Summer break often provides a much-needed respite for homeschooling parents – and their kids, but mostly the parents, yes? It can also offer extra time to focus on shoring up problem areas before the new school year starts. If you have a child who struggles to read and you suspect dyslexia, consider using the summer months to get a diagnosis and develop a plan for the upcoming school year.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that doesn’t just go away. Kids with dyslexia are not unintelligent; they simply process information differently. While you can’t “cure” dyslexia, you and your child can learn how to deal with the processing differences it causes.
As a homeschooling mom who’s been there and done that (twice), I suggest the following:
Get a diagnosis
The first step in helping your struggling reader is to determine if he does, in fact, have dyslexia. Brianna has what I always call mom-diagnosed dyslexia. There is not a doubt in my mind that she has dyslexia, but hers was mild enough that I was able to self-educate and provide her with enough one-on-one attention to help her learn to deal with it.
Josh, on the other hand, suffers from much more severe dyslexia. Although I suspected for many years that he had dyslexia, the programs and techniques that worked with Brianna didn’t work with him. The turning point for us was getting a diagnosis. First, we used the free dyslexia test offered by Lexercise.
The free screening indicated that Josh would benefit from a full evaluation. And, because I know you’re wondering, no, it doesn’t flag every kid as needing the full evaluation. I first heard of Lexercise when a blog network I am involved in was asked to try the free screener as part of a review of Lexercise. Out of 10 bloggers and their children, only two of us had children (one each) who were identified as potentially dyslexic.
Both of us wound up doing the full evaluation and both of our children were diagnosed with dyslexia. (Find our more about our experience with the Lexercise dyslexia evaluation process.)
Consider treatment options
We chose to complete the Lexercise dyslexia therapy, which was a complete answer to prayer for us. Although the initial cost may cause a bit of sticker shock, the investment was completely and totally worth it. Josh completed the program in about 5 months. Some kids complete it in as little as 3 months, so, really, you’re talking about less money than the cost of braces – and the ability to read is so much more important than straight teeth.
Because dyslexia therapy with Lexercise takes such a short time, I like to mention it to parents at the beginning of the summer. Josh only met with his therapist once a week – online via Adobe Connect and Skype – for about 45 minutes, so it isn’t like a kid would be giving up his entire summer break to go through the therapy program. They do play online games daily, but the games only take about 15 minutes and they’re actually fun.
image courtesy of Lexercise, creator of a free online dyslexia test
There are, of course, other dyslexia treatment options, but Lexercise worked wonders for Josh – so much so that over 2 years later I’m still singing their praises. (No, they do not have an affiliate program. Yes, they do advertise with me, but only because I wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing.)
You also want to educate yourself, as a homeschooling parent. There are some fantastic books on the market about dyslexia. Gracing my bookshelf are titles such as:
There is also an amazing new resource from my friend, Marianne Sunderland of Homeschooling with Dyslexia. Marianne is a 19-year homeschooling veteran and mom of 8 kids, 7 of whom have dyslexia. Over the years, she spent countless hours self-educating about dyslexia. She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor.
Marianne has recently developed an online course, the Parent Dyslexia Classes to help you quickly and easily educate yourself about dyslexia and the most effective ways to help your dyslexic student. These courses are for any parent of a dyslexic student regardless of whether your child is homeschooled or is attending public or private school.
Each course in the parent classes includes:
- approximately 1 hour of video class
- downloadable MP3 audio version of the class
- downloadable PDF outline for each class
- links to curriculum and resources
- access to small group encouragement via private Facebook page
There is also a free parent course that covers topics such as:
- Getting Started Homeschooling: Overcome your doubts, understand the legalities, learn the many benefits to homeschooling – especially for children with dyslexia.
- Understanding Learning Styles: Learn what a learning style is and how to observe them in you and your children. Learn the ways that people with dyslexia learn best.
- Creating a Positive Learning Environment: Learn ways to rekindle your child’s love of learning, how to observe the interests and abilities of your children, about the power of interest-led learning, and how to create a safe place for your kids who learn differently to thrive.
- Homeschool Teaching Methods: Learn about the different homeschool methods and which methods work best with your child’s unique learning style.
- Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum: Look at the different types of homeschool curricula and learn how to choose a good fit.
- How to Create Your Homeschool Schedule: Discover tips and ideas for how to create and implement a homeschool schedule in your home, and learn some simple ways to manage the needs of your dyslexic learners.
- Setting Realistic Goals: Find out how to make a homeschool mission statement, setting big picture goals and academic goals. Learn what to do if your child is behind.
- Tips for Getting it All Done: Learn the importance of keeping a long term perspective in your homeschool, and discover some powerful tips for maximizing your time so you can get more done.
Click to learn more about the free parent course.
Find the best resources
Finally, you need to find the best resources for your student. Dyslexia affects much more than just reading and spelling. You may need to think outside the box for other subjects as well, such as math and foreign language. Both Josh and Brianna have benefitted from video-based math curriculum. We have primarily used Teaching Textbooks, but Brianna also tried and liked Thinkwell.
For spelling, we are head-over-heels for All About Spelling. It works well for all types of learners, but was developed with dyslexic kids in mind. I only wish All About Reading had been developed a little sooner. We’d have used it in a heartbeat. We were able to try some of the early titles and I loved the way they meshed seamlessly with the spelling program.
Another fantastic resource is Learning Ally, a national non-profit organization that supplies audio books, read by volunteers, to people with visual and reading impairments. The books available include literature and textbooks (mostly titles used in public and private schools, but there are titles available from some of the more well-known homeschool publishers).
Many of their books now include VOICEtext books, which highlight the words as they are read – a fantastic help for kids with dyslexia who benefit from seeing and hearing the words.
Learning Ally does require a nominal yearly fee and a print disability diagnosis. (We used Josh’s diagnosis from Lexercise.) We began using Learning Ally this past school year and it’s been very helpful. We’ll definitely renew Josh’s membership this fall.
If you have a child who struggles to read, I highly encourage you to spend the summer finding – and using – the tools to help him or her overcome those struggles this fall. If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll be amazed to watch your child’s confidence soar as he (or she) realizes that he really can learn to read.
Have you had experience with a struggling reader? What tools or resources did you find particularly effective?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.