How can I help my dyslexic son become a better reader?


Jamie Martin, Assistive Technology Consultant for Students and Adults with Dyslexia

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One of the most successful ways to help dyslexic children become better readers is to combine a proven remedial program with assistive technology (AT) use.

For many years, children with dyslexia have been able to improve their literacy skills through tutorial programs based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. Those programs include pure Orton-Gillingham, the Wilson Reading System, and the Barton Reading and Spelling System. A good tutorial program is based on phonics, and teachers trained in each approach are able to identify and address the particular needs of individual students.

In recent years, dyslexic students have also been able to utilize assistive technology in order to access academic material that exceeds their reading levels. In particular, text-to-speech technology can read electronic text aloud when students have difficulty doing it themselves. In addition, audio books with human narration can be synched to electronic text to give students a richer reading experience. One example is Learning Ally's VOICEtext books. By using AT, students can read on their intellectual levels and keep up with their classmates while continuing to improve their decoding and reading comprehension through remediation.

In this day and age, students who combine remediation and accommodation (AT) have the best chance at academic success.

Michael Schoch, Answers questions on Noodle

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This is an important question that causes a lot of parents anxiety. The steps you take to help your son will depend, to an extent on his learning style and preferences. Some dyslexic students have success with assistive technologies such as transcription programs, predictive typing, or programs that sync text with audio books. There are quite a few tech options out there, so you may need to try a few options before finding what works for your child.

You should also consider finding supportive communities for your son. Since he is almost an adult, your son especially might benefit from attending conferences and local get-togethers. Meeting friends who are empathetic and knowledgable could be one of the most valuable long-term resources that he cultivates.

In conjunction with establishing a supportive community, hiring a tutor who specializes in dyslexia can be a great way for your son to get concentrated help that's tailored to his needs.

At home, try to read together every day. This sounds simplistic, but dyslexic students who become successful readers do so through constant practice. You shouldn't overdo it, or force your son to read after he's become fatigued or frustrated, but the more practice he gets, the more his brain will create adaptive workarounds to his struggles. While reading, listen to what your son is saying. Are there particular words or sounds with which he struggles? Can you tailor your reading time to his needs?

These are just a few ideas and I am by no means an expert. Dyslexia is a very serious, difficult condition and one for which there isn't a short or accelerated fix. However, if you start now by putting long-term systems in place, you increase the chances that your son will become increasingly comfortable with reading instead of increasingly demoralized.

For advice written by experts in the field, visit the dyslexia page on Noodle.

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