5 Tools to Help Your Dyslexic Student Succeed

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Since Josh was diagnosed with dyslexia, I’ve had many opportunities to talk with other parents of kids who have or may have dyslexia. I love being able to share helpful resources for dyslexic students in hopes of preventing the years of struggle and frustration that we went through.

I’ve compiled a list of the resources that we found most effective. Now, I can just point people here instead of bombarding them with information in the corner of the grocery store.

Treatment options, spelling programs, and assistive technology for dyslexic students

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Hands down, the online dyslexia treatment from Lexercise has been the best thing we ever did for Josh. I can’t say it enough: If you think your child might have dyslexia, have them complete the free online dyslexia screening. It costs nothing and based on the results of the screener, you can either set your mind at ease or consider investing in the full evaluation.

I’ve reviewed the full evaluation and shared our experience with at-home dyslexia treatment, our progress, and our follow-up. I recently told Josh  that we should write a thank-you note to Tori, his clinician, because her work with him has helped him so much.

All About Spelling

All About Spelling is a comprehensive, step-by-step spelling program based on the Orton-Gillingham methods commonly used to teach dyslexic students. While it is a wonderful program for all types of learners, it was written with dyslexic students in mind.

The spelling concepts are taught in a specific, logical order that coincided well with Josh’s Lexercise treatment. I always thought All About Spelling was written much like a quality phonics program. So, I wasn’t surprised to see the folks at All About Learning develop an accompanying reading instruction program, All About Reading.

It came out a little too late for my kids, but if I had another student who needed to learn to read I’d choose All About Reading.

Reading Horizons

Lexercise and All About Spelling have provided the best results for us, but I was also really impressed with Reading Horizons. It wasn’t the best fit for Josh, who needed one-on-one instruction, but it would have been good for Brianna if we’d known about it when she was younger.

Reading Horizons would be good for a child, struggling reader or not, who does well with computer-based learning. I really appreciated the library of high interest reading topics. They are continually adapted based on the reading level of the student.

You can find out more in my review of Reading Horizons.

Learning Ally

Learning Ally is on my list of potential resources, particularly as we go into high school. The site comes highly recommended from my friends at Lexercise. Learning Ally offers a library of 75,000 audio books read by people, not computers. This makes a huge difference according to Brianna, who has undiagnosed dyslexia. Members can listen to books on their PC, iPad, or iPod.

Membership with Learning Ally also offers access to a huge library of audio textbooks. I’m not sure how extensive their homeschool library is, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it includes the curriculum that I’m strongly leaning toward for high school science (Apologia).

Suggested Reading

The following books are those that I found helpful or that were highly recommended by the clinicians Josh worked with (and are sitting on my shelf waiting to be read):

I hope that you find these resources helpful if you’re navigating the waters of dyslexia. Now, if I could just find that poor mom I bombarded Monday night and send her here.

If you have a child with dyslexia, what resources have you found helpful?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Great list! I would add Barton Reading and Spelling Program (BartonReading.com) It has changed our lives in my house.

  2. Awesome post! I have been wondering if my 8 year old is dyslexic but didn’t know how to go about getting her tested. I have bookedmarked the lexercise site and will be using it first thing in the morning. Thanks so much for the information.

    1. I’m so glad I was able to help, Ashley. Of course, I hope your daughter doesn’t have dyslexia, but if she does, it will be such a blessing for you both to find out so early. I wish we’d found out about Josh years ago.

  3. LearningAlly is a wonderful resource for us. Has really helped my son get literature into his brain without the stress…and lots of enjoyment along the way.

  4. How much did the lexercise full eval cost? I just had my Diva take the test & while her reading is above grade level, her accuracy needs help.

    1. I believe it’s $295. We were blessed with getting the full evaluation at no cost in exchange for reviewing it (but knowing what I know now, I would have paid full price!). You can find out for sure on the full evaluation page at Lexercise.com.

  5. Thanks for providing this information, Kris. I just tested my 12 year old as I have asked two different schools that he’s attended if this was something we should test for and have been given the “I don’t think we have a problem with that” run around. Well, even as he was doing the test, I was thinking – he’s doing pretty well – maybe I am off base. His score was a 71% when 90% is passing for his age. Now on to the full test. The school also takes the attitude that “He already has an IEP for ADD. What more can we do for him?” I think knowing is half the battle. Too many times children diagnosed with ADD are looked at as just being a bad or even lazy kid (my son really struggles with homework and tries to hide that he even has any!), so I think this will help them realize that he really is struggling and not just trying to get out of doing anything. Thanks again for this incredible list of resources – I believe we’ll be putting them all to use here soon!

    1. That is wonderful, Trish! Well, it’s not wonderful that your son may have dyslexia, but wonderful that you may finally be getting some answers. I am so thankful that we were finally able to get Josh the help he needed. It has made such a difference! Just last week, he was voluntarily sharing with me some interesting facts about a books he’s reading. That was a first! It thrilled me beyond words.

    2. Many times Children with dyslexia or other mild learning disabilities are considered and misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD because what is a child suppose to behave like in a classroom where everyone knows what to be doing and how to do it and they are sitting there struggling… Of course they get bored and fidget and mess around while waiting for help or the next task.

  6. I just wanted to comment on everyone seeing dyslexia as a negative. Please, please read The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide to more fully understand dyslexia and all that this diagnosis means. While Dyslexia can pose difficulties, sometimes severe ones, in our text-based society, it DOES NOT MEAN that this is a bad thing. It can actually mean that your child will have an advantage over other people in certain areas of our society. You just need to discover their strengths, and they may have some amazing ones.

    I am not trying to downplay the difficult situation those with dyslexia can find themselves in. Both of my children are dyslexic and have struggled. It hasn’t been easy, I agree, especially when they were still in a brick and mortar school. However, my husband is also dyslexic and I have seen how he shines now that he has been given the chance to do the things he is really good at. He is a brilliant engineer, computer specialist and pilot. Did he become successful in these areas because he overcame his dyslexia? No. He is so phenomenally successful and well-respected BECAUSE he is dyslexic. The dyslexic brain processes differently and because of that he can see and understand and do things in these fields that non-dyslexics simply are not as good at. My children also have gifts because they are dyslexic, things that I will never be as good at. Is reading difficult for them? Yes, but with consistent training through an Orton-Gillingham based phonics program (I use Barton) they will get better at reading. Will their strengths give them an edge over non-dyslexics in their field of interest? My own observations and scientific research in this area suggests strongly YES, as long as I give them the chance to shine in the areas they are strong while still helping them through the areas they are weak. Our educational system, and many homeschooling curriculums if not modified, force them to use only their weaker areas. When you are forced to do all the things you are not strong in for years and years, and are never given the chance to really shine in anything you are actually good at, your confidence can shatter. Suicide is quite high in dyslexics because of this. We have a chance to change that focus from only the negative to the positives, too.

    Don’t only focus on the weaknesses of dyslexia. There are so many great strengths that dyslexics typically have. Please don’t see a diagnosis of dyslexia as a bad thing. It just means that your child processes information in a different way from about 75% of the population. It also means that you may have to approach teaching them in a very different way, something that won’t be easy at first. It also means, though, that they probably have some amazing strengths that may not have even been discovered yet, things that the rest of the population will never be as good at.

    Our educational system and even most homeschool curriculums are not yet effectively addressing the 20 to 25% of our population that are dyslexic. Scientific research is making amazing strides in understanding how terrific and necessary to the success of our society dyslexics CAN be, but the majority of the population, including our educational system, are 20-30 years behind scientific studies in our understanding of this neurological difference.

    Without dyslexics we would not have nearly as many really amazing and successful entrepreneurs, inventors, pilots, neurosurgeons, artists, architects, engineers, etc. They excel in these areas and more. It is primarily dyslexics that have made sudden and amazing leaps in technology, inventions, philosophy, etc. The man who invented the compact disk player (DVDs and Blue Ray stemmed from this technology) was dyslexic and because of his particular dyslexic strengths he was able to revolutionize our way of recording and storing and playing back data. Please read the Dyslexic Advantage and the Mislabeled Child to fully understand what a diagnosis of dyslexia really means. It doesn’t have to be a negative. I wish you all the very best.

    1. What about this post made you think that I see dyslexia as only a negative? I have The Dyslexic Advantage sitting on the bookshelf right beside me as I type this. I know all the amazing things my son (and daughter) can do because his mind processes things differently. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do everything in my power to help him overcome the struggles of dyslexia. Helping a child overcome his area of struggle isn’t negative. Taking the steps to become a proficient, functioning reader has only improved my son’s self-esteem, given him more confidence, and helped give him the tools that he needs to succeed in whatever he does.

      All the positives of dyslexia don’t negate the fact that a person, no matter his age, needs to be able to read to function in society. All the positives don’t change the fact that a kid who can’t read knows that he can’t read and everyone else around him can. The positives don’t change the fact that a kid who wants to read and can’t wants and needs help to learn.

      Giving a kid the tools he needs to be successful in his area of struggle doesn’t mean that I’m seeing only the negatives. It means I’m doing what our homeschool mission statement says we’re going to do: “encouraging strengths while shoring up weaknesses.”

  7. Dear Kris,
    I tried to respond to your e-mail and was unable to do so. Is there another way to contact you? I think there was a miscommunication.

    1. I’m thinking that you got an email notifying you of my reply to your comment. You can reply here on the blog or email me through my contact form in my blog header.

  8. Dear Kris and other parents of dyslexic children,
    With regards to my earlier reply, I would like to apologize for an apparent misunderstanding. I had not meant to imply that a parent that is concerned about a diagnosis of dyslexia should be jumping for joy instead, and should make no effort to help them through their areas of weakness. I am sorry if I did. As I said in my previous message, my kids suffered a lot in school before I pulled them out. My husband, did, too actually and wouldn’t even admit to me for the first 15 years of our marriage that he was dyslexic. I don’t ever want my kids to have to go through the suffering that they experienced in school and I agree wholeheartedly that we, as parents, need to do everything we can to help our dyslexic children learn how to read and write effectively, especially in a society that is so dependent on reading and writing for communication.

    What I was trying to get other parents to see that may just be beginning this journey is that a diagnosis of dyslexia does not mean it is all bad, and in fact can be awesome. My husband was not considered very capable in school. He almost didn’t graduate from High School. His parents worried all the time whether he would be able to support himself. If he hadn’t discovered a love of electronics early on, which his parents encouraged, he might have dropped out of school. Instead, he is now the Vice President of Engineering for a prominent broadcasting company. His boss just retired a few days ago and at the retirement party he introduced my husband as the smartest man he has ever met. I want parents to see that there may be some amazing positives to a diagnosis of dyslexia , too. I had so many parents and teachers telling me how sorry they were that my kids were dyslexic. It made it sound like my kids were broken. It really depressed me and worried me sick that my kids wouldn’t have a chance to succeed. Only they aren’t broken. They just process information differently than I do. They have difficulties with reading, but I don’t. However, my daughter is far better at anything involving 3D spatial relationships than I will ever be. Her school, her teachers, other parents, her original assessor, never focused on that, only on her inability to read. They failed to notice her strengths. With my son, it was even worse.

    When we first started this journey I was so sad and discouraged. All the information I was given was on the weaknesses. I am in a much more positive place now because I am seeing the strengths, too. I just wanted parents that were reading your site (which is awesome, by the way) to keep seeking the positives, too, not just focusing on the negatives of this diagnosis. Perhaps I should have worded things differently. I apologize. Do I think we should continue to do our very best to teach our dyslexic children to read? Absolutely. Is it an easy journey? Not in the least. Are there also some amazing strengths in dyslexics? Yes. If it sounded like I was saying anything else, I am so sorry for the misunderstanding. Blessings to all.

    1. I’m sorry if I misunderstood your comment. It seemed to imply that I was focusing negatively on my son’s dyslexia when the post was, in fact, about sharing things that have helped him become an independent reader and a more accurate speller – skills that have made him a more confident kid.

      One of the blessings of homeschooling is that my kids never had to deal with the negative stigma that can sometimes be associated with a learning difference. I was able to naturally make accommodations for their areas of struggle that would have taken us months, if not years, of fighting with a public school system. Even so, there comes a time when a kid realizes that his friends and younger siblings can read and he can’t. That’s frustrating for any kid, no matter how positive a parent you are. That’s why I offered this list of tools – those that can help a struggling reader shore up his area of weakness.

      It’s wonderful that your husband has been so successful and provide such a positive role model for your children. Best wishes!

  9. Dear Kris,
    Actually, your site is awesome. It is a terrific resource for parents of dyslexics and non-dyslexics alike. I should have said so a long time ago. I love reading your curriculum reviews and it is terrific that you have all these helpful suggestions for parents trying to find their way through dyslexia and homeschooling. Everything is so detailed and helpful! We are all blessed by the effort you put in to help other homeschoolers as you work hard to help your own kids. Thank you. I am grateful.

    My comment was not really directed at you at all but at moms and dads reading your information that are just starting the process of assessment. They may take too much to heart all the negatives they may hear from assessors, tutors, and other people around them. An initial diagnosis of dyslexia can seem scary and daunting, but there are so many positives, too, even if those positives may not be immediately apparent. I just wanted them know that.

    Best wishes to you too,

  10. We did a free trial of Reading Ally. My 8th grader at the time was attempting to read Sense and Sensibility but was having a hard time understanding it. We found it in the library on Learning Ally and she read along in her book and ENJOYED the book so much! We don’t have a diagnosis so we couldn’t purchase a year’s membership. However, we are using Reading Assistant this year, which is used to help dyslexic readers become fluent and helps with comprehension. I can tell a difference in her reading aloud and am looking forward to seeing how things are at the end of the year!
    I can’t say enough about All About Spelling…easy to teach and can be used with all types of learning styles. I, too, would have liked to have All About Reading around when my 2 older daughters were learning to read. However, our bonus baby blessing will get to try it out in 3-4 years!

  11. My son was diagnosed with dyslexia at second grade and we have struggled, cried and fight about homework. Life at school is one huge battle. As he gets older i only see a slight improvement. Its heartbreaking. As i work with him at home and spend most of my time with him, I’ve got to try and divide my time out with my other too kids and just recently i see myself going through the same stuff with my son that i am now going through with my daughter. I thought it was hard with one child with dyslexia, but now i have a daughter about to go through the same stuff. Reading your article has defiantly helped. I will look into the “all about reading” site and get to read some of those books you have recommended.
    I was wondering if you knew of a program that can be installed into a laptop or computer device that recognized dyslexia wording and corrects. Soon my son will be going into middle school and something like that might help.
    Thank you for your time .
    Kind regards

    1. H, Kerenza. Thank you for your comment. I do not know of any programs like that for computers/laptops. I do know there is an app that does something similar, but that probably won’t help you.

  12. Having your child read out loud also helps children with dyslexia to remember more of what they have read.
    My son is taken out of class to do this for exams. Its defiantly helped him.

  13. Thank you and God bless you for posting such a great resource list. You’ve already lightened the load for me.

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