject areas to students with any learning disabilities because it increases their interest level, facilitates stronger attention and focus, and strengthens retention rate of newly learned material. Simultaneously, multisensory (VAKT) teaching uses all learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, & kinesthetic-tactile) at the same time or sequentially to enhance memory and learning. Our brains process and remember information better when we see it (visual), hear it (auditory), touch it (tactile), and interact with it through movement (kinesthetic). 

Visual strategies

  • Text and/or pictures on paper, posters, models, projection screens, computers or flash cards
  • Use of color for highlighting, organizing information or imagery
  • Graphic organizers, outlining passages
  • Student created art, images, text, pictures and video
  • The above mentioned techniques often include visual teaching methods and strategies.
  • Assistive Technology

Auditory strategies

  • Books on tape, peer assisted reading, paired reading, and computerized text readers
  • Video or film with accompanying audio
  • Music, song, instruments, speaking, rhymes, chants, and language games

Tactile strategies

  • Sand trays, raised line paper, textured objects, finger paints, and puzzles to improve fine motor skills
  • Modeling materials such as clay and sculpting materials
  • Using small materials called manipulatives to represent number values to teach math skills (blocks, rock, toothpicks)

Kinesthetic strategies

  • Games involving jumping rope, clapping, or other movements paired with activities while counting and singing songs related to concepts
  • Any large movement activity for students involving dancing, bean bag tossing, or other activities involving concepts, rhythmic recall, and academic competition such as quizzes, flash card races, and other learning games. 

Source: Lexicon Reading Center, Multisensory Techniques

TIP

Often children with dyslexia have other disabilities coinciding with their reading disability, so observe secondary symptoms to obtain assistance and support for early remediation. Such support may come in the form of therapy provided through a licensed professional or activities conducted at home. For example, your child may need speech or language therapy to overcome stuttering or learn how to express his/her needs; occupational therapy to develop fine motor skills needed for eating with a fork or writing with a pencil; or physical therapy to work on gross motor skills such as running, throwing a ball, or riding a bike.

Resources

Evidence-based practices, programs, and curriculum:

  1. Wrights Law, Evidence-Based Reading and Math
  2. Academy of Orton-Gillingham, The Gillingham Approach 
  3. Reading Rockets, Chart of Intervention Programs
  4. What Works Clearinghouse, Comparative Charts
  5. Best Evidence Encyclopedia
  6. AL Scottish Rites Foundation Learning Centers, Examples of Interventions

Reading Curriculum

The following reading curricula contain most of the elements of structure literacy, are in a reachable price range, and do not require specialized training for teachers.

Language! The Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum (4th -12th)

The New Herman Method (3rd -6th)

Recipe for Reading (K-6th)

All About Reading (K-6th)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons uses the DISTAR method and is good for young children that are struggling with directionality.

There are other great reading programs available that may be more expensive or require some level of training (video, etc.) that you may also want to check into.

Barton Reading and Spelling System

Wilson Reading Program (2-12th)

Sonday System

Project Read

Other Helpful Resources

The Reading Well, offers resources for parents including laws, research, programs, curriculum, and strategies.  

International Dyslexia Association provides fact sheets, a bookstore, success stories, and provider directories.

Learning Ally (formerly Reading for the Blind and Deaf) provides audio books and a wealth of other resources free of costs, but requires formal documentation of a disability.

Cathy Duffy , curriculum reviewer, is a great resource for detailed information about reading curriculum.

University of Michigan’s Dyslexia Help is another resource for analyzing curriculum.

Aulexic is a small press publishing house, founded by homeschooling mom Rebecca Laffar-Smith that specializes in picture books and short chapter books for early readers and children with language and literacy acquisition difficulties such as those associated with dyslexia, specific language impairment, and autism.

Books about people with exceptionalities

Films about people with exceptionalities

Technology

The following computer apps/software can strongly support your reading curriculum, adding independent practice time for your child on specific reading and language skills, but should not replace an individualized reading program taught by an adult. These programs work on differing skills such as auditory perception, focus and memory, cognitive skills, and language.

Nessy

Lexia Reading

Earobics

Fast ForWord Early Literacy