My dear sweet child was not reading on grade level. We started out using a phonics program called Explode the Code, and then we used Hooked on Phonics. We also tried a program call Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I really thought we were making progress, so we started using old Dick and Jane readers, and graduated up to Level/I Can Read books, but we kept getting stuck and worse yet, we were slipping backwards.
Let me back up and say that, our dear sweet little boy had some significant articulation issues when he was younger. We thought it was because he had so many ear infection as an infant. His speech issues were so severe that we had him in speech from the time he was 3 years old.
I sympathized with him because I had speech issues and problems reading when I was younger too. My sixth grade teacher recommend to my parent that I get my eyes checked by a doctor specializing in vision issues, not an optometrist. The doctor said my eyes weren’t focusing together and that I didn’t 'see' the middle of the word. I was given bifocals and my school work seemed to improve.
Fast forward back to my child, I was feeling like a failure in several different arenas. The obvious was that I couldn’t teach my child to read. The other, to put it bluntly, was that I gave him some crappy genes. Being the persevering homeschooling momma that I am, I talked to anyone that would listen and diligently research our problems on the internet.
The program that I decided to last this year was called Reading Horizons. It uses an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading. Which by the way, so does the local private dyslexia school, DYNAMIC DYSLEXIA DESIGN “3-D” School, which cost over 1,000 a month. You also have to have a number of very expensive test to get the right ruling before you can even be considered for admission. They won’t take any child above 3rd grade and you have to make a two year commitment to the school with full time enrollment. Sorry, there are reasons we decided to homeschool so, that option was out.
Back to Reading Horizons. We, my son and I, started using this very different method of learning to read, and well honestly, there were days I felt like we were making progress and days that I feel like we were spinning our wheels. I noticed that he seems to 'miss' the middle of a lot of words so I scheduled an appointment with a pediatric opthamologist. In the mean time, I went to a dyslexia workshop, present by Susan Barton the founder of Bright Solutions. This is where I finally started to get some answers about dyslexia.
The first thing to understand that there are 5 main points of dyslexia. Most importantly, it’s inherited. If a parent or grandparent had dyslexia, then there is a 50% chance the offspring will have dyslexia. Second, the brain of the dyslexia is different than that of someone without dyslexia (it's bigger). Dyslexics process language differently, in other words it is a language process issue not a reading issue. Next, you will see issues with directionality in dyslectics. And finally, there are two types of memory issues in people with dyslexia 1) sequences that seem illogical and 2) wrote random facts.
Since dyslexia is inherited, it is important be able to identify it in other family members. For so long we denied that anyone in our family had dyslexia because we didn’t have a clue as to what it was to begin with. So, let look at what some of the characteristics of an adult with mild dyslexia may look like. They were probably solid C students, and may have had difficulty taking notes. Their written work was always their weakest skill. They most likely can read, but they are slower, and they probably have to re-read technical things. They dread reading out loud, and are terrible spellers. They are very intelligent, but their written work doesn’t reflect how intelligent they are. They had trouble learning a foreign language, and they probably had trouble with left/rights, up/down, before/after, north/south/east/west. Most importantly, when they are tired, hot, sick or stressed they probable fall back into difficulty with the above problems including confusing b and d and the like.
Did you know that 15-17% of the population is left-handed and that 50% of dyslexics are left-handed and 50% are female? The classic warning signs for dyslexia are that the persons must have problems spelling and 3 or more of the following issues.
-not speaking by 12 months
-used multi-syllable words out of sequence
-r & l, m & n articulation issues
-slower auditory processing
-smaller auditory memory
-significant auditory discrimination
-chronic ear infections
-problems tying shoe
-problems differentiating between left and right
-late to establish a dominate hand
-problems saying/writing the alphabet (memory & sequencing issue) and includes spelling the last name, address, phone number, remembering abbreviations, letter names and the sound they make, days of the week, months of the year, multiplication tables) -poor spelling and inventive spelling because there are often no vowels they don’t see the letters in the middle of words, often times looking at patterns to decipher the word.
-poor penmanship (dysgraphia) odd pencil grip, inconsistent slant to letters, odd beginning points, inconsistent spacing, can’t copy from the board (this is related to problems with fine motor skills, fading visual memory for two dimensional objects)
Keep in mind that normal style reading test are NOT accurate test. To determine if there is a problem, have them ‘cold read’ from individual word list because they will use picture and context clues to help them decide on a word.
Some of the most common types of mistakes are as follows:
1) girl – gril, form – from, first – fast (same shape)
2) was – saw, who – how, (not backwards reading, it’s sequencing)
3) big – dig, may – way, big – pig (L and R confusion)
4) needed – need, shoulder – should (up/down confusion)
You may also notice that when reading in a book they switch out prepositions because they are more focused on the big words. They may also switch out horse for pony, small for tiny because they are using context clues and not looking at the word.
Be aware that a person with dyslexia can’t break down the individual sounds they are hearing. This is the core and causal factor that separates normal readers from disabled reader. It is an auditory issue to hear and manipulate sounds with in a one syllable worked in your head. Rhyming is an essential pre-reading skill that dyslectics lack.
Remember when I said that dyslexic had bigger brains? Well, they do! The left hemisphere of a normal person in 10% smaller than the right hemisphere, but not so in the dyslexic person. Their left hemisphere is 10% larger than the normal person. They are talented in graphic design, architecture, landscape design, athletic ability, and vocal and instrumental ability (but do not require reading of sheet music). They have wonderful people skills, they are highly intuitive, are creative, global thinkers that are extremely curious. They have mechanical skills; they think logically and often excel in science, medical, and computers or as engineers.
Being dyslexic is not a curse, it is just essential that the problem be recognized so that it can be properly treated. Here is a list of what won’t work:
- Hooked on Phonics
- Reading Recovery
- Reading Naturally
- Accelerated Reader
- Vision Therapy (or colored overlays)
- Brain Gym
- Sylvan, Score & Kuman Centers
- Fast Forward - Ron Davis’ Gift of Dyslexia
- Special Diets
Keep in mind that is better to do nothing that to do the wrong thing.
Here is what will work: Orton – Gillingham (if they are ready for it)
Approved programs include:
- Alphabetic Phonics
- Project Read
- Wilson - Language!
- Barton Reading & Spelling System
There is an Educational system called Kurzweil that offers comprehensive reading, writing and learning software solution for any struggling reader.
I also recommend reading Overcoming Dyslexia by /Dr Sally Shaysitz. If you want to know more about dyslexia check out the International Dyslexia Association or contact your pediatrician. I am not an expert; this is just some information I've gathered. So please feel free to give me feedback, ask questions, or just tell me your story.