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Dyslexia: How Do I Teach This Child?

By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP


What Is Dyslexia? Educators have not been able to agree on what dyslexia really is. Some authorities believe that it is strictly a language-processing problem involving the distinguishing of sounds of letters. Others believe that it is a visual/perceptual problem, since these children also reverse words laterally (b/d) and vertically (m/w) as well as scrambling letters (the=het) when they read and write. I believe that both groups are correct. It is an auditory/language problem, visual/perceptual problem, and often a visual/motor (eye/hand) problem as well. I have worked with many teenagers who have been through years of tutoring in a good phonemic awareness program. Why were they still in my special education class? Although they now were able to decode very long, difficult words, because their problem with inadequate eye tracking had not been addressed, they could not read with any fluency. Words continued to move as they read, or reverse, or they had to use so much energy to keep their eyes tracking correctly that they forgot what they had just read. Therefore, in my classroom, I also addressed the eye tracking issue so that they could read fluently and with comprehension on grade level by the end of the year. Through prayer, study, and observation, I realized that many of the learning processes had not become automatic for these students. For example, their eye tracking should have transferred to their automatic brain hemisphere six months after they practiced it. If it isnt automatic, the child has to think about the eye movement so he/she doesnt accidently say no for on. Auditory processing, such as the process of remembering phonemes, or phonics, also had not transferred to the automatic hemisphere. In 1981 Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist, found that the name of a word, letter, phoneme, or person is processed in the left, auditory brain hemisphere. However, the picture of the word (what it looks like) is processed in the right, visual brain hemisphere. The reading problem that a child experiences when he cannot remember the name of a phoneme or sight word is that the left-brain name does not connect with the rightbrain word picture. This learning process can be likened to the driving process. If you had to think about how to turn the signals and when to brake and accelerate while you were driving, it would be a very difficult procedure indeed, and you definitely wouldnt drive for pleasure.1 Does My Child Have Dyslexia? You can suspect dyslexia in your child when the following auditory and visual processing symptoms occur, and your child is about two years behind in reading. Not all reading problems indicate the presence of dyslexia. Again, there are many opinions, but many special education teachers consider that a child is considered to have true (not just auditory) dyslexia when he/she scrambles words and letters visually, auditorily, and in writing and tests two years behind level.

We, of course, would like to intervene before that child is two years behind, by treating the scrambling symptoms. I have found that this can be done quite easily in the home setting. Contact me at craft@ecentral.com to request a free copy of the Quick Word Recognition Test; put only the words Quick Word Recognition Test in the subject line. You can easily use this tool to easily and quickly assess your childs progress throughout the year. Some symptoms to consider (a child does not need to display all the symptoms to be diagnosed as having dyslexia): Auditory Processing 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Difficulty learning the names of alphabet letters when in kindergarten Spelling has no phonetic pattern to it (Tuesday=Tunday) Sounds out all words, including sight words (many, could, these) Poor memory of words just read in a previous sentence in reading Sounds out the letters in a word, but cant put it into a whole (b-a-t) Memorizes stories but cant remember same words in another story

Visual Processing 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. Visually reverses whole words (on=no, was=saw) Regularly reads big for dig Very slow, labored reading (often takes a deep breath) Reading a year and a half or more below grade level Says words when he reads Reads a word from the line above and adds to present line, often

What Is the Difference Between Dyslexia and Dysgraphia? This is often confusing for parents and some educators . . . I present many workshops to teachers and teach college classes to special-education teachers about this confusing subject. Simply put, dyslexia involves much difficulty reading and spelling. Dysgraphia involves much difficulty writing. Many children/teenagers with dyslexia often have an accompanying dysgraphia. They write almost no sentences from memory, because their right, visual hemisphere is not storing words efficiently. (Copying a sentence is not considered writing.) They have to think about the directionality of the letters, rather than the content of the writing. Kids with dyslexia almost always also have dysgraphia. However, many kids who do not have dyslexia, and in fact, may read way above grade level, have just the dysgraphia.2 Be assured, this issue is also easy to correct at home. How Can I Work With My Child at Home? The approach I have taken to get children past the learning block of dyslexia, is twofold: 1. Some type of midline brain therapy. While NILD, NACD are some other midline therapies to explore, I use Brain Integration Therapy, a very inexpensive, 20-

minutes-a-day home therapy program designed to eliminate the midline as a problem and restore proper eye tracking, encourage better recognition of letter sounds, correct writing reversals, and enable the child to store words in his/her right-brain, long-term memory. 2. In addition to this therapy, I use an intensive phonemic awareness and decoding program daily. For my classroom use, I created the Right Brain Reading Program, which is an Orton Gillingham-based phonics and spelling method. This tool can be purchased or can be easily made at home by the parent. If your child has symptoms of dyslexia, you have found that just having him read to you more isnt helping. Youve also found that regular phonics programs dont work, because no matter how much the child practices, he cant remember the sounds of letters. Many times he sounds out the pieces of a word: f-a-t, but he cannot put them into a whole word (fat). Sight words are his enemy, as the child tries to sound out each sight word (what becomes a laborious w-h-a-t). Curiously, the childs comprehension is greatonce hes struggled through a passage. By the time I see parents in my consultation practice, they have given up on spelling, and the only writing the child does involves copying sentences. To help a child who is facing this massive struggle learn to read, brain integration therapy exercises and once-a week re-trainings, which use physical movements to reconnect the two hemispheres, is the first step I show the parents. Then I show them the Right Brain Reading approach. This is the most fun. I regularly can get a dyslexic 10-year-old who is a non-reader (cant even spell his last name) reading eight sight words (e.g., many, they, city, what) and spelling them from memory in just a half-hour, using his strong photographic memory. The childs eyes light up, because he suddenly feels so smart . . . and it didnt feel like work at all. The mom usually has tears in her eyes by this time, as she sees her child write a whole sentence from memory after just one session, using words that he couldnt even read when he first came in! Of course, we still need to work on the phonics and phonemic awareness (also using right-brain strategies to make it easier), but now the child has faith in himselfhe can become a reader! This method of intensive phonemic training plus midline exercises takes about forty-five minutes to an hour a day of one-on-one tutoring but pays off handsomely in its results. And the great thing is that parents do not have to spend much money or have someone else tutor their child. They just learn to teach using different teaching strategies and administer the Quick Score Reading Test every four months, to make sure that the child is making progress. You will be surprised by how easy it is to achieve improvement equivalent to a twoyear growth in reading skillsin just a years timeby investing just one hour a day in reading this new way. This method works with first-graders to eighth-graders who have dyslexia. Are there other proven intensive phonics programs that work with dyslexia? Yes. This is just the least expensive program. For a list of some of these other good programs, just email me at craft@ecentral.com.

So, go wild and invest in some colored markers and pictures, and have fun teaching your child how to use his/her powerful right brain to make the learning process easier. It doesnt have to be so hard for the child, nor expensive for the parent, to teach a child with dyslexia to be a good reader or writer, in my experience.3 Be your childs own Resource Room teacher. No special training necessary! Endnotes: 1. Minds Behind the Brain: A History of the Pioneers and Their Discoveries by Stanley Finger 2. See my article, Smart Kids Who Hate to Write, on my website to see this subject described in depth. 3. To learn about the step-by-step teaching method that I used in my special education class of bright, struggling readers in school, download my Free Daily Lesson Plan for a Struggling Reader. To read further about the Chemistry of Dyslexia (why it seems to run in families, and the role of the childs immune system), see the article titled Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain on my website, www.diannecraft.org. The research is powerful! Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.