Saturday, June 25, 2011

Teaching Dyslexic Students to Read!

Teaching Dyslexic Students to Read!

Students with reading difficulties may have one of three cognitive deficits that need addressing. The easiest to address is a second language learner that needs more time learning a new language. Most difficult to address is a learner with an auditory processing deficit or cognitive impairment. Finally the least common cognitive deficit is a learner that is dyslexic. The latter two are a gray areas in many classrooms and at times never diagnosed or understood by teachers or parents. A teacher may assume a child is suffering with attention problems when they may just have very poor auditory processing skills. Teachers often see some students make great gains using a reading system while others students are stagnant or regress, and they have no clue why. Using a published reading program to address all reading difficulties is nigh impossible without a clear understanding of a students auditory processing/echoic memory ability. What is the solution to help all students succeed? Auditory processing enhancement and working memory augmentation in the form of brain work is essential to helping all students maximize learning. Academic achievement is slow or impossible if you are not augmenting working memory and enhancing auditory processing. Time and best practice will negate all but the most severe and profound cognitive deficit that hinders academic progress.

Helping all Dyslexic students learn to READ! 

  • Find a teacher that is learning disabled
  • Network with other dyslexics teachers and students
  • Get involved in a positive way with your schools curriculum
  • Try everything hundreds of time until you find what works 
  • Study multiple languages especially one that is not based on alphabets! 
  • Always read out-loud and track each word with your finger
  • Draw, paint, sing, act or sculpt tricky words and letters
  • Learn the "art" of cursive using classic fountain pens and modern parchment paper (Spencerian)
  • Learn how to use a traditional dictionary 
  • Use the Closed Caption on your TV always
  • Skip the computer reading programs and phonics programs and use great books that inspire
  • No test, no worksheets, no basal readers, and no grades when you are learning to read and adapt to a disability!
  • Sing and learn new songs, poems, and lyrics daily, weekly, yearly
  • Master all grade level Dolch Sight Words
  • Listen to Audio Books
  • Join a theater group
  • Network with other dyslexics teachers and students
My Story, Learning to Read!
Literacy for me was almost an unrealized unattainable dream! As a dyslexic learner I was unable to read, write, or decode words as a child, p,d,b and q were all the same letter. The written word was a collection of cuneiform squiggles that swam around on the page. I was identified dyslexic at age 9 and later dysgraphic. I spent the next 6 years in special education programs (limbō) trying to learn to read and write. The special education programs never acknowledged my creative capabilities, coping skills and shame and humiliation of being illiterate, they focused on "curing" my learning disabilities with under-trained teachers! Many classroom teachers assumed I would never read or write due to the severity of my dyslexia and this made me feel worthless. I eventually learned to read all words by sight the same method as learning Chinese. I am a dyslexic reading teacher that has built a reputation for finding innovative ways to teach reading and critical thinking to all students! ALL children are gifted and can learn to read! Sean Taylor M.Ed.
How do you teach dyslexic students to read, that can’t use phonics or just seems unreachable? Most teachers will try anything once, reading software, boxed reading interventions, resource help or sadly they just assume after trying, some students will never learn to read because they are beyond any help. My own bad memories learning to read, and 14 years of experience have shown me that, there are no students beyond help!

One method, put a really good book in the dyslexics students hand, and read with them for a very long time. We are talking about two or three hours a day, five days a week, for many months! You may say, I can’t justify that, or my schedule is only 45 minutes a day with the student, my school won’t allow that, but what is really important, the student learning to read, not the schedules that is the Finnish way. The only real secret to this method, is spending a very long time on task reading and the student must track each word with their finger as their partners read to them. Teachers and staff can give the read-athon to students and just keep up the marathon of reading.  I have used this with students that everyone gave up on, the method and it has never failed. I have had so many students over the years that say thank you for not giving up, showing them that books are filled with magical stories and reading is possible. 

I learned to read and overcame dyslexia because I wanted to read books like the ”The Cay” I had to find out what happened to Timothy. I wanted to read the Dungeons and Dragons books my uncle gave, filled with monsters, magical lands and endless possibilities for my imagination. This world was closed to me for many years because I could not read! Sean Taylor The Dyslexic Reading Teacher 

My Special Education teachers method was hideous

The method was simple but sadly as said hideous. I went to the LD resource room daily and sat with a stack of flash cards with a magnetic strip, like a large credit card, and ran the card through the reader over, and over, and over.
The Bell and Howell tape machine read my daily stack of single word flash cards, most of my early memories are sitting with that infernal machine running cards through over and over trying to read!? My grandmother bought me a record player with read along stories like Jungle Book and Journey to the Center of the Earth. This was superior to the flash cards. I would were-out needles and records listening so hard to make sense of the hieroglyphs on the page that I knew made up great stories.

At home I could read high adventure with the help of my record player at school I was reading books that I believed and thought were for the stupid kids!

Days, weeks, and years with the stupid machine! Phonics never worked for me just learning every word by sight! Today I use music and lyrics with my students, no boring methods permitted in my class.

I learned English the very same way you learn Chinese.

Telling me as a child to sound out words was like asking me to sound out Chinese. I was not word blind just "Phonics Blind/Deaf" My first compensatory skill was a deft skill at listening to the structure (syntax) of English to predict the unknown words, I was unable to decode per se, I see words as characters or shapes. Proper names were reverse engineered in my mind to similar words that I knew by sight. I have mastered, to a point the 44 phonemes today, but my mind is always over sampling a sight word to make a connection to new words. Love those extra steps to "decode" Not! My students know of my quirks and I use my odd methods to teach my students to read, no mater what!


One method that many teachers overlook, that greatly helped me learn to read was learning cursive. Learning to print gave me fits! A question to ponder, How would you teach color to a color blind student? That is what you must do, teach some students with dyslexia to read!

Written and spoken English (Morpheme-based grapheme to phoneme) was a bunch of cuneiform squiggles that swam around on the page. My disconnect was the morpheme grapheme to phoneme conversion. I was unable to make a bridge between the auditory and visual patters, rules of reading phonetically. Most of my teachers including special education teachers had no clue what I was experiencing. The schools solution for my dyslexia was modification, accommodation and very infective remediation, that left me illiterate and always two or three years behind my peers. For parents and teachers of exceptional learners, I would suggest a listening lab with books on tape also lots of music with lyrics. Please stop and get help from a professional before you use a software program, that is a modern Bell and Howell tape machine, as I said the learning was hideous! Students must learn and practice tracking text with their finger for all reading activities even if they cannot sight read or decode at the beginning! They need to read along out-loud as much as possible. The repetition of the songs and the books on tape will eventually make a bridge. And always the reading material has to be high interest. I was bored to death page flipping my easy read books and using my tape machine.

Remedial reading programs must meet the needs of a diverse student population. Finding great methods to use with at-risk students is difficult at times.The best single resource that I have found is a reading handbook published by New South Wales Public Schools. The book is free online and has given me many great ideas to help learning disabled students.

Reading Handbook!
Fluency Drills and Assessments for all Grades!


Cure Dyslexia in 20 days?

Students with reading difficulties may have one of three cognitive deficits that need addressing including Dyslexia. The least common cognitive deficit impacting reading is a learner that is dyslexic or dysgraphic. A very few students will be both dyslexic and dysgraphic.

Free Remedial Reading Assessment 206 pp PDF

"I wonder, how did you compensate when note taking? If you have any particular suggestions for the writing part of the literacy process I will much appreciate them. Best regards", Alison

Hi Alison,
I learned to listen very carefully, and in some circumstances I ask other students to take notes. My dyslexia forced me to actively listen, think critically, sort, prioritize, and memorize academic content. Graphic and visual information was learned with ease. I tried taping lectures but that never worked for me. I will never be an editor, but a bit of irony is a dyslexic reading teacher.

My suggestion to your students, is use all the technological advances available e.g. word processors. I would have never attended college without the use of a word processors. The sad thing today is many people without dyslexia can't, read, write or spell! I feel right at home:) One point of interest is learning to print was a dead end at the start of my writing instruction. Cursive should have been taught first, with my transposed view of everything literary.

You can only teach reading some may say, writing is a function of becoming well read. I have always taught writing as a literary or sensory response. I remind my self and my students that many writers never penned a word, they just created great epics, fables, folktales, poems, and prose in the tradition of the bards. Sean

1 comment:

Thank you!