This year, they have diagnosed my child with dyslexia. I'm not 100% behind this diagnosis because he has some sensory integration issues, where his right and left side of his brain aren't talking together yet, and I am going to wait until we get that fixed before I determine whether or not he's dyslexic for life.
But for now, he's got dyslexic-style problems in reading and writing.
Turns out that dyslexia is incredibly common. Did you know that? I didn't know that. Up to 20% of children in our schools suffer from dyslexia. And for most people, dyslexia runs in the family.
A few more things that I have been told: The brain is plastic until around age 10. You can work on and "fix" many of the dyslexic problems, but you need to do it early. Of course you can do it later also, but it's easier earlier.
Here's a really fascinating website called "children of the code," about children who have trouble reading. Here's a link to an interesting study from 2002 using resonance imaging technology to determine how the dyslexic brain works and where dyslexia shows up in the brain. And here's another one from 2005 talking about dyslexia and its link to sensory perception problems.
Dyslexic Teaching Methods
There are several well-known and respected teaching methodologies (and others, not so well-known) for teaching dyslexic students.
This section describes the different methods, and I will also include links to resources.
Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method
The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method is a sequential system that builds on itself in an almost 3-dimensional way. It is the basis for many teaching approaches. Here is an overview of it. This approach from EPS is based upon O-G methods. Recipe for Reading is an inexpensive way to teach your child how to read using Orton-Gillingham techniques. You can buy the book for about $25 and then make your flashcards, etc. yourself.
Lindamood-Bell is also highly respected. There is a Lindamood-Bell office in Menlo Park. Here is information on their program. You can go and take Lindamood training for a weekend. This used to cost about $300, or so I hear, but it's currently $600 or so (2/09). Lindamood-Bell has several different programs that you can use for your child. This website contains overviews of the Lindamood-Bell method, approach, and history. Lindamood-Bell also has a website, called Gander Publishing, where you can buy either the entire kit used for a specific class, or supplies used in teaching. These supplies are high-quality, include instructions for use (including a script), and are very useful.
Slingerland is designed for classroom settings of young children in the first, second, and third grades. Slingerland is used in Charles Armstrong school in Belmont.
I really was tickled by the Stevenson method. It just makes sense. It uses peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cakes to help children visualize the logic behind English spelling and wordbuilding. Is that cool, or what? The Barton Reading and Spelling system is designed for one-on-one tutoring of children, teenagers and adults by parents, volunteer tutors, resource or reading specialists, and professional tutors. This simplified Orton-Gillingham approach is easy to learn. Tutor training is provided on videotape, along with fully scripted lesson plans. Here is a free Barton demo and screening video, so that you can watch their technique.
You can buy the Barton system and teach your dyslexic child yourself, if you are unhappy with other alternatives.
Herman Method is designed for small groups of kids from third to sixth grade.
MTA (multi-sensory Teaching Approach)
PAF (Preventing Academic Failure) is an Orton-based approach.
Alphabet Phonics is designed for one-on-one tutoring of children, and was developed at the Texas Scottish Rite hospital.
Wilson Reading System, first designed for adults, can now be used with children in third grade or higher.
Project Read, published by the Language Circle, is designed for use in a regular education classroom by a mainstream teacher.
Toe by Toe is a highly-strucured multisensory reading method that teaches children (starting at sounds) for 20 minutes a day how to pronounce and spell words. It has a wonderful track record.
The Gift of Dyslexia
Ron Davis is an engineer who learned to "turn off" the disorientation of dyslexia. He teaches people with dyslexia how to do it. The Davis Dyslexia Programs (according to their website) is the most widely-used dyslexia program in the world. Ron has written a book called The Gift of Dyslexia. Here is a video about him.
I will say that a friend of mine sent his son to see Ron Davis. My friend is utterly brilliant, and his son is presumably also very bright. My friend's child had been treated like an idiot by his teachers -- but after the teaching, he returned to class able to read without problem and pretty much blew them away. Anecdotal, but I've known my friend since high school.
Interestingly enough, Ron Davis has just branched out to autism training programs, as of May 2008. Here is an article about it. Very interesting stuff.
Homeschooler's Reviews of various reading/writing materials
Learning to Write
Learning how to write can mean two things. The first is how to physically form the letters (in the right direction) and on the lines, with appropriate spacing. This is very hard for some children and I recomment looking at the Occupational Therapy page for information on helping your child learn basic writing.
The rest of this section is on using your executive function to organize information in a way that makes a story. THAT learning to write can also be very hard.
Learning how to organize thoughts can be extremely challenging for children with various problems. When my son was in first grade, I was appalled to see how they taught the kids how to write a story. They said "state a problem, then say one solution that doesn't work, then say another solution that does work." Wow. That approach just amazed me. My son, who eats, drinks, lives, and breathes stories (and has since he could hear), came up with a story like "Bill wanted to find a blue X. He found a red circle. Then he found the blue X." Technically it was correct, but wow. What an amazing way to utterly emasculate (just as an example) one of the most powerful tools that people have - storytelling.
There are many alternate methods, but here's mine. I call it hero-based storytelling for kids and it was first written as an email suggestion to another mom. Try it, and then get wild and make your kid's teacher try it also. It's time that we stopped being afraid of storytelling. Also, here's a book that I found that uses various organizational techniques to help children figure out plots.
Accomodations and Technology
Alliance for Technology Access
Library Reproduction Service
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
The Pulse pen apparently records things and can play them back later. And other things.
Software Programs that Right-Brained Kids Like
Reading and Writing
Sunburst has a program to teach young people how to type: Write to Learn. Here is a list of mind mapping software from a UK dealer. If you're from the US, you should search for these products in the US. Here's a really fun "word mapping" service called Wordle. And here is how a teacher uses it to have her students write poems.
Numerancy has a set of software programs for dyslexic learners to learn math. When I was in fourth grade, my wonderful fourth grade teacher, Miss Ashmore, played records for us every day, with the times table on them. It worked like a charm. Here is the 2008 version musical math times tables!
Have you ever heard of a 100's chart? The advice I got was to begin by doing some simple addition on the chart with your child. Show that when you add 2 you move to the right 2. Make sure your child knows how to get from one row to the next, for example do 38+5. Place a finger at 38 and make 5 steps/hops to the right which will take you to the next row in the process.
Next do additions with double digits. Take 21 +13. Place your finger at 21. For each hop of ten, you can just move straight down. Then move to the right 3 places. This will take some practice before your child sees that each 10 moves you straight down.
Then show your child how to do simple subtraction.
You can also do skip counting easily on the 100s chart. Count by 10s, 2s, or 3s.
My son's teacher uses the hundred's chart to do pictures with her class. it's an exercise in following pattern and directions. Last week she had them draw a pumpkin on the chart - the week before, a rabbit. Very clever.
Sunshine math has been recommended, particularly for right-brained children. It uses a lot of higher-level thinking when solving math problems, and it's free. The site contains all worksheets and all teacher commentary. Very nice.
Resource and Supplies
Here's an organizational planner for middle and high school students called Whats Up?
Colored Reading Rulers
I love this. It's an eye level reading ruler. Check it out. Wonderful! You can buy The Sonday System, which is an Orton-Gillingham based multisensory structured phonics, reading, and writing program.
Books for Parents
Check out Cynthia Stowe. She has a lot of books about teaching dyslexic kids. They sound great. Here is a list from Alibris.
Books for Kids
There is a fun series called The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses, which talk about wiggle fidgets, Stacey Coolidge's fancy-smancy cursive handwriting, working slowly, inability to spell, and so forth. They look really really good.