Friday, July 12, 2013

Helping Dyslexic Students Learn to Write!

Helping all Dyslexic students learn to Read and Write! 

The first step in learning to write is learning to read!

After 14 years of teaching reading and writing to Dyslexic, Autistic, LD and at-risk students is the need for Novelty and Taction Feedback! 

Learning to read, write and spell for many Dyslexic, Autistic, LD, and failing at-risk students is tantamount to climbing Mount Everest. Learning to write can be augmented and facilitated with the use of computers but many educators overlook the power of learning proper penmanship, especially cursive for Dyslexic and Autistic students. Learning cursive can be a powerful tool for teaching writing very much like learning a second language that helps bring new meaning and understanding to the written and spoken word. The art of joining letters to make cursive words made more sense to me as a dyslexic learner, print was just a jumbled collection of individual letters that got in my way. Dyslexics and many Autistic students think pictorially and try to solve and write things holistically. Learning cursive feeds into the holistic, artistic, pictorial, expressive nature of the write language.

The first steps are learn your foundations
  • Master reading and writing all grade level Dolch Sight Words
  • Always write out-loud and read out-loud
  • Track and trace each word with your finger as you learn to read and write
  • Draw, paint, sing, act or sculpt tricky words
  • Learn the art of cursive using classic fountain pens and modern parchment paper (Spencerian)
  • Learn how to use a traditional dictionary and speller as the source new words
  • Use the Closed Caption on your TV
  • Skip the computer reading programs and phonics programs and use great books to learn yo read and write
  • No test, no fill in the blank worksheets, no basal readers, and no grades when you are learning to read and write!
  • Sing and learn new songs and lyrics weekly 

The question is ask, why would you teach Dyslexic students Spencerian cursive (an oval based penmanship style) using fountain pens? The short answer, the process of learning Spencerian cursive is an artistic process. Teaching writing as an art lesson draws the student into the learning and gives Dyslexic students a fear free way of exploring written communication. Fountain pens on parchment paper gives students taction feedback through the pen that speeds the learning of letters and that joined letters make words. Controlling the pen, ink and parchment while trying to follow all the swoops, ovals and curves is a very meditative (highly focused) art practice. Learning print and cursive is equally difficult for dyslexic students but having the incentive of learning the beautiful Spencerian cursive will motivate many students. 

I was inspired by the beauty of Spencerian cursive as a child and learned the historical records written in Spencerian script also held an important lesson for the dyslexic student about spelling! You can have variations in your spelling and writing and you are not considered dumb or uneducated. Variation on the spelling was the norm for many words in early America and people were not taken over yet by the incipient standardization that followed in the early days of American writing under Webster.

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