Sunday, January 18, 2015

Does Your Child Struggle with Reading or Spelling? It Could be Dyslexia.

Last week our local homeschool group offered a Homeschool Parent Workshop on the topic of Reading & Spelling Difficulties and Solutions. I learned so much at this workshop that I just wanted to share some of my takeaways with you and give you some helpful resources.

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The best predictor of a child's future success or difficulties in reading and spelling is something called phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness involves a child's ability to identify, sequence, and manipulate phonemes (individual speech sounds) in words.

Before a child ever learns their ABCs and written language, they need to develop their phonemic awareness.

Here are some helpful exercises that can help develop phonemic awareness:

*Practice identifying and making rhymes (Ask the child to give you a word that rhymes with "king.")

*Phonemic deletion (Ask "What word is left if we take the /b/ sound out of the word bat?")

*Word-to-Word matching (Ask "Do cat and car begin with the same sound?")

*Blending (Ask "What word do we have if we put /h/ /a/ /t/ together?")

*Sound isolation (Ask "What is the first sound in the word 'sing'"?)

*Phoneme segmentation (Ask "What sounds do you hear in the word sat?")

*Phoneme counting (Ask "How many sounds do you hear in the word bake?")

*Deleted phomeme (Ask "What sound do you hear in 'meet' that is missing in 'eat?')

*Odd word out (Ask "What word starts with a different sound: 'sing,' 'sail,' 'nail,' or 'sat?')

*Sound to word matching (Ask "Is there a /d/ sound in 'hand?'")

If your child struggles with these seemingly simple exercises, they will also struggle with reading and spelling.

Does your child exhibit any of the following behaviors:

*Child was late talking
*Trouble making rhymes
*Mixes up sounds
*Reverses letters and numbers
*Difficulty memorizing
*Difficulty tying their shoes
*Dysgraphia (trouble with handwriting)
*Stomach aches & headaches
*Reads slowly, inaccurately, and choppy
*Leaves off suffixes when reading
*Skips little words (a, to, of, in, etc.)
*Has a hard time finding the right word
*Difficulty telling time on an analog clock
*Has trouble with directionality (top, bottom, left, right, above, beside, yesterday, tomorrow, etc.)
*Has a hard time following steps in sequence
*Terrible at spelling
*Can't sound out unknown words
*Guesses at words based on shape and/or context
*Difficulty learning math facts (such as memorizing multiplication tables)
*Difficulty putting thoughts down on paper

Any of these could be signs your child might have a neurological processing disorder called dyslexia. 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, making it the most common learning disorder.

There are a lot of common misconceptions out there about dyslexia. People with dyslexia do not "see things backwards." Dyslexia is not a vision problem. Most of all, people with dyslexia do not have lower IQs.

Studies have been done that show interesting differences in the brains of people with dyslexia. They actually have larger brains! Their brains process information differently than others. This processing difference causes the reading and spelling problems we generally see associated with dyslexia, but it also usually gives people some unique abilities and gifts as well.

Here are a few well known people who had dyslexia:

*Albert Einstein
*Thomas Edison
*Woodrow Wilson

If you suspect dyslexia might be the cause of your child's reading and spelling problems, you should get help for them as early as possible. If any of the warning signs listed above persist in your child past the 1st grade age level, you may need to consider seeking specialized tutoring (find a tutor who uses the Susan Barton System) and start purposefully helping your child overcome these struggles. I will be listing some great resources at the end of this post that I hope will be helpful.

Dyslexia is a life-long disorder. It often runs in families, and it is caused by a physical abnormality in the brain. It is not caused by bad parenting or laziness. There is no quick fix for dyslexia or any other reading and spelling problems your child might have. But with the right kind of careful, systematic, intensive help; your child can succeed.

Don't ever think that because your child is struggling either with a learning disorder or other problem that you cannot homeschool them. On the contrary, such children often thrive with the loving, one-on-one learning environment that only homeschooling provides. You as the parent are able to tailor your child's education to meet their needs. You can offer hands-on learning experiences that your child will actually enjoy.

Here are some helpful books I encourage you to get on this subject:

Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment & Intervention by Nancy Mather and Barbara J. Wendling

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz

Dyslexia Toolkit for Tutors and Parents by Yvonna Graham & Dr. Alta E. Graham

The Dyslexia Help Handbook for Parents: Your Guide to Overcoming Dyslexia Including Tools You Can Use for Learning Empowerment by Sandra K. Cook

From ABC to ADHD: What Every Parent Should Know About Dyslexia by E.Q. Tridas

Basic Facts About Dyslexia and Other Reading Problems by L. C. Moats & K.E. Dakin

Here are some helpful links as well:

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