Ever wonder how to approach the education of your dyslexic child? I found out Laynie has dyslexia this past spring, and so we’ve totally re-vamped our curriculum this year. What techniques and ideas are best for teaching children with dyslexia? Here they are, from my expert friend in the field, Jeanette Washington, M.Ed.

How to homeschool a child with dyslexia - instructional approaches TFHSM


Brain It On!

A dyslexia diagnosis doesn’t come with a prescriptive curriculum. Actually, there is no one curriculum that remediates this neurological difference. Neuroimaging is helpful in illustrating reading success for children with and without dyslexia. It shows that critical areas used for reading functioned typically after an ongoing use of Orton-Gillingham influenced programs. There were brain-based differences of children with dyslexia who used these instructional approaches compared to those who failed to make gains.

I’m Down With O.G.

Lynda Siegel once wrote that one of the most important, if not the most important, aspects of understanding reading and dyslexia is the need to find effective approaches. With this in mind, when selecting an instructional approach, you should think O.G. No, not organically grown, or original gangster, I’m talking about Orton Gillingham. This 1930’s collaboration between Anna Gillingham and Dr. Samuel Orton birthed what the International Dyslexia Association has stated is an effective approach to teaching children with dyslexia.

After surveying 200 parents and educators within the U.S. who were predisposed to dyslexia two programs were the most commonly used and praised. The first, with 30% using the Barton System. This is a one-on-one tutoring system created by Susan Barton who experienced, firsthand her nephew struggle with reading and spelling due to dyslexia. The Barton Reading Program includes multisensory materials like color-coded letter tiles that help students connect sounds to letters. The second, with 22% using the Wilson Reading System. This is an evidence based curricula for students of all ages including adults and used within several school districts. It is a multisensory “sound-tapping” system where students tap out each sound of a word with their fingers and thumbs to help them break the words down. These effective approaches have scientific evidence to support their usefulness.

Well-known systems may come with a well tabulated price tag. For those homeschooling on a dime. I’d like to recommend a program awarded 1st place in 2015 for the Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards. The All About Learning Homeschool Program includes multisensory activities like sight word bowling and ABC Snack Recipes. Did I mention that this program offers freebies?

The Checklist Manifesto

It’s important to note that by no means are these the only Structured Literacy or Orton-Gillingham influenced programs. As a matter of fact the list could go on and I’m fairly certain it will. What is more essential than the length of the list is a check list of what exactly makes an Orton-Gillingham influenced program useful. When selecting an instructional approach don’t be afraid to incorporate text to speech enabled technology. More importantly, be sure that it has the following components exist:

  • Multisensory: Three or more senses should be used to commit learning to the long term memory.
  • Explicit: There should be directness in the rules pertaining to decoding and encoding.
  • Systematic & Structured: Novel ideas should be reinforced predictably.
  • Sequential & Cumulative: Simple to complex is built upon steps.
  • Individualized: Learning is student centered and paced.
  • Diagnostic & Prescriptive: Skill development is recorded during each step. Observation from each lesson guides decision making and the flow of each lesson.


Jeannette Washington, M.Ed. is the founder of Bearly Articulating and holds a specialized Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Dyslexia and other Language Based Learning Disorders. This former speech-language pathologist has a natural ability to appreciate and inspire exceptional learners. Her fiery passion for pushing boundaries and defying limits ensures that all exceptional learners have access to the opportunities that will allow them to reach their potential. Converse with her in her Facebook group Debunking Dyslexia.