helping a child with dyslexia learn to read
It is important to talk and to explain as simply as possible about dyslexia.
It’s important to talk about it in positive terms and to remove the fear and depression that often sets in when a child is given that label. Often dyslexic children experience feelings of alienation amongst their peers in class and it is essential that their home provides them with a safe haven where the family at least understands and can give support. It must be a place where they can talk freely without criticism and without ridicule. A place where they can express their feelings and emotions and be given guidance, and a safe space to share language.
How to Read with a child with dyslexia
Even though reading may be an issue, the process of reading with a child should be made a special time. This is a time when parent and child can bond and share experiences based around the book that is being read. To begin with it may well be that the parent has to do all the reading, with the child looking on.
This is still a very valuable experience because the story can be talked about. The child can be encouraged to give his or her interpretation of what has just been read. Words can be focused on and their meaning discussed.
Even though the child has not been contributing to the actual reading, the words will have been looked at and that will have made some impression on the brain. The fact that their meanings have been discussed will help build up a basic vocabulary.
Reading should become a time of enjoyment, a time of excitement, wanting to hear the next chapter or find out how the story ends. It is an opportunity to join a library and maybe find specific authors that appeal, especially those authors who have written great series of books.
How to help a Child with Dyslexia Improve their Reading
Ultimately because reading is difficult and frustrating for a dyslexic it’s really important to push through the barriers of resistance to trying. It’s important to make reading fun and engaging and the process and environment for learning supportive. Choose age-appropriate reading materials and something that captures their imagination.
Before this stage is reached however, the right method for teaching a person to read needs to be found. There are numerous methods and some are more effective than others for children with dyslexia.
The Orton-Gillingham Approach
Named after the contributions of Samiel T. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, the Orton-Gillingham approach focuses on teaching dyslexics to breakdown, sort, recognise and organise the elements of language
This is a particularly effective approach which has taken non-readers and made them into enthusiastic readers. It includes the use of Flashcards, structured worksheets and Initial Word mnemonic chants.
The Flashcards we use at Help for Dyslexia are loosely based on this Orton-Gillingham method. These flash cards are the building blocks of words and when they are learned fluently they give the child what is known as word attack skills. Five packs of cards are used to demonstrate these various structural sounds of the written word. As each pack is introduced, the cards are immediately sorted into two piles. One pile consists of all of the cards which the student already knows, and the other consists of the ones which are not known. This is called the “X” pack, and it is worked through, with the help of the keywords on the back of each card, until all the cards are known. When a student is fluent and fast in one particular pack they are given words to analyse and read. From words this method is extended to sentences. It is a logical approach which is quick and easy to follow and with quick to see results which give the child confidence to learn more.
Initial Word Mnemonic Chants
The initial word mnemonic chants are an extremely effective creation on how to help a child with dyslexia. Since each chant begins with the word to be studied, once the chant has been learned, it becomes easy to read the word. As the chants are held in the memory very easily, it is possible, quite quickly, to build up a memory bank of words that can be read. This method is used for high frequency words and homophones. In a matter of weeks it is usual to see the improvements.
When a child who hasn’t been able to read is taught how to, it is wonderful to see the changes in that person. Immediately, a boost in confidence becomes obvious.
To be a non-reader in a class full of readers has a very bad effect on self-esteem. It is quite possible that when they catch up with their peer group this will be very encouraging to them, and if, as does happen, they overtake their peer group this results in an even larger boost to self-confidence. The improvements aren’t just isolated to their reading skills, it spreads further than that. All school subjects require reading skills so improvements can be seen across the entire school curriculum.
Do not underestimate the importance of being able to read. It opens up the whole world!
If a dyslexic child is getting some appropriate tuition and their literacy skills are improving, there will come a time when the reading experience can be in the form of ‘paired’ reading. This is where both parent and child contribute, maybe alternating the pages, or maybe the parent just filling in for every word that the child can’t yet read. It is still important to talk about the story and to encourage the child to talk about their feelings surrounding what has just been read.
Eventually when the child is competent enough to read out loud independently the parent may just sit and listen or may oversee the whole reading just to check the accuracy. Parents that can carry all this out may be rewarded with their child eventually associating reading with so much pleasure that they develop a lifelong love affair with books and the written word.
One parent has told me of walking past her daughter’s bedroom door late at night and seeing the light coming from her room. She would call out “It’s time you were asleep now”, and the reply would come back “Not ’til I get to the end of this chapter. If I don’t, I’ll lie awake wondering about it, so I may as well just read it”. She was a great success story, barely able to read anything at the age of 7 years old. Now she reads great volumes one after the other and never goes away anywhere without filling her kindle.
USING OUR RESOURCES at home
The resources available from Chris at Help for Dyslexia make ideal homeschooling teaching materials.
The teaching programme gives you a specialist structured system to work through with your dyslexic child and with support from Chris you’ll quickly see a difference in both ability and confidence.
Hear about our teaching programme from Homeschooling parent Amy.
Useful learning resources
Our complete teaching resource can be used for homeschooling a dyslexic child. Learning resources to support your dyslexic child with specialist support from Chris Blance.
Nutty Mnemonics and Funky Phonics (formerly known as Successful Teaching Strategies for Dyslexics) is a hugely successful teaching course for dyslexics and indeed anyone struggling with reading and spelling. It actually combines two interrelated courses, an Initial Word Mnemonic Course and a Phonic Course, designed for teachers, teaching assistants and parents with simple easy to follow instructions and video guidance. Immediate effects can be seen and it incorporates some of the quickest methods for improving both spelling and reading.