In our last blog post, we looked at what is Dyslexia. Now, having many decades dealing with this and getting through school, even college, graduate, and postgraduate school, as well as teaching students with learning disabilities, I picked up a few things that really work.
Some of the key symptoms of dyslexia are learning very slowly to read, even in the first grade or more. Sometimes there is a speech impediment, as they often go together. You may get a note from a frustrated teacher, as many are not always trained to deal with it. Many students find it very difficult to spell and write, a problem called ‘dysgraphia.’ But, this is not the sad end!
If you try to teach us to read, you need a lot of patience and we need to learn how to read. We will make the same mistakes over and over and not realize it. We may hate reading. And, spell things very creatively; so, what we write is nothing like what is meant.
Parents and teachers, be Patient! This a neurological issue and they can’t help it. They are not seeking to ruin your day or screw up at school. Allow them more time to get something when they are struggling. Sit with your student or child at times during homework or homeschool. Answer their questions and offer help with a good attitude. If you are the one struggling with this, it is OK, you will get it, just allow your brain the time to process. A brain with dyslexia is like a super-fast computer with too little RAM, or a high-performance engine with a clogged air filter. You can do this.
Keep this in mind, most people with dyslexia are not lazy and are very intelligent and can even see beyond what others can. Thus, when they get a handle on it, they will be able to excel in just about anything, including being published authors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, movie makers, and scientists. We usually do not make good editors though.
After Reading Efficiency assessments like (TOWRE-2) or (WIAT-III), you may be referred to Psychologists, Special Ed Teachers, Reading and Learning Specialists, and or a speech-language pathologist. But, beware of any visual therapy. These have not been proven and may even be harmful and are very expensive. Take advantage of whatever you can get. However, from my research and experience, the best help is below.
The Most Helpful Tips for Helping Students with Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities
- First off, think Positivebelieve inand affirm your student. A negative attitude will get you just that, negative grades while a positive attitude will be the grease that helps the engine move.
- It is OK to go slow. A good school should modify the curriculum or provide an IEP or 504, but what is really needed is some extra one on one help. Budget the time, set some attainable benchmarks and goals. This will be hard work, but you all can do it!
- For younger kids, read to them every day! Use Phonics! As you read, sound out the words and tell them what they mean. Tell a story for bigger words. Break bigger words into chunks. Connect letters with sounds, break up words into syllables and sounds, and blend them into words. Ask them to take a picture of the word in their mind, so they visualize and connect a story with the words. Read a lot of rhyming books and make Dr. Seuss your best friend. Then as they learn how to read, have them read those same books first, and do so out loud. When they get older get a whiteboard or blackboard and have them practice big, the bigger the word the easier to comprehend.
- Focus on vocabulary! Learn words and then it is easier to recognize them. Make and use flashcards, practice a few times and then go over them again a week later. You can also read them into a voice recorder and play them back as you read them. Do this on a treadmill or walking and you will pick them up faster than you think.
- Key tip: For all students with books, the best, simplest solution that worked for me and just about everyone I ever taught is this: Have them use their index finger under the words and go at a reasonable pace. Or cut a slit in the middle of a 3*5 index card to follow the words like a “viewfinder” or use a ruler under the sentence. And cover up the rest that you are not reading with colored construction paper.
- For a computer screen or worksheet with a lot of words and curriculum, even math, use colored construction paper as a placeholder with some kind of clip or reusable tape for a screen, especially to underscore the line of the sentence. It is very important to cover any text and images that you have not read yet and have already read, so the brain does not get overwhelmed. Like a racehorse with side blinders or “blinkers.” This helps focus the eyes and not be distracted or overwhelmed.
- Work slow, careful and smart, not fast and sloppy. Allow time to think and process, and this will wear them out. Thus, when they are frustrated or tired, take a break.
- Classical music or “Wholetones” playing softly in the background or any music that is not distracting can be a help too.
- Key tip: For older students, Junior High and above, have them read their material as above out loud into a voice recorder. Then, play it back. And for studying, record notes and the things that need to be learned and playback while driving, or at the mall, or anywhere, with a “smartphone.” This works great, especially in High School and College. As they can do this with any notes, study material, information, even terms and words for science or a foreign language, or math formulas. Write what needs to be memorized on index cards like vocabulary, terms and do as above while taking a walk. This is one of the best ways to study! You are using all four main learning parameters, auditory, visual, read/write, and kinesthetic (movement).
- You can also you an app like “Prizmo Go Instant Text Capture” or “Darwin Reader,” or Scanpen,” or any app that is an “OCR” that takes a picture of the text and then reads it audibly for you. Then follow the voice from the app as you read.
- There are some other great tech helps out too. The “Livescribe SmartPen” will remember what you write and will place text into the computer or smartphone. Voice recognition software can be your best friend, as well as apps like “Eye Tracker,” “Natural Reading,” “Advanced Reading Therapy” and “Comprehension Therapy.” For writing, there is “Ginger” and “Grammarly.” “Snaptype” helps students to fill out on workbooks and worksheets. In practice, there are “Eggy Phonics,” “Dyslexia Quest,” and “Biteboard.”
- Audiobooks are awesome for us! Check your local libraries and reading services. Listen to the audiobook and read the text using the above methods. You may have to stop and start a lot until you pick up speed.
- For teachers, have them sit toward the front of the class. It helps with attention and concentration, especially in large classes and lecture forums. It is too hard and overwhelming to copy what is written on a blackboard or whiteboard or listen to a lecture and copy text. Please give out a handout instead.
- Allow extra time to take tests and answering questions. If they can’t take the regular test, do it orally with them instead. Students with dyslexia take longer to process and can’t be held to the same standards as normal functioning students.
- If this will not embarrass the student, you can provide noise canceling headphones to block out audio distractions. Or provide a quiet space, like a cubical.
- Remember, good posture, if the concentration slips, have them crouch forward andit will increase your concentration. And, stretch often!
- Play the games “hangman,” “Password,” “Crossword Puzzles,” “UpWords,” “Scrabble,” and sound matching games, like what starts with R? And use “phonics” curriculums for below grade three. As they learn to write, place your hand over theirs and guide them with gentleness.
- Go Large with Praise! Any child needs approval and to feel safe and loved. Give them praise for work when it is done, and when they accomplished something. Have celebrations and rewards too. When you provide a stable, happy home and class, they have a safe place and will be better at learning.
When you help a person with a learning disability, they will have the tools needed to succeed, not only in school, also socially, and into adulthood and their professional life too. In fact, in my opinion, who is dyslexic and a published author with a Ph.D., this is not a disability at all; rather, an opportunity. Our minds just work differently.
Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a Homeschool Coordinator at Method Schools and an instructor in a STEM program and a father of a son with autism.