Missouri passed a law that will implement dyslexia screening for all students starting in the 2018-2019 school year, but we know struggling kids can’t wait that long! That’s why earlier this month we held a dyslexia training with our tutors. We focused on recognizing the signs on dyslexia in our students, making accommodations for those students, helping those students be in a mindset for success, positive reinforcement, and how to effectively teach the Orton-Gillingham method – time-tested techniques for teaching dyslexic readers.
Detecting and intervening before the 3rd grade is important because education makes a pivot at that level. From Time Magazine, “Why Third Grade Is So Important: The ‘Matthew Effect’”:
“What makes success in third grade so significant? It’s the year that students move from learning to read — decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet — to reading to learn. The books children are expected to master are no longer simple primers but fact-filled texts on the solar system, Native Americans, the Civil War. Children who haven’t made the leap to fast, fluent reading begin at this moment to fall behind, and for most of them the gap will continue to grow.”
So how do we recognize dyslexia? We’ve put together a handy checklist based on International Dyslexia Association information. Here’s the list:
- Late learning to talk
- Difficulty pronouncing words
- Difficulty acquiring vocabulary or using age appropriate grammar
- Difficulty following directions
- Confusion with before/after, right/left, and so on
- Difficulty learning the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or songs
- Difficulty understanding concepts and relationships
- Difficulty with word retrieval or naming problems
- Difficulty learning to read
- Difficulty identifying or generating rhyming words, or counting syllables in words (phonological awareness)
- Difficulty with hearing and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
- Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (phonological processing)
- Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters (phonics)
- Difficulty remembering names and shapes of letters, or naming letters rapidly
- Transposing the order of letters when reading or spelling
- Misreading or omitting common short words
- “Stumbles” through longer words
- Poor reading comprehension during oral or silent reading, often because words are not accurately read
- Slow, laborious oral reading
- Difficulty putting ideas on paper
- Many spelling mistakes
- May do well on weekly spelling tests, but may have many spelling mistakes in daily work
- Difficulty proofreading
Other common symptoms that occur with dyslexia
- Difficulty naming colors, objects, and letters rapidly, in a sequence
- Weak memory for lists, directions, or facts
- Needs to see or hear concepts many times to learn them
- Distracted by visual or auditory stimuli
- Downward trend in achievement test scores or school performance
- Inconsistent school work
- Teacher says, “If only she would try harder,” or “He’s lazy.”
- Relatives may have similar problems
So what do we do for a child who is struggling with dyslexia? First, we make accommodations to ensure they are set up for success such as reducing distractions in the learning environment, providing audio books, or allowing for oral test taking. We also foster a positive environment that encourages hard work – “find a way or make one” is our motto! Many people have gone on to lead successful lives with dyslexia, and we believe our students can do that as well.
“Children with learning difficulties go through a lot in life. But that does not mean they are underachievers. Get them into the right frame of mind and you will see them reaching for the skies.”
Finally, we use the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching students with dyslexia.
Steps of Presentation:
-Good posture required; builds core and body-in-space concept
-Review known items; “What did we practice last session?” We build cumulative knowledge (each step based on last concept) and systematic (start from easy & basic, building to more rigorous concepts) approach in every session.
-Introduction of new items; Always pair 2 new items with 5 known items, this ensures success. When reviewing, item should be recognize within 1-1 1/2 seconds, no decoding–automaticity of letter name, sound, word, rule, etc.
-Lip/mouth tactile; Help student to be aware of how your mouth looks and how their mouth feels as they correctly make sounds, use mirror or picture of lips.
-Practice each new item 3 times; Continually ask “what are we doing, what are we looking for, what’s the rule?” This helps focus on task and build on wiring for long term memory.
-Skywriting should be slow and deliberate; Introduce new word on a flash card paired with picture– say letter names, say letter sounds, say word, move to Skywriting using same approach. Slowly and purposefully write each letter in the air, saying the sounds, then saying the whole word. Have the student try to visualize each letter by asking them to erase certain letters–make it a game.
-Write letters on a table top; May use rice, beans, sand, rough table top, or another surface. Have student note position of lips, teeth, mouth, air flow as they write the letters.
-Hand motion paired with sound/letters; I hope to use American Sign Language and/or gestures, or whichever best helps the student remember the concept. Lip/mouth positioning is very beneficial.
-Blending of sounds and/or syllables; Nancy, demonstrated this skill. Pushing tiles, placing your hand under your chin as you say a word or tapping arm is adding tactile sensation.
-Fluency; Time words read from list, short story, or online program.
-Sight words; Use Dolch list and new letter/word to review automaticity of words and spelling through dictation/note taking.
-Dictation; Hearing, writing and saying, then seeing (or proofing). As student reads what was written encourage him/her to be a detective!
-Controlled reading; May use a leveled book or online programming.
We want to make sure that educators and families have all the information they need to help their child with dyslexia. Here are some websites you might find helpful: