Parenting Kids with Dyslexia Information - Lexercise

Homeschooling with Dyslexia: Is it Better for A Child?

mom and child homeschooling with dyslexiaParents who see their dyslexic child struggle with traditional schooling often wonder: Might homeschooling be better for my child?  

Dyslexia does not fit neatly into a boxthis cause, this manifestation, this treatmentbut instead is on a continuum. Some students with dyslexia have mainly spelling and writing difficulties while others struggle to read even single-syllable words. Some dyslexic students, including those with apparently mild symptoms, may suffer from extreme stress and anxiety related to reading and writing

Because of this variability, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for dyslexia. In this post, we will provide some practical, research-based guidance for parents who may be wondering if homeschooling is the best option for their child.

A New Time for Homeschooling

Students with dyslexia differ widely. At the same time, homeschooling differs widely from home to home. For example, some homeschoolers use a structured, academic curriculum. Some attend a full-time online school. Others are part of the unschooling movement in which life is the curriculum and there are no formal lessons.

Homeschooling is definitely growing. It is more often an option today, as more than half of American adults work from home, at least part time. Encouraged by the necessity of isolation during the early days of Covid-19, parents have become more resourceful and more willing to take on the responsibility of home-based education. In addition, many of the instructional barriers that once discouraged parents from homeschooling are lower in new, sophisticated, online material.

Is Homeschooling Right for Your Family?

But before jumping onto the homeschooling bandwagon, it makes sense to evaluate the costs and critical elements of schooling options that are available and possible for you and your child. The chart below is designed to help you compare schooling options and spot the most promising ones.

As you complete the chart, bear in mind these important considerations:

  • Hours per day – Successful homeschooling (even unschooling!) requires adult guidance and supervision. A homeschool parent needs schedule flexibility and availability but also the interest and patience to provide consistent guidance and supervision on a daily basis. 
  • Curriculum – All students benefit from challenging, knowledge-based curricula in subject areas such as social studies and math. All students, and especially those with dyslexia, need a structured literacy curriculum. They may benefit from using technology, such as audiobooks, to access their subject matter curricula. 
  • Costs – Costs may include:
    • Tuition or fees
    • Curricular materials or subscriptions
    • Technology
    • Extracurricular activities
    • Transportation
    • Uniforms or other clothing
    • Special testing (e.g., some states require annual testing for homeschoolers)
    • Lost income
  • Requirements – Some private schools have admissions requirements, and public and public-charter schools often have residency requirements. Some states have homeschool requirements. See Homeschool Laws by State.
  • Pros & Cons for the child – Think about the setting(s) in which your child is most attentive and engaged. Some students learn best in group situations, with peer engagement. Others learn best in one-on-one discussions with an adult or when using interactive media. Knowing what helps your child pay attention and stay engaged is important because attention and active engagement are two of the four “pillars” of  learning.

homeschooling with dyslexia chart

Summarizing their 2021 multi-day, virtual conference on The Post-Pandemic Future of Homeschooling, the Harvard Kennedy School of Education leaders concluded, “The success of homeschooling seems to depend largely on the individual child and parents.”  

Even if you decide that homeschooling is not the best option for your family at the present, there are plenty of things you can do to help your struggling reader at home

Lexercise is Here to Help when Homeschooling a Dyslexic Child

To learn more about dyslexia, homeschooling, and the latest resources to support you and your child, sign up for the Lexercise blog below. If you suspect that your child may be a struggling reader or have a learning disability, visit the Lexercise testing page and take the first step toward helping your child become a skilled and confident reader and writer.

4 Dyslexia Myths That Can Confuse Parents

As Lexercise therapists communicate with the families of children with dyslexia, they are continually impressed by the amount of research parents have done. Getting a dyslexia diagnosis for their child and then finding the right treatment for a student with learning differences is never simple. 

At the same time, Lexercise therapists express their surprise and concern at the prevailing myths and misunderstandings surrounding dyslexia. Thanks to these myths, some parents may even be persuaded that their child’s learning difficulties are not treatable.

Below is an infographic that gives you a quick overview of four of these dyslexia myths. Keep on reading for more information.

Here is more information on the four dyslexia myths that persist in spite of solid evidence:

MYTH #1: Dyslexia causes people to see words and letters backward. 

In 1925, Dr. Samuel Orton used the term strephosymbolia, literally reversed symbols, in explaining why some people have great trouble reading despite adequate intelligence. A decade later, Orton said that he thought the main problem was actually in “the process of synthesizing the word as a spoken unit from its component sounds.” (See What is Orton-Gillingham and How Does it Treat Dyslexia?

Since the 1970s, with modern neuroscience technologies, it has become clear that most dyslexics do not have difficulties with vision or visual perception. Instead, most people with dyslexia have difficulties with processing speech sounds. Still, the old idea that dyslexics see words and letters backward or reversed has persisted and become a popular myth. Some recent research suggests that a minority of struggling readers may have difficulty with some aspects of vision, such as visual spatial attention. In his book, Reading in the Brain: the New Science of How We Read, French neuroscientist Dr. Stanislas Dehaene sums up the current science: “…brain imaging supports the claim that the crux of the problem often lies at the interface between vision and speech….” For more information, see a related post by Dr. William O. Young, Five Ways Not to Treat Dyslexia.

MYTH #2: A student who is making good grades must not have dyslexia.

Good grades do not rule out dyslexia! We are going to address common concerns about grade level in an upcoming post, but meanwhile, see 5 Reasons Why Good Grades Don’t Rule Out Dyslexia.

 

MYTH #3: Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis that can only be used by a healthcare practitioner. 

Learning disorders, including dyslexia, have well-documented lifelong negative effects on health and wellbeing, especially when treatment is withheld or delayed. But a learning disorder like dyslexia is not considered a medical diagnosis, nor, in most cases, is the treatment for dyslexia covered by medical insurance.

Neither the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th Edition (ICD-11) nor the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, has a specific classification code for dyslexia. Instead, both include reading disorders under a broader category of learning disorders

Physicians and other medical providers are typically not trained in how to evaluate learning disorders like dyslexia. The exception might be some developmental pediatricians, who have additional training in cognition and learning. The professionals who are trained to evaluate learning disorders more often include psychologists, special educators, and speech-language pathologists. See Who is Qualified to Make a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

 

MYTH #4: People with dyslexia will never read well, so it’s best to just give them accommodations and other ways to compensate.

With targeted, science-backed intervention, people with dyslexia can become highly proficient readers. In conjunction with appropriate intervention, accommodations and technologies can certainly play a role in reducing fatigue and improving academic performance (see The Limits of Reading Accommodations). It is the appropriate intervention–consistent, targeted therapy plus consistent daily practice–that turns struggling students into confident readers.

 

To find out more about the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia, or to learn more about myth-busting dyslexia research, contact Lexercise today.

4 Tips to Prepare for Back to School Success

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson, From Birth to One

apple, books, and blocks on teachers desk as back to school season approachesAs the school year begins, what are the most powerful things you can do to help your child prepare? If the last school year was less-than-successful for your student, you both may be feeling some trepidation about starting back to school. So how do you make a new start – one that will optimize your child’s chances of having a successful school experience?

In his book How We Learn neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene encourages parents to understand their power as change agents: 

“[Parents] are the primary actors in a child’s development, whose actions precede and prolong school. Home is where children have a chance to expand, through work and games, the knowledge that they acquired in class. Family is open seven days a week.…” (p. 244)

Dehaene offers a brain-based blueprint for how parents can help their child make this school year – and every school year – successful and productive. He identifies “four pillars of learning because each of them plays an essential role in the stability of our mental constructions: if even one is missing or weak the whole structure quakes and quivers.” (p. 145) 

Below we have listed Dehaene’s four pillars of learning and some ideas for how to implement them to launch (and continue) a successful school year.

The 4 Pillars of Learning

1. Attention

Use Calendars – Keep a calendar and teach your student to keep one, too. Even the youngest students need to begin to pay attention to important deadlines, such as when assignments are due. Digital tools, like Google Calendar, make calendar sharing easy. 

Create a Study Space – Set up a study space for your student in a quiet location, at a desk or table away from media, with comfortable seating, ample light, and a surface for writing. Younger students benefit from having a study space in a location near the center of the home, where it is easy for an adult to engage and supervise.

Control Media – Consider using the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan.

2. Active Engagement

Personalize – Be sure that your student’s curriculum is properly adjusted to their current level. School work that is too easy or too difficult undermines engagement. Dehaene says, “…what matters most is to restore their desire to learn by offering them stimulating problems carefully tailored to their current level.” (p. 195) 

Connect – For humans, conversation is pivotal for engagement. Talk with your student about what they are learning at school. Dehaene says, “Maximally engaging a [child]… means constantly feeding them with questions and remarks that stimulate their imagination and make them want to go deeper.” (p. 197) 

Reward Curiosity – Encourage your student to ask questions. Even beginning students can learn to search topics online. For comprehensive guidelines for use of online media see Common Sense Media.

3. Error Feedback Build a Growth Mindset – Encourage a growth mindset, which is the belief that skills and abilities can be improved with effort and practice. Discourage a fixed mindset, the belief that skills and abilities are pre-determined and unchangeable. See: Normalize Dyslexia and Build a Growth Mindset.
4. Consolidation Prioritize Sleep – As Dehaene explains, memories are consolidated during sleep and that helps shift from “slow, conscious and effortful processing to fast, unconscious and automatic expertise.” (p.222) For guidelines about healthy sleep at different ages see HealthyChildren.org.

 

Implementing these Tips for a Successful School Year

teen studying at home applying the fours pillars of learningDehaene’s recommendations are straightforward and easy to implement. All children, but perhaps especially those with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities, will benefit as these simple tools are introduced, practiced, and repeated. They offer the student a greater sense of control over their work and their environment, which can lead to a more fulfilling school experience.

If you have concerns about your child’s reading or writing, please contact us to find out more about understanding and diagnosing dyslexia, or browse our website to learn more about Lexercise online therapy.

 

 


REFERENCE

Dehaene, S. (2020). How We Learn: Why Brains Learn Better Than Any Machine…for Now. Viking.

 

 

How to Help a Child with Dyslexia at Home: What Parents Can Do

Many students in the United States today are struggling readers. The U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics evaluates reading comprehension every two years. Recent testing (2019) showed that one-third of students in 4th and 8th grades are reading below basic level and struggle to understand their school work. Not surprisingly, these challenges are even more acute for students with dyslexia.how to help a child with dyslexia at home

Is difficulty reading the same as a diagnosis of dyslexia? 

No. But whether a student has dyslexia or not, being unable to read can lead to a lifetime of struggles with daily living. For example, beyond completing their school work, individuals who cannot read may later find themselves unable to:

    • apply for a job or take a test to advance to a new position
    • read a menu or a map
    • follow written instructions
    • take a driver’s license test
    • manage health care decisions, medications, and dosages (their own and others’)
    • follow a recipe
    • work with technology
    • communicate on social media
    • make informed decisions
    • live independently
    • vote
    • follow operating instructions
    • help with homework and read to their own children

Poor reading skills have been shown to result in higher rates of unemployment, lower-quality jobs, lower-income, and reduced self-esteem.

 

How you can help your struggling reader at home

woman sitting at table helping child with dyslexia at home with reading

Most struggling readers do not qualify for public school special education services, but parents can do a lot to help – right at home. These are simple steps that can benefit the entire family, whether or not children have been diagnosed with dyslexia.

 

 

 

Activities to Do Every Day

  • Set aside a family read-aloud time.
    • Designate an adult or other skilled reader for each session.
    • Select materials that interest the child and that the child can understand as a listener. (Your local librarian can help.)
    • The reader should sit next to the child and encourage them to follow along, looking at the words on the page as they are spoken.
    • Stop from time to time for a little conversation about the story and the characters. Ask questions to make sure the child is following the story and answer any questions they may have.
  • Discuss the meaning of any new or unusual words that come up during the day. If a word has an interesting spelling pattern, point it out.
  • Encourage and model a growth mindset.
    • Encourage deliberate practice and model it, showing the child how people get good at what they practice.
    • Respond to errors in a way that helps the child understand that mistakes are helpful. They help us improve.

Activities to Do Several Times a Week

  • Engage your child in brief writing tasks such as personal notes, making lists, recording events in a diary or on a calendar, etc.
    • Encourage and model writing by hand, with legible and consistent letter formation.
    • Provide guidance for accurate spelling and sentence punctuation.
    • Model and support the use of digital technologies like keyboarding with a sentence-level spelling and grammar checker or project management using a digital calendar.

If your child struggles with reading, writing, or spelling, consider getting help from a qualified structured literacy professional. Learn more about dyslexia testing and structured literacy reading, writing, and spelling therapy for children.

If you are a parent with questions on how to better help a child with dyslexia through proven treatment options, contact us today for a free consultation.

Stress Management 101

stress management 101

In a recent “Best of NPR” newsletter, Christopher Dean Hopkins writes about helping young students cope with unusual conditions as they return to school. He talks about mask use and alternate settings to closed classrooms, but also, very importantly, emphasizes the presence of stress “for kids as well as grownups.”

At Lexercise we often discuss stress and anxiety, as they are among the most common features of dyslexia. In The Vortex of Dyslexia, we share why these emotions are so prevalent among children with dyslexia and other language-processing disorders. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month so this is a good time to re-examine how struggling students can manage stress and anxiety, which are typically a result of feeling out of control.

At Lexercise, our priority is helping students get the effective intervention and treatment they need to succeed and to feel in control in school and in life. In our Lexercise blog posts, and in the daily work Lexercise therapists do with students, we frequently address the importance of combining comprehensive testing and evaluation, skilled professionals, and research-based treatment—in other words, best practices—to develop the level of reading proficiency required for academic success.

Long experience has demonstrated that fun can inspire students to practice, so Lexercise designed a set of practice games that offer valuable feedback as kids learn essential skills. Enlivened by the graphics of Lexercise Lead Artist Isabel Hennes (Iszzy), our games help to produce the “mental muscle memory” needed for proficient reading. 

But we know it’s not all fun and games. As Hopkins writes, when stress is “amped up” it can easily interfere with health, learning, and social interactions. So, among the colorful Lexercise games, we’ve added one called Calming Breath. A cuddly purple creature with wiggly ears demonstrates how to use the calming breath procedure to manage stress as the instructions guide the student (or parent!) through the exercise. Give it a try!

If you are stressed about your child’s skills with written or spoken words, we invite you to learn more about Lexercise therapy on our website or contact us today.

3 More Easy Ways to Overcome Learning Loss

mom helping child overcome learning loss on a laptop

Worried about learning loss in your child during this summer break? While it’s true that learning loss can affect all children who take an extended break from their studies and practices, there are ways you can help your child maintain and expand on what they’ve already learned.

In part one of this series, you read how you can engage your child with library programs, journaling, and even cooking. Now, in part two of the series you’ll discover:

3 More Easy Ways to Overcome Learning Loss This Summer

  1. Schedule a weekly family game night with games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Apples to Apples. Word games like these are especially effective in reinforcing and expanding your child’s reading skills.
  2. Host a family read-aloud session with popular books, or book series, where family members take turns reading. Even if your child doesn’t want to read aloud, they can still maintain and grow both their vocabulary and comprehension skills simply by listening to another family member reading.
  3. Explore areas of your child’s strengths and interests. If they’re interested in dinosaurs, you can take your child to a museum and see a dinosaur exhibit. Then checkout online resources on dinosaurs including drawings, videos, and articles. If their strengths include building things, help them choose one of the many new and advanced Lego toys. Got a budding artist? Read together about the many types of art supplies (water paint, oil paint, charcoal, colored pencils, etc.) and then help them shop for a new art set.

Summertime is a great time to engage in activities together. And with these activities, your child will maintain and expand on the knowledge they’ve previously learned and overcome learning loss in a fun and easy way.

Want a professional to help your child overcome learning loss? Check out our 8-week Summer Jolt

Can Letter Formation Promote Literacy?

Letter Formation and Dyslexia

January 23 is National Handwriting Day, established in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association to encourage people to buy pens and pencils. Today, it seems, our writing involves more key-clicks than ink and graphite, but, as research is discovering, letter formation by hand is a critical step in letter and word identification as well as spelling proficiency, especially among struggling readers and writers.

It’s so critical, in fact, that Lexercise has just released a new online practice game: Letter Formation.

Though we don’t fully understand why, children with dyslexia tend to have less efficient motor control over letter-writing. They may take more time to write letters even as the resulting letters are less legible.

Letter Formation and Literacy

Handwriting is deeply entwined in the brain’s literacy network. Children who have difficulty with handwriting often have problems with spelling and language fluency. In addition, children with dyslexia may struggle with mirror invariance for letter images. Mirror invariance is a normal and helpful feature of the mammalian brain. It refers to the ability to recognize a mirror image as the same object. A chair is recognized as a chair no matter which way it is turned. A person’s face can be recognized from multiple vantage points. But, to master literacy, a student must overcome mirror invariance for alphanumeric symbols. Letters are special. A -b- is not the same as a -d- and a -p- is not a -q-.

Neuroscience has shown that overcoming mirror invariance for letters is facilitated by Letter Formation and Dyslexiaattending to the hand’s movement pathway when forming letters. Each lowercase letter has a distinctive movement pathway – where it begins, how it moves and where it ends (entry, movement, exit).  To achieve fluency, this pathway is followed every time the letter is written and practiced over and over until it can be done with unconscious ease. Students who are taught to form letters using a targeted, structured, movement-based handwriting approach recognize letters more quickly, decode and spell words more accurately and fluently, and formulate written language more easily. 

Unfortunately, in the U.S., a structured approach to handwriting is not supported in public education and the Common Core State Standards curriculum has no specific guidance about how to teach this vital skill. While research supports teaching transcription (letter and word writing using a writing tool), teachers are rarely trained for the task.

Letter Formation Practice Helps Students Overcome Difficulties

The good news is that a targeted structured approach to letter formation can help students to overcome difficulties related to mirror invariance and letter identity and become more fluent writers, spellers, and readers.

The Lexercise Letter Formation game teaches students each letter’s distinctive movement pathway. The goal is legible, fluent, and automatic handwriting that promotes comprehension and memory and does not disrupt written expression. The multisensory (kinetic) focus can help dyslexic children anchor in memory otherwise confusable letters. For example, -d- and -b- have opposite movement pathways, so when learned as movement pathways they are not at all confusable! 

We invite you to try Letter Formation and the other Lexercise practice games and of course we are happy to answer your questions about online reading, writing, and spelling therapy for dyslexia and other language processing differences.

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The Lexercise Gift Guide

Who’s on your gift list this year? If you’re shopping for children with dyslexia or other learning differences, we’re here to help!

In our Lexercise Gift Guide, we have assembled a list of toys, books, magazines, and other tools that are both fun and practical. There are suggestions here for ages 1 year to adult and plenty of options for school-age kids as well as games the whole family can play. Your dyslexic child will enjoy these gifts so much, that they might not even notice they are becoming better readers and spellers at the same time!

The Lexercise Gift Guide for Dyslexic Children

 

Gifts For Children Ages 1 – and Up

gift ideas for dyslexic children ages 1 and up

1) Amazon Book Box  Ages 1 – 12
2) Dyslexic Legends  Ages 1 – 12
3) Playdoh Shape and Learn Letters  Ages 2 – 9
4) Finger Focus Highlighters  Ages 4 – 8

 

Gifts For Children Ages 5 and Up

best Dyslexic Gifts for children ages 5 and up

5) Hot Dots Jr.  Ages 5 – 8
6) Bananagrams Word Game  Ages 7+
7) Apple iPad  Ages 5 – adult
8) Learning Ally Audiobook Membership  Ages 6+
9) Audiobook Subscription  Ages 6+
10) Sight Word Swat Game  Ages 5+
11) National Geographic Kids Magazine  Ages 6 – 9
12) Phonics Dominoes  Ages 6 – 8
13) 100 Kid’s Books Scratch Off Poster  Ages 6+
14) C-Pen Reader  Ages 6+

 

Gifts For Children Ages 8 and Up

Gifts for Dyslexic children ages 8 and up

15) Mad Libs  Ages 8 – 12
16) Gigantagrams  Ages 8+
17) Simon Electronic Memory Game  Ages 8 – Teen
18) Apple AirPods   Ages   11 – adult
19) Motivational Bracelet    Ages 12+
20) Celebrate neurodiversity hoodie Ages 10+

We hope you’ve found something wonderful here for holidays or birthdays. 

Special recognition to Amanda Bush, and a big “Thank you!” to all the dyslexia therapists, who helped put this list together.

amazonsmile dyslexia services foundation banner

 

Gratitude and Appreciation

As we advance into the holiday season, I hope this post finds you and your family safe and healthy.

The year has certainly delivered more surprises and challenges than anyone could have anticipated. Even more than in previous years, I have been deeply moved by the students, families, and educators who have demonstrated the relentless commitment to the daily practice that is required to overcome a reading disorder.

In the face of upended schedules, unusual requirements, and social uncertainty, you have carried on with the practice, practice, practice, that makes decoding, spelling, and writing skills more automatic. You have found ways to overcome the disruption of having to work from home and the disappointments of not spending time with friends and extended family. Working together, you have focused your dazzling creativity to turn ordinary into extraordinary.

The work you have done and continue to do, together, will turn struggling readers and writers into confident, capable students. 2020 has tested your capacity for managing negative emotions and circumstances, and you have proved, again and again, your determination, adaptability, and sense of humor in the face of those challenges.

Thank you for your commitment. I know I speak for the entire Lexercise team in expressing my deepest appreciation and admiration for every one of you.

Whether you celebrate at one table or virtually at many, I hope you have a delicious Thanksgiving and look forward to working together in the months ahead.

Sandie Barrie Blackley

P.S. If you are figuring out how to gather your family for a virtual Thanksgiving, have a look at these tips from the Associated Press.

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Creativity Combats School Burnout

picture of hands covered in colorful paint

The psychological term burnout has been around since the 1970s when it was coined to describe a kind of emotional exhaustion experienced by those in the helping professions. Today it’s a term familiar to just about anyone who has to do one task over and over.

For students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities, “over and over” describes the way learning happens: repeat, repeat, repeat until the skill is mastered. Little surprise, then, that students with learning differences may feel burned out with school work.

We recently had a conversation with Lexercise therapist Amanda Bush, a Texas-based Certified Academic Language Therapist who works primarily with elementary- and middle-school kids with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. During a monthly Zoom session with Lexercise therapists, Amanda described her experience with Lydia, a 5th-grader, who was feeling unmotivated, negative, and resistant.

Amanda has been working with Lydia for almost two-and-a-half years, since well before the COVID-19 shutdown. Hardworking, committed, and great at completing her practice, Lydia understands that repetition is helping to “rewire” her brain and make her new reading and spelling skills automatic.

As Amanda explains, for students with dyslexia, the 15-minute daily practice “can be looked at like a daily routine that you don’t even think about. Much like brushing our teeth, we may not always enjoy the activity, but we do it to keep our body healthy and pretty soon it is just a part of our schedule.”

But when summer came around, Lydia became frustrated and distracted. She felt like “they were forcing me” to study and she was missing out on fun activities. She was resentful that her practice had to be completed before she could be with her friends or go to the pool. She might refuse to complete her work or not try her hardest, saying, “Why do I have to do this and no one else does?”

child feeling burnout

This kind of resistance is not unusual. Amanda has seen it in other students, who would rather watch videos, play with the dog, or make excuses to leave the online lesson. Students with dyslexia and other language-processing disorders may under-perform, not be able to focus, and not take their practice seriously.

When Amanda encounters resistance in a student, she explains, “I always take a few minutes to brainstorm with the student to get to the root of the problem. Do I need to adjust my delivery? Is the content truly too challenging? Do I need to adjust the duration of sustained focus on the practice or lesson? Does the student have external factors that are distracting them from completing work? Do they understand the directions? Are they just bored? Do they need a bit of novelty to spice things up? Have they been working with me for so long that they have lost motivation/excitement? Is there a miscommunication between the parent and me as far as the expectations? Is the student overwhelmed with other school assignments?”

“Once I get a better idea of what is truly causing the frustration, we can brainstorm solutions together. I find this step to be critical because it helps when the solution is the student’s idea.”

Lexercise is based on the Orton-Gillingham structured literacy therapy model, which is a diagnostic, systematic, and explicit teaching method that follows a very specific approach to learning. Lexercise gives therapists the freedom to tailor and implement therapeutic decisions to create the best learning experience possible. Lydia understands that “it is important that we keep the format and content the same,” Amanda says, but that still leaves plenty of room for creativity and flexibility.

In their conversation, Lydia and Amanda agreed on a number of changes:

  • Lydia would choose the days and time for her practice. Would she practice before dinner? Would she practice after swimming?

  • She would mark those dates on her calendar in advance and make a commitment to complete her assignments.

  • Amanda and Lydia also discussed changes to Lydia’s workspace that would give her “a fresh take on a tired task.” They thought about how they might create the calming ambiance of a spa. “We looked on Pinterest and searched for ‘Teen workspace.’ Lydia immediately lit up with all of the crafty DIY projects to transform her learning space. She got inspired to make a desk organizer out of mason jars and to organize all of her colorful pens.” 

  • Amanda helped Lydia with Google docs to make a sign that said, “Watch Out It’s the Study Zone.” Lydia chose the typestyle and size “to make the sign look professional and just right.”

  • Lydia set up her desk on a comfortable blue rug and adorned it with loving photographs of her family. She set out battery-operated candles to create an even more inviting space and organized all of her supplies “to design her perfect study zone.”

  • As a prize for accomplishing her points goal, Amanda sent Lydia some lavender aromatherapy room spray to add to her workstation’s calming effect.

Amanda also engaged the support of Lydia’s parents and grandparents. “I asked them to be mindful of how Lydia is feeling. We are asking her to do something multiple times a week that is inherently difficult for her. I try to help parents have empathy for their children. I ask parents about something they feel they are not very good at and do not like to do, like public speaking, singing karaoke, running a mile, or solving a quadratic equation. What if they had to do that thing every day when they’d rather be watching a movie?”

“Knowing what to expect and when to expect it is key to making dyslexia intervention more approachable. Having some control is also a huge factor. Being in a safe, positive, and encouraging environment with some novelty, incentive, and fun is what has worked for my students.”

“We can’t control that we have dyslexia. We can’t control that we need to work harder and practice. We CAN control our choices: when we practice, our attitude, our environment, our amount of effort, our positive or negative self-talk, our learning space, our writing tools, our posture, etc. Kids can feel like nothing is fair, they are always being told what to do, they are bossed around all day by adults. It helps to know that they can do some things to change their situation, perspective, or attitude.” 

The change was immediate, Amanda says. Once Lydia had her new setup, “she was very excited to show off her study zone. She felt independent and more mature. It added the touch of newness that motivated her to do her best. She wants to do more projects. Lydia is excited, reinvigorated, motivated, refreshed, and energized for learning. She even shares her experience with dyslexia with her peers at school. Lydia is an advocate for students who learn differently. She is confident and open-minded.” As an unexpected benefit, Lydia’s sister was inspired to create her own desk, so now the two of them can work without distraction.

Amanda adds, “Is Lydia doing the same research-based practice that she had done before? Yes. Did her attitude toward the experience change? Yes. By focusing on what we CAN change rather than things that are out of our control, we were able to unlock some powerful modifications that will result in continued literacy improvement.” 

Amanda has plenty of other creative ideas up her sleeve for combating burnout and boredom. Students can earn points for small privileges, such as very short (under one minute) “brain breaks.” This time, tailored to the student’s interests, may be used for a Pictionary-like guessing game or even “a quick peek at the San Diego Zoo live webcam to see what the polar bears or penguins are doing.” It’s important to offer positive feedback on what the student has done well, even if they haven’t done everything perfectly.

Amanda also notes that “Lexercise encourages therapists to share ideas with one another and continue to improve. They promote professional development and collaboration to ensure we are at the best level we can be. Lexercise is life-changing.” 

The Lexercise team is hugely grateful to Amanda Bush for generously sharing the story of her success – and we are also very grateful to Lydia and her family for allowing us to tell this important story.

Learn more on how you can help your students with dyslexia here.

How To Help A Child With Dyslexia At Home

Many parents find it difficult to know how to help a child with dyslexia at home. As a result of COVID-19, this challenge has grown as schools transition to distance and blended learning and teaching responsibilities increase for parents. Unfortunately, parents may not get all the support they need from their child’s school. Thankfully, there are many scientifically backed activities and approaches to help a child with dyslexia at home. Here are our top 5: 

1. Provide structure and routine

Schoolwork can be stressful, especially for a child with a learning disability, but it doesn’t have to be. Structure and routine are extremely beneficial when parenting any child, especially one with dyslexia. First, start by creating a set schedule and a dedicated space in your home for schoolwork. Break up their school, homework and practice into parts to provide mental breaks to recharge. If they are able to write legibly, encourage independence by asking them to take notes (using the Cornell method – see right) on reading assignments, recording questions for follow-up discussion. Praise their notes and summaries that capture the important points. Teach organizational habits such as writing down tasks and homework assignments in a planner and filing class notes into folders. Lastly, create a separation of school and home by putting away all school materials at the end of the scheduled school day.

2. Develop your child’s curiosity about words

Team up with your child to investigate a word a week using the Word Inquiry method, an approach to word study that cements connections between meaning and spelling patterns. Work with your child to create a word sum by breaking the word into parts: prefix, suffix and base and discussing the meanings of each. Word Inquiry does not put a heavy burden on working memory or processing speed, so students who might otherwise resist word study often enjoy it and excel at it. See it in action in this tutorial with expert Pete Bowers, PhD.  Word Inquiry is the main vehicle for explicit teaching about word parts (morphology) in the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©

3. Use a structured literacy curriculum

To gain proficiency in reading, spelling and writing dyslexic students need to be taught with a program that is research backed. The structured literacy (AKA, Orton-Gillingham) approach is supported by more than three decades of research from The National Institutes of Health making it “the gold standard” in teaching students to read and spell. It is not only the most effective method for students who are struggling with reading words and spelling them, but it is the most effective method for teaching the foundations of literacy to all students. This multisensory approach makes learning an active process, connecting sounds to letters and making sense of spelling. This is how you teach a dyslexic child to read and spell more automatically and fluently.

The structured literacy methodology is vast and complex but Lexercise makes it easy to help your dyslexic child at home using our online therapy programs.

4. Think outside-of-the-box when it comes to reading practice 

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”, and in life we’ve all seen it’s true. Neuroscience confirms that regular practice is a crucial component in learning a new skill. Encourage additional reading practice outside of school and homework by using other sources like joke books, comic books, graphic novels, and cookbooks. Additionally, sometimes reading using technology will be more enticing if they have been looking at paper books all day. Consider letting them play games on their laptop or tablet for a specified amount of time after completing a reading assignment, so that they want to read in order to play the games. Consider motivating your dyslexic teenager by leveraging their time on social media. They will be reading captions and comments about people and things they are interested in. Talk with them about what they read and what it means. This will also help your child realize that, while information is everywhere,  careful reading and thinking is often necessary for full understanding.

5. Use assistive technology to your advantage!

Assistive technology has greatly improved in quality and quantity over the past few years. One great resource is the text-to-speech functionality found on most computers, tablets and phones that will read text aloud. (Pro tip: this is a built in function to all Google Chromebooks, the same ones that many schools are supplying for at-home learning.) Other great tools include audiobooks, word prediction, spellcheck (especially those that check at a sentence level and catch misspellings of words like “their” and “there”), and electronic graphic organizers. Read more about these resources here

Helping a child with dyslexia at home can feel overwhelming, but we are here to help! Schedule time to speak with a qualified dyslexia expert. 

AAP Changes Screen Time Recommendations

computer image of aap screen time updated recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics has lifted its recommended ban on screen time for children under 2 years of age. More importantly, they have researched the effects and recommended guidelines for educational and beneficial screen time. “The new guidelines, especially for very young children, shift the focus from WHAT is on the screen to WHO else is in the room” (Kamenetz, 2016).

The AAP recommends live video-chat, co-viewing, and interactive media use among children and a supervising adult.

Children “can learn new words from educational media, if and only if parents are watching alongside them, repeating what the video says and/ or drawing attention to what is on the screen…Co-view with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.”(Kamenetz, 2016)

In effect, screens should not be used as a babysitter but rather as facilitation of information and interaction between the guardian and child.

Lexercise’s co-founder, Sandie Barrie Blackley, recently visited her son and granddaughters where she was able to witness this type of “co-viewing,” educational screen-time.

child and grandfather reading a poem on a computer screen

When Granddaddy was reading the poem, The Owl & The Pussycat on Sunday morning D. was puzzled by these lines:

“They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon….”

She had never heard of mince, slices of quince, or a runcible spoon. So she and Granddaddy looked up images of these using Google Images. After checking out pictures of runcible spoons D. commented that at her school’s cafeteria they use plastic runcible spoons, but they call them sporks.

father and child discussing word meaning after looking them up on the computer

When D. and her sister were playing an online math logic game on Saturday morning Dad was there to coach.

This computer is in the home’s main living area so parents can easily be “side-by-side” with the children as they are using it. Parents also use an app that blocks all but approved sites.

Lexercise has always recognized the well-documented value of shared inquiry and joint engagement with a caring, mentoring adult. The Lexercise intervention platform is built to give parents all the tools they need to be a mentor and a change-agent for their struggling reader and/or writer. Learn how Lexercise combines interactive media and live chat to guarantee your child’s reading success here.


References:

Kamenetz, Anya. “Morning Edition.” NPRed. NPR. 21 Oct. 2016. Radio.