Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top Ways to Help a Dyslexic Student

Top Ten Ways to Truly Help a Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Student Learn to Read and Write!

  1. Read everything out-loud with the text visually tracked by the student!
  2. Learn cursive first and skip printing
  3. While writing, say what you are writing out loud
  4. Read high interest books with the child cover to cover if possible in one sitting
  5. Turn the closed captioning on anytime your child watches TV
  6. Watch music videos that have the lyrics on the screen
  7. Read movie scripts and act out the scenes while reading to increase engagement
  8. Play lots of fun complex games that take reading instructions and reasoning to figure out
  9. Build models and hands on science sets that require reading instructions
  10. Use bookmarks, pointers, color cover overlays, fingers to always track the text and keep it targeted
  11. Make reading engaging, Socratic, formative not dependent on summative assessments
How can a Dyslexic Reading Teacher HELP 95% of all at-risk students pass the EOG Reading Test? 10 Consecutive Years!

"Mr Taylor who annually starts with a class of fourth graders, 2/3 of whom are below grade level, and ends the year with most of the class at and above grade level. He gets results by emphasizing reading and writing, and holds students responsible for the work assigned. All the students read the same challenging books, stories and poems; they spend a lot of time on vocabulary, take notes, identify the main chapter idea and write a chapter summary every day. They read about six challenging books a year...Fortunately for his students, he puts them first and is determined that every student will make at least one year of progress in his class. Some students make spectacular gains in reading, writing or math. The average student this past year made about three years academic progress....His Title I students perform as well as students in the nearby "rich" area with all top-rated schools."  Robert Cherba 

The list below are things that I can personally attest to helping me become literate!

  • 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
Things to Stop Doing! 

  1. Turn off the TV, Computer and Video games when ever possible
  2. Stop trying to find a canned, quick, computer based or packaged reading program to fix the problem
  3. Stop teaching reading, and the process of learning to read as a problem that must be solved with one solution
  4. Stop pushing phonics after six months and work towards becoming a sight reader
  5. Dump the easy read books for older students
  6. Stop using pencils and have students use cartridge pens or fine point sharpies
The interventions above helped me with my Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. 

I was stuck reading the baby books for most of my primary and intermediate reading instruction, which made me hate school, books, and special education teachers for never thinking outside the box. When a student cannot read or write, school, district and curriculum rules must be pushed aside. Do what ever it takes to help the student learn to read and write. Inattentive parents must be reprimanded and read the riot act if they are not whiling to make sacrifices to help their child become literate. Inattentive schools and teachers must be read the riot act and pushed to make learning to read and write the prime priority. If you can’t read and your not literate everything else is moot for the students.

I was told as late as community college that I may never read and write competently, and that I would have to have people read and write everything for me because of the severity of my dyslexia and dysgraphia. Like many severely dyslexic students, phonics was a dead end for me, yet that is what was pushed, many many years wasted on programs that would never work. I hated school because of my lack of progress, by middle school I just gave up, and high school was a humiliating nightmare. The great many "out of the box ideas" that saved me, and brought literacy into focus was, "never any pedagogical methods and or models that happened at school"! I was surrounded by educators and no real help? My parents gave up on me in middle school and I gave up on myself at the same time! It was not my teachers and not my parent that got me across the literacy finish line! 
     I would suggest you stop looking for answers where there are none and look to people with the same processing deficits. As a Dyslexic and Dysgraphic student, phonics and multi-sensory programs did not work for me, ever, or I should say the strategies everyone associates with models like Orton Gillingham. As with all learning disabilities, people fall along a spectrum, and I am like a few that most programs will never help. When you are word blind, phonemically challenged and feeling stupid, someone asking you to draw the letter A in the air as you sound it out is humiliating after a few hundred sessionsJ 
     My training in college was Whole Language and then as a teacher I was trained in phonics-based methods, so both have value in my bag of teaching tricks. I am a big fan of trying everything again and again and then trying what works for each individual child. One method, one approach, one teaching philosophy kept me illiterate for most of my life. Sean


  1. Great post. I am curious to know the reasoning behind using sharpies and cartide pens and not pencils. Insight would be appreciated!

  2. hi, I am a grandmother to a 17 year Dyslexia teen, he finds it frustrating and use to cry when asked to read aloud, now he stands to read, but still finds it difficult at times, how can I help him? his dream is to go to Ms. State college and become a sports medical doctor, now he plays Basketball and plays very very well. I need help to make sure that he is given every possible chance.

    1. Hi Concerned Grandmother,
      High-school reading and college reading is all about close reading and technical reading. Dyslexic students need special training in tactical strategies that help them use the positive aspects of dyslexia to compensate for the processing deficits. Each student is unique and teachers or tutors need to assess strengths and use those to build success. Sean Taylor The Dyslexic Reading Teacher


Thank you!