Monday, 24 October 2016

4 Essential Aspects to any Homeschool Curriculum for Dyslexia


Reading is Complex

Dyslexic students have difficulty connecting the sounds that make up words with the letters that represent those sounds. The process of reading is very complex and uses different parts of the brain to decode and read words. Dyslexic students often struggle to keep those word pictures in their minds.


Big Picture Thinkers


Interestingly, even though dyslexic students struggle with reading and writing many dyslexic people are more often right brain thinkers who are very talented in seeing the ”big picture.”  Many dyslexic people are wonderful problem solvers and very creative. But their way of thinking, even though it is necessary and a fabulous blessing for the world, makes learning to reading and write more difficult. So how can we as classroom teachers and home educators best meet the literacy needs of these exceptional students?






 Dyslexia Curriculum Essentials

1. Individualized Teaching:  When parents come to me for help with their dyslexic child they often ask which program they should use with their child. That is a difficult question because each child is different with different strengths and weaknesses. We can’t use a one size fits all program. That being said there are wonderful programs out there that parents and teachers can use and we will discuss them later. However  keep in mind that any program that you use will have to be modified based on the specific needs of the student. This is one of the advantages of 1:1 instruction which is the ability to customize instruction for students.


2. Multi-sensory Teaching:  Research has shown that Children with Learning disabilities learn best when the teaching is done through Multisensory instruction. Judith R. Birsh has written an extremely helpful book Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills. .Birsh details how important it is to teach literacy lessons using 2 or 3 senses. For example, many children are helped by tapping out the sounds in a word on their arm for the kinesthetic feedback. I often have active children jump out syllables in a word which gets their entire body involved in the learning process. The use of multiple senses when learning a difficult concept can make a significant difference in learning for children with dyslexia.


courtesy of Vecteezy





3. Explicit teaching: Dyslexic children don’t “pick up” reading. In fact, most children don’t learn to read well without careful explicit instruction. The Annie E Casey Foundation report states that the data shows that 80 percent of lower-income fourth graders and 66 percent of all kids are not reading at grade level at the start of fourth grade. Dyslexic students need to be taught the rules that they can apply to reading and then be given the opportunity to practice the rules systematically until mastery is achieved.








4. Sequential and Cumulative Teaching: Students often come to me with huge gaps in their knowledge. They often have learned how to sight read words like children or people, but then can’t read basic CVC words like van, or pet. Children with dyslexia need to be taught with materials that present each concept carefully and that build on that knowledge in such a way that the student can master the information and become successful readers.
All these aspects of good teaching are part of the Orton-Gillingham Approach to reading. This approach is not a curriculum but a way of teaching that is effective for dyslexic learners and for other students as well.


Best Curriculums for Teaching Literacy to the Dyslexic Student




I always recommend that homeschool parents wanting to teach their dyslexic child at home get some support from a trained Orton-Gillingham tutor or teacher who can guide them through the best way to teach their child.  But there are well constructed curriculums out there that I can recommend:


S.P.I.R.E. One curriculum I often recommend for elementary age students is S.P.I.R.E. I like it because each 10 step lesson is scripted so you will be sure to have a well-rounded multi-sensory systematic lesson. However it is a bit expensive, so if you are a homeschool parent I suggest buying the materials used.

All AboutReading This is a good choice for the homeschool family. Lessons are also scripted which helps keep the teacher on the right track.

Barton Reading This is a one-on-one reading tutoring system, completely scripted for easy parent use and Orton-Gillingham based.
Logic of English  This is comprehensive, completely scripted reading, spelling and grammar program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.




The Wilson Reading Program This program is not scripted, so if you don’t have Orton-Gillingham training, I do not recommend it even though it is an evidence-based program that works well.
More Practice Needed
Even with a well-crafted curriculum, for most dyslexic students more practice is needed than the curriculum materials provide. If you have young students in need of more practice you will find these games helpful. Games area fantastic way to practice skills for mastery. I created them so my students could get more practice in a fun and exciting way. You can find them here and here





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