The following is a post from contributing writer, Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
This post contains affiliate links.
Homeschooling a child with dyslexia can be challenging – for you and for them. I don’t mean “challenging” in a way that suggests it’s a horrible thing because dyslexic kids have many amazing strengths. It can be challenging, though, in letting go of your vision of what school “should” look like and providing a learning-rich environment for a kid who doesn’t learn in typical ways.
The tips I’ll be sharing are from the perspective of a mom teaching dyslexic high school and middle school students, so some of them may work better for older-elementary students and up.
As he was finishing the Lexercise online dyslexia therapy program and we were preparing to embark on “life after therapy,” my son’s dyslexia tutor told me that, as a homeschooling mom, I was in the unique position to give my son exactly what he needed most – one-on-one teaching.
Some of the tips I’ll share with you are things she suggested, going forward, and some are things I’d been doing naturally anyway.
In today’s computer driven world, there are many great options available to unleash the creativity of the dyslexic mind. You may be surprised at the amazing stories that are in a dyslexic kid’s mind once the hurdle of getting thoughts on paper is out of the way. Allowing a child to type his work in word processing software where spelling and grammar can be checked and corrected is a great way to remove the stress and labor of getting his ideas in written form.
Another wonderful option is Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, which translates the spoken word into written work with surprising accuracy.
Audio books are a fantastic way to allow a dyslexic student to experience books that might otherwise be too cumbersome for her to read herself. The best choices for audio books are those that are read by a person, rather than computer-generated speaking voices. Most libraries offer a wide variety of audio books, as do many curriculum publishers.
I strongly suggest making sure a child has both the print copy and the audio version of a book. This allows him to follow along in the print copy while listening to the audio version, which helps increase word recognition and reading fluency. Of course, just listening to a book is great sometimes, too. He is still being exposed to a higher level of vocabulary than he might be able to read on his own.
Learning Ally is a subscription service that is great source of audio books, including a wide selection of textbooks.
Online Dictionary or Thesaurus
An online dictionary or thesaurus can be a great resource for a person with dyslexia for several reasons. First, when the user starts typing in the word, a list of suggestions is usually offered. This helps eliminate the problem of not being able to find a word because it’s being spelled incorrectly.
Second, many online dictionaries offer pronunciation recordings, so the child can hear how the word is pronounced. Finally, related words or words in the definition that may be unfamiliar are often hyper-linked so that they are easily defined, as well.
Videos often make an excellent resource for students who don’t process information well through text. Watching a recorded lecture, science experiment, or demonstration can make for a much better learning experience for visual, big-picture learners.
Read the directions to him. Transcribe her oral narrations. Explain things that are unclear. Allow for more time on tests.
All of these modifications would be available to a dyslexic child in a traditional school setting. They’re not “cheating.” Instead, these modifications are ways of allowing your child to excel in areas in which his learning differences might otherwise hold him back. Being able to work around areas of struggle and allow your child to progress is one of the many benefits of homeschooling.
Allow for Different Ways of Doing Things
One of the best things about teaching dyslexic kids is realizing that there is more than one right way to do things. My oldest still remembers learning multiplication of multi-digit numbers by using the lattice method. The traditional method just didn’t make sense to her. Once she mastered the lattice method, she was eventually able to make sense of the traditional method.
The lattice method looked crazy to some people, but it made sense to my daughter and she got the right answers. Why struggle to force a kid to fit into a box if there was another way to get the same answer?
Currently, a friend of mine, a high school algebra teacher, is tutoring Brianna once a week. The first week, she told us that she always shows her students at least two ways to get the answer to the problem, so that they can use the way that makes the most sense to them. She’s already showed Brianna something (don’t ask me to explain it!) that has made algebra make a lot more sense.
I think the biggest adjustment for many homeschooling parents is realizing that our kids may not learn the same way we did. Then, understanding that it’s okay to let go of our mental image of what school and learning look like and allow our kids to make the adjustments they need to learn and excel in ways that make sense to them.
Do you have a dyslexic child? What tips would you add?
Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is a homeschooling mom to three amazing kids and wife to her unbelievably supportive husband. She enjoys photography, running, and drinking sweet tea. You can connect with Kris on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.