Posts Tagged 'dyslexia'

Need tutoring for your Struggling Reader (maybe dyslexic) and/or Mathematicians

Recently a teacher I have worked with as an online teacher for the past 5 years began her own tutoring services online using the essential requirements for struggling readers. She has extensive knowledge as a teacher of special education students specifically working with students with learning disabilities including dyslexic, dysgraphia and autism. I am most excited about her expertise with Barton Reading and Spelling (specialized program for dyslexic children).

Her tutoring services are offered online in an interactive, engaging environment that your child can participate in completely from their own home. Now, you may say, how can she help virtually? This is our expertise as online teachers. I do not get anything for recommending her to you, I am sharing because there are so many struggling students out there that just don’t have access to a specialized tutor. In the online environment, the students move tiles around, use a webcam, talk over the internet in the classroom and even write on the board themselves.  Check out Kids of the King Tutoring services and prices (which are completely economical). Check out these pictures of setups in her room.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 2.58.06 PM

On this board, students can grab items off of the shelf, place them in their basket to buy and give the correct amount of money to the cashier.  They can also practice  making change by grabbing the money and giving it to the customer.


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On this board, students can practice reading a clock  by moving the hands to the correct times given.






Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 3.01.09 PMOn this board, students can move tiles around and practice phonetic skills.  This is a one of the early levels of reading skills development.

Reading Fluency, Are they ready?

Ask these questions before you begin working on reading fluency.

  1. Can they recognize the letters of the alphabet and know the sounds of the consonants and short vowels?
  2. Can they put together common 3 letter words that use short vowel sounds?
  3. Do they know that words in sentences are read from left to right?
  4. Are they able to read 9 out of every 10 words of the first pre-primers you are using?

What do I do if they aren’t ready?

  Check out the other posts on Steps 1, 2,3 of beginning to read.

Reading Fluency, even further

 Now that you have begun to get reading and are starting to move beyond the simple words, it is time to move to the next level.  This would be books at the first grade level and above.

Begin by teaching the consonant blends. Sl, ch, th, wh, pl, bl,  etc.

  1. Work to create words using these consonant blends. 
  2. Do not teach more than 3-5 at a time until they are all learned.  A good complete list is located at . I have a short list below.
  3. Be sure to point these out in reading by having them look for them before reading a page.


Reading Time steps: 

  1. They read 1 page.
  2. They talk about what they read.
  3. If they are not reading fluently with expression, then you read, otherwise, they  read again.
  4. If you read, then they read again after you.

Remember that you are only doing 2-3 pages a day now.


Important notes:

  1. Don’t forget, you still do not allow them to guess.
  2. If sight word, give them to count of 3 in head to get it, then tell them.
  3. If a word that is to be sounded out, prompt them with, “What is the first sound?” before telling them the word by slowly sounding it out for them. Still do not allow them to guess.


Older kids

  •  Only work on this for no more than a ½ hour per day.
  • Focus on you reading to them or them listening to audio books for their basic academics. 
  • The reading will get there, and they need to practice reading skills at the lower level to build fluency. 
  • Discuss this with them and have them help choose those lower level books so that they are interested.


Sounds to teach and order-

Consonant Digraphs- ch, sh, wh, th, ph


Consonant blends- bl, cl, fl, pl, sl, spl, sc, sk, sm, st, str, sw, tw, br,dr,gr,cr,fr, tr, spr


Introducing Syllables

To teach them to break words into syllables to read them more easily try:

  • Placing hand under chin and feeling it move up and down and count syllables with words they are learning.
  • Write words for them to read that are separated into syllables.                            air  plane    turbo tax  care ful

 Use your library and the leveled readers section.

If you can, choose a series from the library and stick with it.  They each vary a little in how they level them and moving back and forth through them can feel strange.





Reading Fluency, Taking that next step

In this stage, words will become harder, it will take longer to learn new words and you will need to continue the use of index cards.

When you get past the first level of readers, and moveto the second level of readers from the library, there will be a need for a change in approach.


  • Check the book to see if your child will be able to read approximately 9 out of every 10 words .  If so this is an appropriate book. If you are unsure, let them read a sentence or two for you to check.
  • If the book passes the test, take the words they are unable to read and create flash cards with these words.  Practice these words.  
  • Do not begin the book until they recognize these words with automaticity. 


Continue daily reading practice with last book until these words are learned.  Don’t be discouraged, they begin to take longer to learn the words as the number of words in their vocabulary grows.


Procedure at this stage:

  1.  They read.
  2.  They talk about what they read, encourage them to use their words, not the books.
  3. You read.
  4. They read again.

 Continue using the index card to keep their place.


In this stage, you will want to continue

 to begin each day with a review of

  • any recently added sight words.
  • Using short vowel sounds to create 3 letter words

  • The lesson should still not take more than 30 min a day and do not read more than 2-3 pagesa day at this level.

Reading Fluency from the beginning


Sometimes patience is key in the first step of making sure they are ready.  Make sure they are definitely ready. Now that you have gotten the basic skills needed to begin working on fluency with reading.  Let’s get started.     


The first Book


First,  Make sure they are taught all of the sight word vocabulary for that book.  (if they don’t know, place on flash cards to learn)

Start with a book that does not have more than 2-3 lines on each page and 1 line to start is just fine.  Check with your local librarian for help in chosing books.  There are many different series that are leveled, they can direct you to them.

   If working with older student, collect a variety of books from the library, you will want to find a high interest area.   Once you have found the right books you will want to begin.


 Let them work to read the book, as they have already practiced all the words until they know them automatically with flash cards.  This should be doable. Here is the process:


  1.   Learn the words with flashcards to the entire book.
  2.    Look through the pages of the book, discuss the pictures.
  3.   Begin reading. 
  4.  They read page 1 once.
  5.  You read page 1 slowly once with excitement and meaning.
  6.  Then they read it attempting to mock reading it with meaning like you, they should point to each word as they read.
  7.  Discuss what they have read, checking for comprehension. 

 The books will begin to have more than 3 lines. When they do, do the following:


  1. Use a blank index card to cover all the lines below the first line that are not being read.  Student should see one line at a time.
  2. If they are unable to recall a word, count in your head slowly, 1,2,3 and then say the word for them.  Do not allow them to guess. Interrupt and give the word if they are attempting to sound out a sight word.  They are not meant to be sounded out.

Once they have read the page and you have moved the index card down the page, now have them slide the index card down as you read slowly with meaning as before.


  1. Have them read it aloud  with meaning and expression. Remember to give them words that they are unable to recall, not allowing them to guess.
  2. Discuss what happened on the page, checking for comprehension
  3. If there are words that are repeatedly missed, remember to practice these with flashcards daily prior to reading until they are learned. 
  4. You should not spend more than ½ an hour on this each day but at least 15 minutes. 
  5. You should read at least 2-3 pages at the preprimer level in each setting.
  6. Don’t forget to give lots of praise and recognition for accomplishments.

Step 3 Teaching the Sight Words

Sight words

Each day, you will want to work on sight words.  There is a list of 220 sight words that was developed by Edward Dolch that are used the most in the English Language.  These words are sight words and are not meant to be sounded out.  There are other words that should be sight words besides those 220, but these are the most common used in our English language.  You can purchase a set of these to put on flashcards, or create cards yourself.  You can also find powerpoints online that are created using these words.  Some have sound and will say the word and will only give them 3 seconds to say it before the powerpoint says it.  My favorite resource for these online is Mrs. Perkins website online.  She has a variety of available activities for use on the dolch sight words that include the powerpoints.

When working with flashcards or powerpoints for learning the sight words, it is important to only give a slow count to 3 for your child to recognize and say the word.  If they don’t then you say it for them.  You want to learn what these words are, because later when reading, you will want to do the same thing when they see the word in text.  You will not want them trying to sound these words out. 

To learn these sight words, start with 3 to five words depending on your child’s pacing needs.  Show them the word, say the word.  Place the word on the table in front of them. Say the word and have them repeat you. After giving a second word, have them pick up the first word, say what it is and lay it down.  If they do not recall within 3 seconds say it for them and have them repeat it before setting the word down.  Give a third word, have them repeat it.  Go back to the first word, have them pick it up, say the word and place it down.  Do this until you get to about 5 words on the first day.  Then work with those five, mixing them up and repeating the activity of picking each word up and saying what it is and placing it down. Repeat this, having them try to remember it the next time.  Mix the cards up each time and add words each day at a pacing that fits them.   Normally you can add 3 to 5 words each day.  You will want to go over all of the words, but once you have had a few days of adding words, you will pick 5 old words and 3-5 new words to use for practice each day. 

One activity I like and comes from, “How to Teach your Dyslexic Child to Read” but I have adapted to include other ideas is to play a word game.  To play the game:

1. Take about 10 of the words.

2. Place them facing up where you can see the words

3. Use a toy car, little people or other fun moveable object.  Each of you has one.

4.  Place your object in front of you on the edge of the table of words. 

5. Each of you take turns saying a word or you say all the words. 

6. After saying the, you both race to the word.  You should hesitate to allow them to win most of the cards.

You can search in any search engine to find the 220 sight words, but using the link above gets you several lists in building order. Teach them in that order for great success.  Once certain words are learned put them in a stack together to be reviewed as needed.  Start with the first list “pre-primer list” and work your way up.   

Step 2 Part B Teaching the Consonant sounds


I am unsure as to where I got this order of teaching sounds, but know it came from somewhere.  This is the order I teach the consonant sounds.  If anyone reading this, knows where this order may have come from, please let me know so I can include some support to why I  use this order.  In my experience this order works best because the first sounds I teach are the least likely to have a different sound in reading.  The student can depend on that sound to be the same in most locations.  Here is the order.


As you learn each sound, you will want to do a variety of activities for each sound.

Take the first sound M.  Write the letter M large on a chalkboard, on paper, or other.  Say the sound by itself.  Do  not include an /uh/sound after the /m/ sound.  This tends to be a habit that people have but the letter m only makes the /m/ sound with mouth closed and doesn’t open.   This goes the same for the letter n.  I will not go through each letter, but be careful to not include other sounds when teaching the different sounds.  Have your child say the sound feeling it under their chin, on their lips, and making note of how the mouth is shaped and feels.  Even discuss where your tongue is inside your mouth.  This creates a visual of the sound. 

Now have them trace the large letter m where you had it drawn for them.  Make sure they trace it the way you write the letter m.  This is important with each letter.  After completing this, do a variety of activities, saying the sound while making the letter shape. These are some ideas, you can come up with your own. You aren’t actually writing the letters with these activities but feeling the textures and the shape in different ways with a finger.

  • Draw the letter in the air
  • draw on your back
  • draw it on their back
  • draw it in the sand
  • draw it in pudding (place pudding inside a large ziplock back for cleanliness)
  • draw it on sand paper
  • draw on felt.

After practicing the letter shape with it’s sound.  You will want to have either a  variety of magazines appropriate for children around or if you want to make even more interesting and fun but takes a lot of space, some boxes to place objects into.   I will warn you however that children find the boxes of objects a great deal of fun, but the objects placed in the box will need to stay there for practice for a while.  This is why mostly I have used magazine cut outs. 

Have the student find objects with the initial sound  /m/.  Cut these out of the magazines and place into envelopes or small boxes.  As they learn new sounds you can mix these pictures or objects up and have them sort them or find certain sounds.  Play a matching/memory game.  If the initial sounds match then they are a match. Any game that requires matching is good for practice in this area once they have 3 or 4 sounds down.   Feel free to make up games as you go along.  

Some important things to remember.

1. Don’t teach a new sound until the ones presented are learned.

2. Keep the pace with their learning speed.

3. Don’t let them get bored, move forward at the speed best for them. Sometimes they want more than one sound a day and can learn more than one a day.

4. Work on the vowel sounds everyday and no more than 2 to 4 consonants per day.

5. Give lots of praise. Prepare yourself to be positive and not get exasperated with them.  If you are feeling exasperated, stop, they will feel this from you and get frustrated.

6.  Spend no more than 30 minutes on these activities per day. More than this, I find isn’t beneficial and can even hurt their progress.

7. Spend about equal time on vowels and consonants each day.

Step 2 Part A Teaching the Vowel sounds

Second, they know how to identify the letters so we are ready to begin learning the sounds.

Vowel sounds

It is important when teaching the sounds to start each day with the vowel sounds. You will want to spend equal time on vowels and consonants but vowels should come first. I sing two songs with students to learn the vowel sounds.  One is a chanting song with students, and the other is a tune to Frere Jacques that I found online on another teacher’s website.


The chanting song I use is located in a book called, “How to Teach Your Dylsexic Child to Read” by Bernice H. Buamer.  Here is the chanting song using short vowel sounds.


A, a, a for apple,

E, e, e for egg.

I, i, i for Indian hopping on one leg,

O, o, o for ostrich living in the zoo,

U,u,u for umbrella to keep the rain off of you.

Now I’ve said my vowels,

A, e, i, o, u

I hope you like this little song

That I sang for you.”


I use the combination because through the two songs, they hear the sound within words and at the beginning of words.   You will want to sing these songs each day.  For best results, take the time to include weekends.  Just go over the charts as part of a routine.  If you skip weekends, some students will backslide each weekend and this is frustrating.  Put the chanting song on a chart with pictures of each of the objects out beside each line.  So at the end of the apple line, you would have a picture of an apple.   


An additional activity that speech therapist have often used when working with me in my classrooms includes saying words that start with the long sounds and short sounds with the student holding their hand under their chin to feel the difference in how their mouth is shaped for the sounds.  You might want to include this as part of your daily routine.  Mostly, I have seen this to make a difference when a student has some articulation difficulties and have had a history of being difficult to understand by others. 


My child can read fine, but doesn’t comprehend, could she be dyslexic?

Sad really, but a child that can read well and doesn’t understand is not a typcial child with dyslexia. Why would this parent think this? Well dyslexia is the term most often used for a child who struggles in reading. Why did I know this child wasn’t a dyslexic? I knew because I did some testing which showed she had good word recall, good understanding  of phonics and syllabication and therefore not dyslexic. We will call her Susie for purposes of discussion.

Susie came to me about 6 months back and was struggling to understand what she read. She knew how to read the words, she was just unable to put them together in her mind for understanding. This always really throws parents for a loop. They are lost. Their child can read and sometimes even really fast but after reading it, they can’t answer the questions. Some parents, if the child is reading silently assume they didn’t really read it. Some if reading orally, think they weren’t paying attention. This just isn’t true. This girl was truly trying, paying attention and doing the best she could. She didn’t have meaning attached to the words. The words were just words. The next common question is “how did this happen?”

Think of a time when you were reading and finished the page you were reading and went to the top of the next page suddenly realizing that you didn’t remember anything you just read. Your mind was tuned out to the meaning side of reading and was just going through the motions of the words. Your mind must be trained to attach meaning to words.

Susie is a sixth grade girl and her comprehension is at about a third grade level. Susie is one that everyone has seen as a good reader and because she sounded good, assumed that meaning was there. Susie was good at hiding the lack of comprehension by listening to those around her and learning what they said the reading was about. What Susie has needed is someone to be talking with her about the stories she has read.

Just learning to read words, isn’t enough. I’ll come back to the process we took to close the gap for Susie, but first let’s talk about the general strategy for what to do for someone with a true comprehension problem, not dyslexic. If you see that your child’s comprehension is weak (sometimes in specific subjects) do the following:

1. Go find an interesting story at a level they are able to comprehend. You can test this by having them read a page aloud and then tell you what the page was about. You want to be sure and request that the retelling is in sequence. If this isn’t attainable on the first try, then they need to reread thepage silently stopping at the end of each paragraph and telling you what that paragraph is about. This give a natural way of learning the concept of main idea.

2. As the comprehension improves, increase the number of paragraphs they read aloud until they are able to read an entire page and then tell the story in sequence.
*Note: You can teach some self-help skills here by providing your child some sticky notes to use in school where at the end of each paragraph (s) or page they make a note on the sticky of what took place or what the most important ideas on the page were. These make for excellent notes for studying later. Just pull them off and place them in a notebook for studying.

3. After being able to comprehend an entire page read orally, then they should move to reading the entire page silently and then recall what has taken place on the page.
4. If they are not able to tell a story in sequence after trying to read the whole page silently, go back to paragraphs at a time that are read silently and retell what wwas in each paragraph. This will want to be built on starting at 1 paragraph, then two, then three then a whole page at a time until the entire page is able to be read silently and recalled.

5. It is always a good idea when working on comprehension to stop at good times throughout a story to ask questions about what they expect will happen next and how a story will end. This helps focus the mind on the meaning of the story.

In Susie’s case, here was the action plan.

We started with mid-high second grade level material as she was testing at the third grade level, but I needed to build trust and confidence. We took the process above and followed it with a book she was interested in above. She only stayed at that level for about 3 weeks. We quickly moved up to the third grade level and with each few weeks moved up a level moving at the pace that worked for her. Moving up too quickly can cause a frustration level that is too high. Comprehension building takes consistency and commitment.

It is important to note that an essential skill in a tutor is for the tutor to train the parent what to do to tutor the child themselves, because the tutor only meets with the child so many times a week. Comprehension building must be worked on daily.
For Susie, the parent’s assignment was to have Susie read several pages per day orally from the books we were using to build comprehension and taught the parent to use the strategy above. Over the course of 6 months, we have moved from the second grade level material and now the assignment is for her mom to have her read several pages from her homework each day stopping every so often to check to make sure she has understood what she has read.
Susie is using a variety of note taking skills to help keep her focused on the meaning but will soon be reading silently most of the time, just keeping track of her own understanding. This is the ultimate goal.
What causes set backs? Many times everyone will start out on the right track to improve comprehension, but building this skills requires daily work. You can not skip days. Skipping 2 or 3 days in this process can take a child back an entire month of progress. This means that you can’t take weekends off or holidays and particularly Christmas Break. If so, you will be pulling your hair out come January. This doesn’t mean you have to do school work throughout the Christmas break, it just means have some high interest books or magazines that your child is interested in. Have something you read in the evening before bed. Yes, even middle schoolers like reading at bedtime. Take some of the time and have them follow the process for a couple of pages and then take some time for you to read allowed to them. At first they might buck the idea, but seriously, I have been working with middle schoolers for ten years and they absolutely love to be read to. Take advantage of the time though and stop to discuss what is going on in the story or what they think will happen next.

Need Tutoring: Check out my post on: Kids of the King Tutoring Services

Where do I start, I think my child has dyslexia?

Before we say to much, Your child can read, just in a different way.

This question comes up all the time. First off you have to know if your child truly has dyslexia and as a special educator, I can tell you that psychologists and teachers, including myself can not diagnose your child with dyslexia. The hard part is that many doctors will say they can’t diagnose and send you back to the school but there are some that will send you to a neurologist and they will do testing to determine diagnosis. I can give you a few warning signs to help you determine diagnosis.

Warning signs:
1. When they begin to read and someon is teaching them phonics they learn the sounds well but are unable to blend them. They will say /d/, /o/, /g/ and say it slow or fast and over and over but they can’t put it together. Someone ends up telling them it is dog.
2. Your child was unable to improve reading with phonics or even learn to read with phonics but they can read through sight words. This is because a child with dyslexia will learn to memorize what the word looks like. For instance dog, after they have been told and get to feel stupid will do their best to look at that word and memorize what it looks like but not the letters. They see the first letter d and then that it goes across and there is a dip in the word downward at the end. This is the same way they memorize all the sight words. This is why many of them are not caught until closer to 3rd, 4th, even 5th grade. They learn to cope and do ok. So lets talk about what you will see in the kids that have made it past K,1 without everyone pulling their hair out.
3. Spelling is atrocious. They struggle to spell because they have been learning to read visually as to what the word looks like not the letters. So this is frustrating. If they create a word that looks pretty well like the other word, that is a sign, but only if that word is in their sight word vocab.
4. When reading, usually around 4th grade, they hit a block and start skipping words that are long or filling in a word that makes since in context. This is a major warning sign. Sometimes they will fill in a word and see that it doesn’t make since and go back and fix it to a word that does make since, could be right, could be wrong.
5. They comprehend really well when someone reads the story to them. They are very good with comprehension usually.
6. When they start to read, they will many times give a deep breath out or something that shows they are tired before they even start.

Take these things and then add the usual strenghts for a child with dyslexia.
(usually strong in one of these areas)

Mechanical- take things apart and can put them back together, fixes things in creative ways that work, strong logic skills
Artistic- Paint, draw, fashion design, architecture, hair design, etc.
People skills- very sensitive, compassionate, think political, pastor, counselor, psychologist
Athletic- Really good at a sport
Intuition- strikes you that they can be so in tune with things
Musically gifted- they don’t read printed music, but they play by ear. Comes natural
3D visualization- they think in pictures. They can see things from a very different perspective visually.
Very curious- want to know the why for everything. (beyond 3 years old)
If you truly feel your child has dyslexia, skip this next section (scroll to the ***)

If you are reading this and you were sure you were right but don’t think so reading this then you can try some simple things that are more related to a students vision and issues going on there. Sometimes people will think that a child has dyslexia and they really don’t. If you are pretty certain they have dyslexia do not try anything from this next section, it WILL NOT WORK. These kids will sometimes respond to things like #1 colored overlays. These are what we use to use for overhead projectors to write on, but now we use powerpoint. Anyhow, they still sale them at office depot and such. The rose, purple, blue colors usually work best. Cut them down to smaller size for easier use in books. Have your child cover the pages they are attempting to read with these overlays. This lowers the contrast of what they are reading. Lowering the contrast makes it easier to read because it is the contrast that typically causes this population to suffer. #2 tracking skills, have them use an index card or ruler to follow line by line or even cut a hole out of the index card and let them only see one or two words at a time to read. #3 Vision Therapy. #4 Brain Gym Activities- helps create more connections between left and right side of the brain.

************Dyslexia Solutions***************

Children with dyslexia need to be taught reading differently. Phonics based programs will not work because they don’t have the essential tools they need for phonics to work and if you are at this point, you probably know they know the sounds, they just can’t do what they need to with them.

There was a great deal of research done a while back on reading where a couple of researchers developed a program. Their last names were Orton and Gillingham. The program they originally developed was Orton-Gilligham. You can google Orton-Gillingham and find a whole list of programs that have been adapted and based off of their practices. You can locate the original Orton-Gillingham program, but here is the list of some of the others.

Teach 1st
Barton Reading and Spelling
Alphabetic Phonics
Project Read

Personalized Tutoring: Read about Kids of the King Tutoring Services Online

This is a few of them. You can google any of them and find them and others. You can’t just have the program though. Whoever is working with your child needs to be well trained and using the program correctly. These programs have intensive training and if not used correctly, then they still won’t work. I should note that if you want to teach your child yourself, and not find someone to help you usng an Orton-illingham based program then you will want to go with the Barton Reading and Spelling because she sends you the training videos to watch and get yourself well trained to do it on your own. I wish I could give you a simpler solution, but this is the best solution. If you want to find a school that uses Orton-Gillingham because you have school choice, then after finding one that says they use it, ask if their teacher that they are assigned is certified for the Orton-Gillingham program being used. If not, they may not use it correctly and this won’t get you anywhere.

If your child has dyslexia, please don’t use phonics programs, they are good and will work with other kids but not them. I won’t list these, but if you are wandering about one and whether or not it is phonics based or orton-gillingham based, feel free to reply to this post and I will give you an answer.

Lynnette Crawley M.S. Ed

As an educational consultant, I work with families, students, adults, parents, teachers, schools and corporations in relationship to the many disabilities affecting their lives. Many times all anyone needs is a little coaching, direction or tools to close the gap between where they are and where they should be. Making progress is not good enough. We must be closing the gap. Email:

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