I’m homeschooling a child with dyslexia. Are you? Adding dyslexia to the challenges of homeschooling can make every class seem harder. I’ve written tips before for teaching your child with dyslexia, but as it has been a while, I have a few more.
First of all, it is important to remember that even if your child is several grade levels behind their peers, they may catch up when all the pieces come together for them. Those pieces involve giving them lessons with an Orton-Gillingham-style program and time. Dyslexic kids need more instruction to learn to read and write. They need clear instructions and to work on language in a methodical way.
Being a fluent reader as an adult has nothing to do with what age you were when you learned to read. Whether you learned to read at 5 or at 12 won’t matter as an adult, as long as you can read. The vast majority of things you read as an adult are written on a similar level of 9th grade or less. This means catching up is completely possible, as the goalpost does not keep moving away.
Have you seen the new Dyslexia Font? It is supposed to be easier to read for those with dyslexia. My kid hates it. So, it isn’t for everyone. However, that doesn’t mean that font doesn’t matter.
When decoding words, spacing both vertical and horizontal, contrast, line width, and many other factors can make something harder or easier to read. The closer together the words stand, the harder the brain has to work to separate them into distinct words. If you can’t tell where one word ends and another begins, it can make reading harder for anyone. And if you have dyslexia, you can find you are working overtime.
To solve this problem, I have worked to find homeschool materials that have fonts and styles that are easier to read. If I like the material in something, but the font will fatigue my child too much, I rewrite it on a whiteboard so we can do just a little at a time or I read it to her. Forcing her to read material with difficult-to-read fonts is just going to stress her out and we don’t have to do that.
Recently, we decided to try out Winston Grammar. It is working out well, partially because each line of text has plenty of room above and below it. This means my kid isn’t struggling to figure out which line she is on or losing her place the way she might on a worksheet with less space between the lines of text. This seems to be a grammar program I could recommend for any child dealing with dyslexia and dysgraphia who is reading on a 4th-grade level or higher.
Encourage Reading on Their Own
Reading to yourself is the most common type of reading. It also allows you to become more comfortable with reading and introduces new words in context. However, dyslexic kids are less likely to practice reading for fun or entertainment. My solution has been to ask my child to read to themself for 15 or 20 minutes on days we did not do other language arts lessons. We might have skipped school for the day because I was sick or a sibling had a busy day with doctor or dental appointments. I also did this during times we were taking breaks from formal curriculum as an official break from school. This means my child was already having a low-stress day. Those with dyslexia fatigue with reading faster than other people, so I don’t want to overwhelm her with a long reading lesson and follow it up with a demand she read more. That’s asking too much right now.
What did she read? Honestly, for a long time, Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Williams. Over and over. When she was ready for more, she moved on to the Dogman series by Dav Pilkey. Are those great literature? No, but I don’t care. They were books she chose for herself and she enjoyed them. That’s the most important thing to me about reading to yourself, that you enjoy it. As her reading level increased from doing our reading program, she very slowly started choosing harder books to read. I never forced her into a book she didn’t want. But boy, will I put my money where my mouth is if she asks for a book. All she has to say is “Mom, I’d like to read this” and I’m online getting it shipped to our house.
E-Reader vs. Book
Why not both? Really. There are advantages to an e-reader or using an app on a phone or tablet. Those advantages include how you can tint the background, change the font both in size and style, and many other things to make reading easier on your child’s eyes. You can even center the words and scroll with your finger to reduce how much your eyes need to move while reading. Your child can also click on a word and learn what it means and how to pronounce it. This means they can learn new words without the stress of looking them up or asking someone else. They just tap the word and learn more! What a great feature!
However, many people with dyslexia, also struggle with eye fatigue, and reading on a phone or tablet can increase that fatigue due to blue light or brightness issues. This means that books also have their place and may be better for some people. It may even be that some books work better in a digital format and others are better in print. It just depends on the text and the user.
Right now, my kid is reading a book on both a device and on paper. Yes, the same book. If she reads the paper copy, she can switch to the device and skip to the next chapter as needed. It is a book both her siblings loved (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief for those who wondered). So, I didn’t actually purchase both versions for her this time, we owned it already. However, in the future, I could see the logic behind buying both for her. This might not be something we make a lifelong habit of, but for right now, I am so happy to see her reading, I don’t care. We will do whatever we need to do to encourage her to become a reader.
Often, kids with dyslexia also struggle with word finding, word association, and other parts of language. Having an experienced speech therapist work with your child can help them develop these skills. It is often covered by your insurance and may be more affordable than dyslexia tutoring if cost is an issue. Most people think speech therapy is just for kids who can’t pronounce certain letters, but they are thoroughly trained in communication. This means they can help your child work on a wide range of skills.
They may also introduce language skills your child missed out on learning about, while you were focused on just teaching them to read. When teaching reading is taking all your energy, you may not remember to teach synonyms and antonyms or homophones and homographs. Language is tricky and there is nothing wrong with adding someone to your team. If your child works better for other people than you, you may want to look into what other kinds of tutors exist in your area. Just because you homeschool, it doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself.
Educating any child requires patience for them to grow, develop and learn at their own pace. This doesn’t mean you just sit back and wait. Instead, you need to recognize that your dyslexic child will learn to read at their own pace. That pace might be slower than typical, but there is nothing wrong with that. Make sure you give them a rich education full of history, science, math, art, music, and movement. Don’t let your child’s education wait while they learn to read. Remember, reading is not a requirement for learning information. It is one way to learn, but your child can learn from you, from videos, from experience, and in hands-on ways that they enjoy. Allow their education to be fun and engaging and the reading will follow.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.