Private reading instruction can provide huge benefits for kids with dyslexia. If your child has dyslexia, he or she may have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). While having an IEP may be necessary for your child’s day-to-day functioning in school, chances are that will not be enough to get your child reading at grade level.
Children with dyslexia learn best with a specific type of reading and spelling instruction called MSLE, or multisensory structured language education. Another word for this is the Orton-Gillingham approach, named after the two scientists who created it. This approach is best done one-on-one. It differs from traditional teaching methods in both how it instructs the student and by what is taught. For example, reading and spelling are learned together instead of as separate subjects. While there are many programs under the umbrella of MSLE, they all share common characteristics. They are:
- Teach phonemic awareness
- Focused on the structure of the language
When children learn in a multisensory manner, they use not only their eyes and ears, but also their muscles and voices to learn. The student watches how the instructor says a letter sound (or letter pattern or word), hears the letter sound, repeats the sound, and then may write the corresponding letter in the air with their arms, or may “write” the word with their finger on finely-grained sandpaper. The more ways a dyslexic student can learn about letter sounds, the more ways its encoded in their brains, and the easier it is to pull that information from the brain later.
Traditional reading programs often start at the phonics level of instruction where they teach children how to sound out words. This doesn’t work for the dyslexic student because they aren’t at the phonics level. They are on the level before that—the phonemic level. If they are ever going to read and spell well, they need to be taught phonemic awareness. Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear the individual sounds in words and the ability to manipulate them. There are seven phonemic awareness skills that dyslexic students need to master before they can become proficient readers and spellers:
- Phoneme segmentation: the ability to pull apart words into their individual sounds
- Example: fog = /f/ /o/ /g/
- Phoneme deletion: the ability to subtract a phoneme from a word
- Example: If one removes /r/ from the word “frog,” it becomes fog.
- Phoneme comparison
- Example: The knowledge that “fog” and “fat” start with the same sound.
- Phoneme substitution
- Example: The knowledge that /f/ in “fog” can be substituted with an /l/ to become log.
- Phoneme counting
- The knowledge that “cake” has three sounds /k/ /a/ /k/
- The ability to blend individual sounds into words
- The ability to rhyme two words.
At Randak Dyslexia Services, we use the Barton Reading and Spelling System, a program deeply entrenched in the Orton-Gillingham approach. The first of ten levels in the system focuses entirely on phonemic awareness. Parents are often surprised when we tell them there is no reading or spelling of words in the first level. Instead, using a unique, multisensory method, it focuses only on teaching students how to hear and manipulate the individual sounds in words. If you are wondering if your tutor and/or school is using an Orton-Gillingham method, check out this table categorizing different Orton-Gillingham-based programs: https://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/dyslexia-treatment.html
The earlier in a child’s academic career that he or she begins receiving intervention for dyslexia the better. However, it’s never too late to learn how to read and spell well. Even adults can benefit from tutoring.