For a while now, I’ve suspected my 9 year-old homeschooled daughter has dyslexia. Luckily, I have access to assessment and evaluation services for her through our local public school. We just got her test results back this past week, and they have determined that Laynie does in fact, have a learning disability in decoding and writing. Further tests will most likely determine that it is dyslexia.
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Although I’ve known for several years now that Laynie struggles in these areas, I didn’t know very much about dyslexia. That’s why I am so thankful I have several friends with experience to talk to about our challenges. I’m learning a lot about how to help Laynie, especially from my friend Jeanette Washington, who has written the following article for you. Her expertise has been invaluable to me, and I am glad to share her advice with you as well.
So my homeschooler has been diagnosed with dyslexia, now what?
It’s imperative to understand the definition and root cause of dyslexia before collapsing into a puddle of disappointment and grief. Dyslexia is an inherited condition, neurologically-based that causes an interference (also called a disruption or disconnection) with the processing of language. It is a learning difference, not a disability. There is no cure for dyslexia because it is not a disease.
Dyslexia has a genetic origin. This means that individuals can inherit this condition from a parent. It’s not uncommon for a child with dyslexia to have an immediate family member who also has this condition. Also, it’s not unusual for two or more children in a family to have this type of learning disability.
With this in mind, it’s important to understand that there are different degrees of dyslexia. These are mild, moderate and severe. Parents or older relatives with moderate to severe dyslexia may have “hated school,” or “dropped out,” because school was frustrating. It’s safe to say that some parents or older relatives may have been undiagnosed. After all it wasn’t until the publication of the government document, The Code of Practice in 1994 that dyslexia was given official recognition.
The dyslexic brain is 10% larger than the average brain
There exists a physical difference in the dyslexic brain. Comparatively it is structurally and functionally different. The left and right hemisphere of a typical brain is unbalanced because the left hemisphere is about 10% larger than the right hemisphere. However a dyslexic brain is balanced! The right grows so that it can be the same size as the left. This essentially affects the performance of the neurological system (specifically, the parts of the brain responsible for learning to read.) There is scattered activity in the right hemisphere rather than focused activity in the left hemisphere. It should be noted that the brain function of the dyslexic changes with intervention.
How should I teach a dyslexic learner?
One test doesn’t determine dyslexia and one teaching style doesn’t either. Research shows that using multisensory instruction coupled with repetition can yield successful results in reading. Multisensory teaching isn’t just limited to reading and listening. Instead, it tries to use all of the senses. Every lesson engages the three main pathways to the brain (seeing, touching and hearing). This helps learners tap into their learning strengths to make connections and form memories. More importantly it allows them to use a wider range of ways to show what they’ve learned.
This concept was borne out of Dr. Samuel Orton and Dr. Anna Gillingham’s work with special needs students in the 1930’s. This teaching method is now known as the Orton-Gillingham method or multi-sensory teaching. So instead of just telling someone about an eggplant, let them hear about it, see it for themselves and learn to cook with it. If you don’t feel creative enough to create these types of lessons then you can easily locate freebies and more by visiting www.teacherspayteachers.com. I also find it useful to Google specific multi sensory activities and add my spin to them.
Want to learn more?
Check out my favorite books about teaching dyslexic learners:
- Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
- Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World by Jeffery Freed and Laurie Parsons
- Unicorns Are Real: A Right-Brained Approach to Learning by Barbara Meister Vitale
- The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock Eide and Fernette Eide
About the Author
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.