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One of the difficulties with the English language is that there are often multiple ways to represent the same sound. For example the long a sound can be seen as <ai> as in rain or <ay> as in play. It can also be spelled as just an <a> or in the combination of <a> consonant <e>, such as lane. Then there is the allusive <eigh> as in neighbor or weigh. The process of spelling is hearing a sound, then making a choice on what graphic representation (letter, or letters) will spell that word correctly. Sometimes we choose incorrectly.    There are two methods I use that help with spelling. One is the Orton-Gillingham method. This looks at syllables to determine pronunciation. They are rules, such as <ay> is used at the end of a word, like play, way, say. The other method focuses on looking at the meaning of a word and determining the pronunciation after the meaning is gathered. This method addresses all the words we can "weird"... read more

Okay!  This is something that really helped one of my students..  She switched b and d into her third grade year. She struggled so much!  It's simple. Look at the word "bed"...  does it look like a bed?   When she had trouble switching the letters, I would write the word "bed",  and point out the picture in the word. This is the important part.  Actually turn the word "bed" into a picture.  You can even put a stick person laying on top of the bed.  After it "clicked" and she saw the word in her mind, I could just ask her  to think of the word "bed". The next part was asking her to make a bed with her fingers. Make a "b" and "d" with your fingers (like the "okay sign" in each hand).  I then asked her to look at her hands.  Does it look like a bed?  The "b" sound comes first. I would tell her to hold up her "bed" that... read more

Yes, there is a cure for dyslexia. However, the cure is unreachable for most students. Every child facing the dyslexia label needs an individual "toolbox" with unlimited learning supplies. Those "toolbox" supplies need to be (1) whatever teaching methods (even sometimes) make learning easier for that child, (2) unlimited access to educators whose primary concern is raising the student's self esteem, (3) a waiver from having to read aloud or do math problems in front of the entire class, (4) unlimited access to pictures, stories, and hands-on activities, (5) unlimited access to appropriate technology, (6) information broken into smaller parts and/or color-coded, (7) notes, formulas, word-banks, mnemonics, modified assignments, and (8) a total acceptance of outside the box (giving the student the benefit of the doubt) types of problem solving.   Educational challenges come in about as many shapes and sizes as there are children in schools. The "One... read more

For years, I have developed some of my own teaching strategies to help young children pay attention during piano lessons.  One of my favorite ways to break the monotony of just playing new songs, is playing a short "game".  I have the child place their hands on the first hand position (both thumbs on middle C, and every other finger gets it's own note!). Then I tell them, "I will call out a note, and see if you can play it. Can you play B?  Can you play F in your right hand?", etc. This is a great tip for children experiencing dyslexia, as well.  I also have them say the notes in their new songs as they play them during the first three or four lessons to reinforce the connections from their hands to their brain. If you have very young students, introduce dynamics at the first lesson so that they can have fun playing "forte" and "piano".  Even if they are playing a song with only two notes, you will grab their attention... read more

Students who learn the six major syllable types and their corresponding division patterns will possess one more important strategy in their arsenal of decoding tools, especially valuable to help students read multisyllabic words. Although syllables are considered to be units of speech – not writing, grammar or structure, difficulty in their analysis for writing/spelling purposes results from confusion of their boundaries or division patterns.   I have experienced this personally and know the profound frustration that comes with it! Knowing syllable types and where to apply segmentation reduces confusion while increasing decoding efficiency.   Students have less difficulty hearing syllabic divisions than in recognizing their written counterparts. Knowing the alternatives for dividing words into syllables including the action of chopping, scooping, saying the syllable word part, then putting the parts together as a whole provides students with another strategy... read more

i. Rate of processing and letter naming speed weakness RAN: Rapid (Accurate) Automatic Naming   ii. Fluency   What do these two terms mean and how do they impact learning to read and spell.   i. Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) is the accurate, quick, repeated naming of a series of letters, objects, numbers or colors, in a random order.   ii. Fluency is the rapid, prosodic flow with which a skilled reader reads. When reading aloud the fluent reader sounds as if he is speaking normally, in essence mirroring spoken language; fluid, accurate, appropriate speed, phrasing, and intonation.   When combined, the characteristics of RAN and fluency facilitate self-correction and support comprehension, and are thus critical components for learning to read.

Handwriting is a kinesthetic activity. Kinesthetic memory is thought to be the earliest, strongest, and most reliable form of memory within the human language learning experience.   Research results support the importance of learning handwriting, letter and word-forming skills activity as a factor in learning to read. Handwriting is thought to aid (spellers) in remembering orthographic patterns.   Specific frequent spellings are used for each of the consonant and vowel phonemes in English. Handwriting develops recognition for the patterns and application of the rules, increases fluency, improves legibility and assists in organization of thoughts.   Spelling typically improves with increased handwriting legibility. Letter tracing and copying aid fine and gross motor skill(s) development and promotes necessary skills for reading and writing. Instruction in writing and spelling often comes before instruction in reading thus efforts to promote... read more

EX: New Feature: Spelling /ay/ at end of word, as in play or stay.   Engaging guided discovery using magnets. Teaching spelling for a sound unit that has more than one spelling option requires imprinting with specificity. Guiding the student in a discovery experience, rather than ‘talking’ an explanation can accomplish this.   For example: There are many ways to spell the phonemic sound: long/a/. Where long/a/ comes at the end of a word like play, guided discovery technique using magnets is one recognized method for demonstrating to the student where the sound falls within the word, and on that basis, how to spell the sound when in that position.   In the word /play/, student pulls down one magnet for each phoneme (sound) heard (not the letter name). Student pulls down 3 magnets saying their individual sounds simultaneously to the movement of its corresponding magnet as follows: One magnet for /p/, one for /l/, and one for the long /a/ sound.... read more

i. Individual instruction: O.G. approach typically pairs teachers with students on a one to one basis.   ii. Diagnostic and prescriptive: As a warm-up and review at start of every lesson consisting of letters and sounds already taught: The process of learning to read goes from symbol to sound, thus symbol recognition must be the first drill segment engaged for instructional emphasis. Inclusion at the start of an O-G lesson plan provides the basic foundation for the remaining lesson plan. This Visual Flash-Card Phonogram Drill develops students' decoding ability through the constant random repetitive visual recognition of all the individual letter symbols while simultaneously performing the repetitive exercise of verbalizing their corresponding phonemic sounds. This is a support action, which serves to consistently reinforce cumulative integrated learning.    iii. Automaticity directed: As students confirm accuracy in decoding they move toward automaticity... read more

Developmental dyslexia is characterized by an unexpected difficulty in reading experienced by children and adults who otherwise possess the intelligence and motivation considered necessary for accurate and fluent reading. Dyslexia is a specific languagebased disorder affecting an individual’s ability for acquiring proficiency with different language forms including reading, writing and spelling. It is characterized by difficulties in single word decoding, usually reflecting insufficient phonological processing abilities owing to a congenital neurological disorder. These difficulties manifest in varying degrees and are typically unexpected in relation to age, cognitive and academic abilities.

Are you frustrated with homework nightly wars, confused about your smart child who can't spell, amazed by your child's brilliance despite his low reading ability?  View this newsletter and video seminar from Bright Solutions for some support.

Just about every parent asks me this question.  It is so difficult to answer because there is no set formula. So my honest answer: I don't know.  Every student is different.  There really are no easy fixes when it comes to learning differences.   (And I can't believe I said that-right?)   I like to think that teaching someone to read is like teaching someone to bake a cake. The first step is to assemble the ingredients and the tools you need to measure, mix and bake. With reading it's the same way.  We need all the right ingredients and tools to get the job done. We need to identify sounds, blend them together, take them apart and mix them into new words.  The issue for students with learning differences is usually, that they need different tools than the ones they are used to working with.   Some students make steady consistent progress, while some progress, plateau, then progress, and... read more

If your child has not succeeded in any school "reading pull out" programs or traditional reading tutoring, stop the torture!  Your child likely needs an Orton-Gillingham based reading program that is multi-sensory, systematic, and does not encourage guessing at words.  Please do not let your struggling reader stay involved in any program that encourages "guessing" at words.  This will only serve to confuse and frustrate your child more.  Rote memorization of spelling words is also not an effective strategy for a dyslexic student.  Contact me if you'd like tips or more direction on how to really help your child excel in reading/spelling and self-confidence.

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