It is summer. That means time to hit the bookstore, to sign up for summer reading at your public library, to soak up the pleasure of reading a book cover to cover in one or two days. But, that means picking books at the right level of difficulty, or reading becomes frustrating or boring. The article above has some great thoughts on how to pick the right book, and how to teach your child to pick the right one. It’s worth the effort!
5in1 is a new online community for people with dyslexia. Its name comes from the statistic that one in 5 people are dyslexic. Go poke around there. Tell your story or your child’s story. Read other people’s stories, or ask experts for advice. (Remember that you can always ask me for advice too.)
An inspiring story of a granddaughter talking about her dyslexic grandfather.
A decade or so ago, Judy Singer coined the term “biodiversity” to describe brain differences such as dyslexia. Considering the many gifts dyslexia brings with it, I think that is a better term since it has a positive rather than a negative connotation. This Wired Magazine article gives a lot to think about!
When we do laundry, we pick the detergent or stain remover that experience has shown us works the best on the mess we are dealing with at the moment. Dingy whites? Use bleach. Ink pen marks? Spritz on hairspray. Grass stains? Rub in Fels Naphta bar soap. We use the best tool for the job, and like the results we get.
Teaching children to read is similar to laundry stains in that there are a variety of learning differences to address. In the same way you would not expect good results from pouring bleach on the knees of grass stained blue jeans, you cannot take a dyslexic child to a traditional store-front tutoring center and expect his or her dyslexia to improve. Different challenges need different teaching methods. Tutoring centers are great for some reading problems, and may have helped your neighbor’s non-dyslexic child, but will not help your dyslexic reader. There is no one single solution for all reading problems. Dyslexia responds best to specific methods.
I have written previously in this blog about the amazing way that brains can be rewired. New brain research shows us more about the brain all the time. Dyslexia is a brain wiring issue, and using a method of teaching which addresses these issues makes sense - and works great!
The best method for teaching a dyslexic child (or adult!) to read is called the Orton-Gillingham method. I have mentioned it before in blog entires, and you can google it and read about it for a whole weekend.
The O-G method addresses reading and spelling as what they are - opposite sides of the same coin. Dyslexic individuals struggle with both reading and spelling, so this approach really works for them. Each phoneme (smallest sound of language) is taught individually, in a prescribed order. Practice starts with phonemes, moves to words, then sentences and passages to read. The spelling side progresses in the same way - how each sound can be spelled, how words are spelled and then sentences are written.
The O-G method uses a lot of hands-on practice methods which can be crazy fun for both the teacher and the student. Syllable types are learned along with their characteristics so long words can easily be diced into manageable pieces with predictable vowel sounds. Finger sounding keeps the sounds in order as the student works out a word.
Traditional school teaches spelling by memorizing lists of words for Friday spelling tests. This works great for kids who are not dyslexic. It is a lot of frustration for dyslexic kids, and does not teach them to permanently spell the list words anyway. The O-G method teaches spelling by learning spelling generalizations. These simple rules provide a framework for spelling many, many words, and keep the child from the agony of trying to memorize spelling words that just won’t stick.
An example of a spelling generalization would be to spell the /ch/ sound with a tch at the end of a word or syllable right after a short vowel. Everywhere else, spell /ch/ with a ch. You are thinking about words with tch at the end right now, aren’t you? And the generalization is surprisingly accurate, isn’t it? For dyslexic students, it is almost magically easy.
There are lots of reasons to shop for an Orton-Gillingham based tutor or program if you are looking for help for your dyslexic student. We are in the midst of our end-of-semester progress testing with the students in our Dyslexia Center. Results are showing astounding progress in our students this semester. The bottom line reason to use O-G is because it is the right solution for this problem. Just like bleach for dingy whites.
I was grading 5th grade grammar books with a combination of humor and despair when I came to Patrick’s book. He so stumped me by writing that there are two kinds of verbs, action (ok, it was spelled acshun) and linconverbs. What on earth is a Lincoln verb?
Then it hit me, he meant Linking Verbs.
People with dyslexia often misunderstand what others are saying. We call it poor auditory discrimination, and it can sure raise havoc with vocabulary building and comprehension! This issue is one of the reasons I am such a big fan of recording the text for a student to listen to as he or she follows along in the book. It is not at all uncommon for a student to look up in wonder and remark that they always thought a word was something completely different from the actual word. Hearing text read as the student is following along has value on many levels.
I need to finish grading the 5th grade grammar books. Patrick’s linconverb answer has me smiling. I can only wonder if in History he lists the 16th President as Abraham Linking.
I love this story, because it has a bit in it where Jay Leno talks about a teacher suggesting he write down his funny stories and work them into a presentation for the class. That advice helped launch him in a career path, and I bet it gave her 15 minutes of peace and quiet she desperately needed!
Aside from the teacher funny, this is a truly inspirational story of overcoming difficulties through sheer hard work.
Yesterday I was working with the 2nd grade small group, who continue to tear it up on cursive writing. They were learning capital E, which looks like a backwards 3. Backwards comparisons are something we try to avoid in the Dyslexia Center, so instead we looked at how the cursive letter appears a lot like the printed one, only curvier.
The kids started by airplane writing, tracing letter models, then writing practice letters on paper. Eric did not have the hang of it. At all. He said his looked as if his E went ice skating and was about to wipe out. Eric is the student with a gift of story telling, and often amuses us with them during handwriting practice. He did have a point this time. His letter was not sitting on the line, not standing up straight.
I ask the students to analyze their mistakes and see if they can come up with the solution, or at least what needs to be fixed. Eric knew the problem, but the fix eluded him. I came around to kneel beside him, and gently placed my hand over his to guide his hand and pencil as a correct letter was formed. This techniques often helps the students’ muscles feel the correct path for the troublesome letter. It worked for Eric, and he turned to me with a grin and said, “Hey, it’s like you are the cursive GPS!”
Yup, that’s me, cursive GPS. Guiding one student to success, one letter at a time.
Our days are full of things we do without ever thinking about them. We sign our name. We cook a familiar recipe. We drive to an often-visited location. We lock up for the night and get ready for bed. A part of our brain which knows how these mundane tasks are performed takes over and we slip into automaticity. This is a good thing, because it frees us for other tasks which do require brain power!
Children with dyslexia struggle to put mundane language tasks into the automatic category. Direct and explicit instruction along with many practice sessions are needed to help the child understand and master a language task.
Dysgraphia is confusion with the writing process. It may be letter formation confusion, inability to write sentences, or a tendency to write sentences out of order so a story does not flow very well. It is often surprising to read the written work of a dysgraphic child with outstanding storytelling skills, because you are expecting so much more than what you see on paper.
Eric came to join our second grade small group in January. This is his writing sample.
When I look at this writing, I notice the labored letters, the many erasures, the mix of upper and lower case in the alphabet. My notes tell me the alphabet took Eric three minutes and 23 seconds to complete. This is a task which probably takes his classmates under 1 minute to correctly complete. We can safely say that writing does not come automatically to Eric.
We were making the switch to cursive writing in second grade small group, and Eric tearfully tried his best to form the unfamiliar letters. A lot of tracing large, tactile letters, airplane writing, tracing in tubs of raw rice and onto bumpy boards helped clarify in his mind the way each letter was to be formed. Eric is a master story teller, and often made up stories for the group about what was happening to “the guy” whose path our letter traced. The effort payed off, Eric’s tears dried up and he began to smile as the cursive notebooks were passed out. Recently, each lower case letter was mastered and we moved to capitals.
This is a recent writing sample, about three months the first one, from Eric’s journal. The alphabet took him 57 seconds to complete, as as you can see, it is legible and all in cursive lower case letters. There were a couple of errors, but overall, a big improvement!
Below the alphabet are letters I called out in random order for the students to write down. This mini-quiz shows me which letters are not yet automatic for each child. Eric wrote all of his with no erasures! He has hit the automatic gravy train!
The sentence at the bottom of the work is an example of why cursive writing is great for kids with dyslexia. If you look at his earlier work, all the words crowd together without spaces between. This is another characteristic of dysgraphia, called word boundary issues. Cursive writing helps this problem because the letters within the word are connected, but there is a break between each word. An instant reminder to give it a little space.
After successfully writing the page above, Eric smiled his endearing, crooked smile as he shyly told me, ” Wow! I can do this automatically!” Yup, that is the goal for each child.