Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Teaching a Dyslexic Kiddo

Hey, Marie, this one is for you!

I have posted about our struggles with dyslexia a little bit before, but not a whole lot, so your comment on my Year in Review post prompted me to write a bit more.

I think all (most) of my kids have some dyslexic tendencies.  Of course, I didn't recognize it, as I never really understood what dyslexia is.  It wasn't until William was 10 that I finally grasped what was going on.  I had tried one thing after another after another, and was quite upset with myself (and him too, sometimes) because we just weren't getting anywhere.  Finally, the dyslexia diagnosis, and a lot of reading on my part, and I felt like maybe we could get somewhere.

I investigated Barton.  I'd have loved to use Barton.  I think it would have been fabulous.  But there was no way I could afford to get it, particularly as I think I'd want to continue to use it with the younger kids.

But what I realized, finally, was that All About Spelling was doing a lot of the same things I hoped to accomplish with Barton... getting him to break down the words into their individual sounds, and getting him to build those sounds into words.  And knowing the sounds that various letters do actually make.

So... at the moment, William is doing a strange mish-mash of things for his reading.  Specifically:

  • All About Spelling.  We do a lot of work with reading the word lists in the program, and the phrases and the sentences.  He's doing this at a couple levels below his actual reading level, which has been great.  He is really building fluency by working on it this way.
  • Reading Assistant.  I got this through Homeschool Buyers Co-op (my link is on the sidebar of this blog).  This got high marks from Dr. Sally Shaywitz, who wrote a great book on dyslexia.  William goes in and works for about 20 minutes, 4-5 days a week.  This has him reading to the computer, and it is really fabulous.
  • Explode the Code Online.  He's been working on this seemingly forever, and it is definitely building fluency.  He is supposed to do 3-4 exercises every day.  In reality, he is only going in once or twice a week.  I got this through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op too.
  • Master Reader, by the Hooked on Phonics people.  This is a very new addition to our routine.  Master Reader is a computer program, which he does enjoy.  Then there is a story card that he is supposed to read to himself.  Then he is supposed to read the card to a parent.  And when he finishes a set of cards, there is a chapter book to read.  I think there are three sets of computer games/cards/chapter book.  
  • Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills is something else we use to build fluency.
  • And he has also started being one of the people his younger brothers read to.  Right now, anyway, he is far enough ahead of them to coach them appropriately.  I think this is going to do way more for his reading ability than just about anything else.
It looks like a lot, but it isn't quite as bad as it appears.  It is roughly an hour a day.

I'm making you feel more overwhelmed, I'm sure... see now, you don't have to go so eclectic, as I think Barton is absolutely fantastic from everything I've seen, anyway.

As for keeping up with everything... the biggest thing I do is to make sure we do as much as we can all together, and then to be sure I know what is important for each of my kids to do WITH ME.  My 7th grader is capable of doing an awful lot independently... but he is going to be better off if I focus my time with him on certain areas.  He grasps math easily, so he is doing that pretty independently.  He gets science too, so that is an area I stay out of.  I try to focus my time where my kids need it most.

Speech -- I have not had speech issues with my older guys, but... if you check out the links on the right, under Reviews to Watch For, there is a link to Super Star Speech.  I will be reviewing that next week... stay tuned.  And check out the website and see what you think yourself.  It sounds like it could be perfect for you.

Okay, so that was fairly rambly too.    And it is pretty devoid of links.  I'll try to link up the more obscure items...


Anthony said...

I note that you are reading a Rosemary Sutcliff book 'right now'. Given this post about dyslexia, that made me think of of she never went to school until about age ten and left at 14, grew up on being read stories, and became however an internatinally-acclaimed author (who had some physical disabilities to boot). (More about all this at

Debra said...

Anthony -- that is fascinating! I'm going to be sharing some of that with my kids when we read Odysseus today. Thanks for commenting!

Debra said...

Anthony -- I don't post what my 7th grader is reading on his own, but he happens to have Warrior Scarlet in his pile to read next... maybe I need to think about snagging it from him and reading it aloud. Hmmmm.

Marie said...

Thanks for posting this. I know what you mean about becoming frustrated with teaching him to read. I still become frustrated when I realize how difficult it is for my son to read small words or when my boys can't pronounce certain sounds. I try not to let them know I'm frustrated because I know they can't help it, but I feel so stressed and burdened with the job of teaching them to speak and read. It's hard, they don't learn like all the books say a child will learn. I'm coming to accept it though, and I'm learning to praise them for what they are able to do.
As for Barton, there is no way we could afford it, but as it happened a lady that lives clear across the country read an email I sent to a support group and offered to loan me her Barton. Talk about answered prayer! We feel so blessed to have this offered to us.
I won't have this program for my younger son, however, because I'm sending each level back as we complete it. I'm not sure what I'll do for him, but I'm thinking of using Explode the Code (a dyslexic specialist suggested this for my 7yr old before we found out I'd be using Barton) and incorporating the letter tiles and strategies that Barton uses. This is my early plan, I still don't know for sure what I'll do. He's 4 1/2 now and he shows signs that he's ready to learn the letters and their sounds. Before I found out he may be dyslexic I thought I'd teach him and his younger sister (18 months apart) together, but now I'm not sure that would be wise. Maybe...just have to wait and see.
I'm excited to see what Super Star Speech is all about because lately the speech issues are what are weighing most heavily on my mind. From what I've seen on their website so far, it looks like something I may be interested in. I'm off to read more about it. Thanks for the post, I was really blessed to hear how you were teaching your son.
PS/Hoping to be part of next years TOS crew...Heidi S. emailed yesterday and said they'd let me know sometime in May. Who knows, maybe I'll get to review Super Star Speech next year ;-)

Michelle Smith said...

Thanks for posting this. I also considered Barton at one point for my dyslexic child. Yet, at this point we are using The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading and All About Spelling. It is slow, but it is working and my daughter likes it. So, I imagine that is what we'll stick with for some time.