How do you teach someone who is dyslexic to read independently?
By Vanessa Whittaker
The following answer was supplied by home educating mum Vanessa gleaned from her experience helping her daughter become a successful reader and writer...
An important piece of information required is how old is your son? If he is young the info will be different than if he is older.
We have been home educating our children for 8+ years, our daughter is dyslexic, she is now 17+ and was 8 when we started to home educate. She has been amazingly successful in learning to read, the professionals involved with her have said her progress has been 'miraculous'. Our daughter also has vision and hearing issues so some of what we did may not meet your son's needs.
There are about 60 different forms of dyslexia so it is useful to know which best describes your son.
The advice we had at the time of assessment included;
1. Go back to teaching the alphabet using a quality phonics program.
2. Use activities which use ALL of the senses.
3. Do everything on a large scale.
5. If a child with dyslexia asks how to spell a word tell them. Do not use the processes as used in school such as the 'have a go' method. A child with dyslexia is most often already experiencing frustration if they are asking for help. To be told to go use a dictionary or just have a go before you will help adds to the frustration and to the child's feelings of inadequacy. This was one of THE MOST important things we were told. Because the child knows they have a problem because you can be sure others have taken great delight in telling them and piece by piece eroding their self confidence.
6. While we were focusing on the alphabet we read aloud to our children and at the end I would ask questions about the story. I would scribe their answers on a large sheet of paper and they would, at first, write over the top of my writing; later they wrote underneath my writing, which mean they took ownership of their answers. Eventually they began to write independently. This way we could read fiction and non-fiction and add in books and texts from different subject areas.
7. Some people recommend the use of the computer. But my daughter hated it and is still not comfortable. This is because to use the computer you need to be able to recognise the shape of individual letters and then see when you have used the wrong letter... for a person who is dyslexic that is not simple.
8. Recognise the difference between a dyslexic mistake and a real spelling mistake. After all these years this is easy for me. A dyslexic mistake occurs where the person has all the correct letters in the word but in the wrong order, or when they have used the letter with the same sound as another, such as ie e for a y or the reverse, a f for t, an u for an a (remember these are all being used in the short sound not the long sound).
9. For the first 18 months of homeschooling we focused on the alphabet, reading, writing and math. It was enough. I knew we were building the foundation for all future learning and NOTHING was more important than doing that for our child(ren). Yes it was hugely time consuming with the time commitment required every day, but really in the scheme of my/our life and my/our child's life and future, it was the most important and correct choice I/we could have made.
10. It may be necessary to repeat and repeat and repeat!
11. It is important for parents, teachers and others work very hard to control their own frustration. Imagine, if you are feeling it how much more is your child! I will never forget my daughter sobbing and literally moaning (and I don't mean in a tantrum - I mean in grief and sadness) at me when she was about nine-ish, "Why cant I do it? Why can't I read? I am trying! Iam really trying but I can't remember. I don't know, but I am trying!".
I want you to leave you and your child with hope. They can and will learn to read. Our daughter reads novels completely age appropriate... She is waiting for the new Temora Pierce novel to be released and has just borrowed a legal studies book from the library as well as a Auslan Book. She is a voracious reader - which is such a delight to see and validates everyones hard work, not least her own
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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