Sunday, May 13, 2012

Teaching Dyslexic Students | Teaching Dyslexics

How do you Teach Dyslexic Students to Read?

Students with dyslexia or 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 almost 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.

My epiphany or Ah-Ha Moment as a Dyslexic Learner!

The ah-ha moment for me as a dyslexic learner was music and lyrics. I loved listening to music as a kid and wanted to know how to read the lyrics disparately. I would spend hours looking at album lyrics listening and trying to read and sing.

Today the most successful tool I use to help all my students is the use of  music and lyrics daily with my class. Music helps students with fluency, automaticity, sight reading, and the cadence and rhyme of reading.

We turn difficult task like, improving fluency, spelling, mastering Tier 3 academic vocabulary knowledge into games. I use what ever works usually skipping the canned literacy programs. My principal lets me get away with it because my students test very very high at our Title I school.

My path to literacy was hideous!

The method was simple but sadly hideous. I went to the LD resource room daily and sat with a stack of word flash cards with a magnetic strip, and manually ran the cards 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 tape recorder 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 word to make a connection to new words. I Love those extra steps to "decode" Not Really! 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, to 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.

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