distance learning Archives - Lexercise

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. 

How to choose an online school for a dyslexic student

computer on a desk with Lexercise on the screen

What Should I look for when selecting an online school for my child?

As we move toward the school year, not certain if or for how long school buildings will be open, many parents of students with dyslexia are asking themselves – and Lexercise! – how do we choose an online school or curriculum for our dyslexic child?

Online learning has been around for a while, getting both easier and more sophisticated all the time. In fact, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) posted their “Parent’s Guide to Online Virtual Schools” in 2014!  But many families have had an opportunity to experience online learning for the first time in the last several months.  More and more parents are asking how they can evaluate virtual schools and virtual schooling. 

We suggest that parents “interview” schools and ask for specific information on the following essential elements of online learning for dyslexic students: 

1. A structured literacy approach

Structured literacy (Orton-Gillingham) is the gold standard in teaching students to read, spell and write. It is not only the most effective method for students who are struggling with reading words and spelling them, but it is also the most effective method for teaching the foundations of literacy to all students. In fact, students with dyslexia may not become proficient readers and writers unless they are taught using a structured literacy approach. A structured literacy approach requires three elements:

  • A structured literacy curriculum

    – A structured literacy curriculum thoroughly covers the concepts related to decoding and spelling words with the goal that the student will read and spell even the most complex words automatically and without excessive struggle. In addition, the word study includes vocabulary and usage. Reading, spelling, and writing are practiced in increasingly challenging text reading and writing assignments. (See this IDA structured literacy infographic.)

  • A qualified structured literacy teacher

    – To be an effective instructor for the dyslexic learner, a teacher/therapist needs special training. The IDA accredits professional development programs that meet IDA Knowledge & Practice Standards. Professional development programs that have earned IDA’s Accreditation-PLUS prepare professionals to work one-on-one with students who have complex language processing difficulties.

  • Adequate structured, daily practice

    – A system of structured, daily practice, available online, is critical to the student’s success and advancement. It allows the student to make measurable progress, offers immediate error correction, and provides the parent and teacher with data about the student’s mastery of specific skills.

2. Access to accommodations and technologies

The dyslexic child may need a variety of accommodations, such as extended time to complete assignments and tests. Parents should consider their child’s unique needs in exploring this subject with potential online schools. For example, a child who has reading and spelling challenges can benefit from the support of audio services that provide reading assignments and tests in audio mode for “ear reading.” For writing assignments, a dyslexic student may benefit from technologies such as speech-to-text and spell- and grammar-checkers that work on the level of the sentence (to flag misspellings such as “there” versus “their”). School-wide use of organizational software, such as planning organizers and a calendar system for assignments can be valuable. 

3. Content subjects 

For content subjects such as mathematics, science, history, literature, and art, ask to see the curricula and review the content. Each curriculum should specify what the student will know and be able to do after completing each unit and at the end of the course. Skills and strategies should be related to mastering specific content as opposed to vague objectives, disconnected from content. (For example:  “The student will summarize the causes of the American Civil War” as opposed to “The student will summarize passages.”)

Ask about how students are placed in the curricula. Is there flexibility for placement at a different level if a child has already mastered the material at a particular grade level or if they need to step back a level in one subject? Or will they be placed at a certain grade level regardless of what they have or haven’t already mastered. 

4. School culture

“School culture” may be a little more abstract than the measurable program elements above, but it may be vitally important for a child’s success. The Harvard Graduate School of Education article “What Makes a Good School Culture?” explains the concept. Parents seeking a supportive environment for their child’s learning should explore the school’s stated policies and goals as well as the school’s reputation and achievements. Does the school really do what it says it will do? Do the school’s values align with family’s values and priorities? How do the school’s virtual classes provide children with the opportunity to discuss their questions and opinions about topics in various subject areas? Does the school teach students a process for investigating questions, engaging in discussion, and encouraging them to respect diverse thoughts and opinions?

5. A learning coach  

IDA’s guide emphasizes the role of the learning coach (LC). Typically a parent, the LC “is an integral partner in the education process. Students look to them to administer lessons and provide immediate corrective feedback on their performance toward the lesson objectives.” In our recent “Closing the Gap” post, we noted that the reading skills of some Lexercise students have actually improved faster since school has been canceled – a success we attribute in part to the consistent involvement of that involved adult/learning coach, who may be a parent, tutor, therapist or teacher. (There is a qualified Lexercise therapist assigned to every Lexercise student.) Parents should ask whether the school assigns a learning coach for their child and whether, how, and how much the parents are expected to participate in the lessons. 

Questions about equipment, hours, communication between parents and teachers, written reports, and IEPs should also be part of the conversation with the online school. When it comes to the education of your child, there are no stupid questions. Parents should look for IDA accreditation on the program’s website and ask for detailed information until they are satisfied with the answers.

And of course, if you have questions or concerns about how your child’s reading, spelling or writing may be impacting your child’s learning, Lexercise is here to help with our online dyslexia therapy.

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 2: Josie Moretti

online therapy at home

Last week we shared the reflections of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin.  This week, Lexercise teletherapist, Josie Moretti shares her thoughts about online structured literacy intervention.

This is high level therapy.”

Lexercise teletherapist Josie Moretti was a guardian ad litem for six years. In that role, she encountered a number of “bright, smart children” who were being held back in school because they could not read. Some of them had a dyslexia diagnosis, and Josie knew she had to learn more.

picture of Lexercise Therapy, Josie MorettiJosie observed: “Before the printing press came along, a person’s physical actions would have been more valued.  In our culture, reading and writing are prized. But we know now that the dyslexic brain doesn’t work the same way as the non-dyslexic brain – and our school system is designed for the non-dyslexic. Roughly one in five children have some form of learning difference.”

Josie earned the Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist certification from the International Dyslexia Association/CERI and completed Special Education Advocacy Training through the Council for Parent, Advocates and Attorneys. 

She admits that, at first, she was a little concerned about working online. “I had always worked face-to-face in people’s homes,” Josie says, “so I was skeptical. But it is extremely easy. Click, and boom it’s there, the same link each time. We do a tech check before the first session. It’s so easy. Lexercise is the real deal. This is high level therapy.

The advantages of working online are enormous, Josie agrees. “Focus issues (ADHD, etc.) may come along with language processing disabilities such as dyslexia. The online platform is so interactive that I can see if the child is having some difficulty and I can switch in an instant to something that’s more appropriate for the child so they get all the advantages of the learning platform.”

“I also love the team approach – the parent learning alongside the child, so the parent can work with and support the child outside of therapy hours. With ‘old school’ therapy, the parent is doing something else. With Lexercise, the parent is a vital part of the team. Plus, of course, with traditional therapy, I have a session with the child, I leave, and nothing happens until I return. With the repeated exposure offered by the practice sessions, you can see the child’s progress.”

“Also, I have more resources online,” Josie adds. “I can’t bring everything with me when I see a child in person. But online everything is here at my fingertips.”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 1: Leahann McLaughlin

image of classroom

As you probably know, Lexercise believes in online learning!  For more than a decade, Lexercise has continually refined our online structured literacy teaching platform.  Now, with schools and workplaces closed down for the coronavirus, and people being encouraged (or required) to work, teach, and learn online we are hearing from more and more parents, teachers and therapists who want to know how online learning works.  

Over the next three weeks, we’ll share some reflections on online learning from three Lexercise teletherapists:  Leahann McLaughlin, Lindsey Blackburn and Josie Moretti.  We’ll start with Leahann’s reflection. 

Reading is a hallmark of every other academic expectation of these kids. 

picture of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlinLexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin previously worked as an elementary school teacher and interventionist in the traditional classroom setting. A passionate lifelong reader, she loved teaching reading. As an interventionist, working with small groups of students with different deficits, she found that the piecemeal curriculum made it “hard to get the desired outcomes” for her students. The work was not one-on-one and there simply were not enough repetitions to help the students learn. As she was trying to learn more, she “happened to meet someone in school who was a Lexercise therapist. I saw her working with a student, doing structured Orton-Gillingham activities.” Leahann was amazed. “Even in my Master’s program I hadn’t learned anything about this.” More research and training followed. “It was exactly what I was looking for.”


Can Anyone Succeed with Online Learning?

Leahann agrees that online learning is “extremely user friendly. There’s a learning curve,” she says, “but it’s not especially steep. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it is.” It’s particularly easy for the students: “They know instinctively what to click on, where to find things. They take to it naturally.”

The advantages of working online are significant as well. “I find that student outcomes are better than what I experienced traditionally in school. Kids have ongoing practice every day. Without this frequent practice, they don’t retain what they’ve learned. The structure and design of this program with repetition and reinforcement really lends itself to positive student outcomes.” Leahann also sees the benefit of parental involvement. “Parents are very supportive, very serious, and committed to the program. I didn’t see that in the schools. Many parents had not realized how misunderstood their child was until they saw a new way of responding to their child’s needs.”


Kids and Online Learning

“I feel like students are more engaged,” Leahann says. “Kids gravitate to the technology. Students think it’s a neat setting. They like that there is actually somebody on the other side of that screen that they look at all the time. I find there’s a lot less resistance in this sort of setting than in-office therapy. Because we can see each other and are talking in real time, it’s possible to gauge responses and read emotional feedback.”

“Many students have historically not been successful in the classroom and have damaged self-esteem. But in the safe online environment, they learn that getting it wrong is part of the learning process. This setting overshadows their previous experience so they can get past their fear and negative associations with literacy.”

“It’s very exciting when a child starts enjoying reading instead of avoiding it. I’m thrilled when a parent tells me that their child is reading cereal boxes or street signs!”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

For more information on Lexercise’s online therapy, click here.

Alex’s Story

A guest post by Kim Murphy, Ph.D. in Education and M.Sc. in Speech-Language Pathology.

Last summer a parent contacted me, eager to find help for her son, Alex*, who was in Grade 8 and had trouble reading, spelling, and writing. Alex had previously received support at school. But now that he was getting decent grades, no one seemed concerned—except his parents, who saw how much he struggled and knew how much support they had to provide at home. His parents were eager to get him on track before he entered high school.

Alex’s mom had been given my name by a teacher who was familiar with my work before I moved away five years earlier. Reading is my specialty and I have worked with many kids like Alex. The mom tracked me down, hoping that I could help somehow; perhaps I knew someone to refer them to. I did not. But I was going back home for a vacation a few weeks later and offered to see Alex for an informal evaluation. Also, I had begun to use a brand new web-based therapy tool called Lexercise so maybe, I thought, I could do some therapy with him via the internet. Hmm.

I was hesitant but really wanted to help Alex. So, after our meeting, I proposed a plan to set him up on Lexercise for daily practice with his mom, whom I would train to be his coach as we went along, and Alex would have therapy with me whenever necessary via Skype. Alex’s mom jumped at this offer; she desperately wanted to help her son in any way she could.

That was the end of August and it is now the beginning of February, five months later. Alex has made tremendous progress. I saw him for a couple more traditional face-to-face therapy sessions in December when I was home again, but other than that everything has been accomplished over the internet. With his mom’s incredible support and effort, and the benefit of the Lexercise tool for daily practice, Alex has improved well beyond my expectations. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him! And of his mom, who spent so much time working with him. She wrote me a note to express her gratitude; it had me in tears.

During my most recent Skype session with Alex, I asked if his teachers had made any comments on his improved reading and spelling skills. Had they noticed? He said no, the only feedback he received recently was that he was applying himself more to his work, trying harder and seemed more motivated. They felt that he had “matured.” I asked Alex why he thought they were seeing these differences. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I just understand everything better now.” Wow! How powerful that is.

Of course Alex was applying himself more to his work and appearing more motivated. He could now read the material he was expected to learn! His mom added that “he has finally realized that reading can be pleasurable when you have the tools to help you.” Alex, who usually wears a teenage boy’s emotionless look, was grinning ear-to-ear during the entire session. He just couldn’t help himself. He was so proud.

So what started as a vague idea of how to help a boy many miles away has been a huge success. I am now even more excited about Lexercise and I can’t wait to help more kids who do not have the services they need in their area. This is the stuff that passion and drive are made of. I will never forget Alex’s smile that day, nor the pride and gratitude beaming from his mom.


If you are interested in connecting with one of our expert therapists, fill out this form for a free phone consultation.

*Alex’s name and identifying traits have been changed to protect his privacy.