Help for my child with dyslexia

Amber writes this plea for help: My daughter is 8.  I have been trying to teach her to read through various approaches for the past two years, with minimal success.  I chose to go with ACE this year.  We are in week 6.  The frustrations begin.  There are more words to read and write at this point.  Through my own research I have determined that there is a good possibility she has dyslexia along with ADHD/ADD, and some indications of dysgraphia.  Do you have any suggestions on how to approach the PACE work with these problems.  I am hesitant to start English Paces due to the increased amount of writing.
Any advise or ideas on how to proceed would be appreciated.    — Amber

Mrs. Virtueson, herself a homeschooling mom who has worked with special needs children using the ACE PACES, wrote this helpful reply to Amber.

Thank you for your question. It’s one many other parents with struggling readers have.

Have you been doing the sound identification exercises every day? And do you practice the sound blending exercises daily, too? If not, you need to begin doing those daily and to only move forward to new material as your daughter is ready to do so. You should also practice these two exercises a second time each day, late in the afternoon or after dinner. This second repetition can be crucial for children with dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD. It often is what enables them to move forward at the pace of one reading lesson per day, but with certain exercises repeated “twice” a day.

In the case of dyslexia, it is helpful to explain phonetically “why” each new word sounds as it does. But then one needs to use flash cards to put each new word learned into the child’s long term “sight word” vocabulary. This entails simply making an index card for each word learned. Put a small number in the upper right hand corner and clip the upper left hand corner at a slant. You number each card in the order it is learned. And the “clipped” corner lets you know if all the cards are facing the same way. So if you or your child drop the cards, it will be easy to put them back together in order and facing the same way. I also strongly suggest using “colored” index cards and using a different color of card for every 10 words. You can buy packages of colored index cards with about 5 different colors in each pack. The color adds some variety and “interest” to the deck of flash cards, especially when they are mixed up.

Here’s how to use the flash cards. First, you need to use the flash cards twice a day. Once at the very beginning of each reading lesson. And then again later in the day. Say late afternoon or after dinner. This repetition helps to move newly learned words into the child’s long term sight word vocabulary. “Sight word vocabulary” simply means the words which they can read just by “looking” at them, without having to “sound them out”. Children with dyslexia need both phonetic instruction and twice daily “sight word” drills using flash cards.

When you do the drills, first do the cards in the order they were learned, by using the number in the upper right hand corner of each card to put your deck “in order”. First, you go through the words with you saying each word, and your child repeating each word after you. Then you go through again letting your child say the words by themselves. Then mix up the deck and let your child read the words again. Flash the cards as fast as they can read them. Putting each read card face down as fast as you can. If your child is doing well, say “You’re reading them faster than I can flip them!” This makes your child feel good and confident.

If needed, when doing the “mixed up” flash card drill, read the cards first and let your child repeat them after you BEFORE having them read them themselves. Then let them read them themselves.

It’s best to begin using flashcards as soon as they begin learning the letter sounds. First, do the learned letter sounds in order, then mix them up. Do this twice daily. Just like with the sight word vocabulary flash cards. Put a number in the upper right hand corner of each letter sound card and clip the left hand corner of each letter sound card. Or just use the letter sound cards that come with the Learn to Read kit.

It may be necessary for you to back up and begin again at the beginning of where the lessons begin blending sounds into words. Redoing each lesson using both the letter sound cards and then the sight word cards to drill the previous day’s learning of letter sounds and words as part of the beginning of each lesson. One lesson per day, with the letter sounds, sound blending exercises, and flash cards of each word they have learned up to that day being being done “twice” a day, until you get back to where you are now. It is imperative in the case of dyslexia to move forward only as your child is ready to do so. The extra time you take now to take your child back through the lessons will pay off in the form of a lifetime of much stronger reading skills.

There is also a certain way of teaching printing to help remediate dysgraphia and dyslexia. Using the Getty Dubay method of Italic printing will help and is much easier to transition into cursive later. You can also use the very explicit and structured printing instructions in “Spell to Read and Write” by Wanda Sanseri, but adapt it to match the Getty Dubay Italic printing method. “Spell to Read and Write” basically uses a clockface to help learn and remember how to print the letters. Your child also needs to do lots of “printing” the letters “in the air” with very large movements and then with smaller movements. And have your child tell “you” how to write each letter as you do so at a large white board. This tickles them no end. Especially if you make a “mistake” (on purpose, of course). You can learn how to teach printing in a very explicit and structured way in the “Spell to Read and Write” book. You can probably borrow or buy a used copy inexpensively.

I hope the above is helpful.


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