Homeschooling Children with Dyslexia

Instructor: Zach Gospe
Homeschooling a child with dyslexia can be a successful and enriching experience for both the student and parent. Read on for important information, strategies, and resources for helping meet the needs of your child with dyslexia.

Homeschooling a Child with Dyslexia

For homeschooling families, meeting the needs of children who have specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, can present unique challenges. Most parents do not have special education degrees or specific training in the effective techniques used to teach learners who do not respond to typical teaching approaches. However, many resources are available to parents and children to meet those needs. In addition, homeschooling naturally provides the opportunity to allow children to progress at their own pace, adapt the curriculum completely to their needs, and provide enriching, multisensory activities to reinforce learning.

Understanding Dyslexia

Let's start out by defining dyslexia, which is a general term that means a person has difficulty learning to read using conventional methods. Dyslexic children can have average to above average intelligence, but their language processing skills are inhibited in one way or another. Therefore, it is essential to teach dyslexic children in modes that best suit their specific learning strengths and needs.

Important Do's

Probably the most important advice to give homeschooling parents is to use the learning approach that best suits the individual child. There is no one size fits all to teaching, let alone teaching a child with dyslexia.

It is most helpful to have your child assessed by a professional educational psychologist if you suspect he/she may have a learning disability. Additionally, it is very important for parents to seek and follow the professional advice of an examiner, who will help parents have a better understanding of how their child learns and what approaches are likely most effective for his/her success.

Additionally, it is important for homeschooling parents to educate themselves on effective teaching techniques and the nature of their child's disability. This inevitably provides the child with the most effective resources for accelerated learning, as well as diminishes the frustrations that inherently come to both parent and child when overcoming a learning disability.

Toward that end, many local and online support groups exist for homeschooling families, including networks geared specifically toward homeschooling children with dyslexia. Taking advantage of these resources gives parents added ideas, advice, and support for meeting their child's specific needs.

Homeschool Curricula for Dyslexic Children

While approaches to teaching a child with dyslexia should be completely individualized for best results, homeschooling parents can consider the benefits of certain approaches to learning to read, including the following methods.

Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham is widely considered the most effective approach when teaching children with dyslexia because it has the most research to back up its results. It is not a packaged curriculum but is tailored instead to the specific needs of a child. Using a multisensory approach to learning, children are taught the relationships between sounds and letters, using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modes. In essence, the child sees the letter, hears and says the sound, and feels it by writing it with their finger or a writing implement. Importantly, the child does not progress to the next step in learning until he/she has mastered the current step. Orton-Gillingham focuses on teaching letter and word recognition and not comprehension skills, although it relies heavily on teaching reasoning skills, which supports comprehension.

Multisensory Instruction

Multisensory learning involves the use of all our senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell - and generally focuses on the first three for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile experiences. Since children with dyslexia have difficulty forming connections between the spoken and printed word, a multisensory approach gives them more ways of understanding, remembering, and recalling new information. It can also end up being a lot of fun, which increases motivation as well as learning and retention of information.

To illustrate this approach, let's use the example of learning the word 'orange.' Using the multisensory approach, a child can:

  • See the word on flash cards and spot it in books
  • Hear it by chanting the letters and repeating the word three times each time it is read
  • Touch the word by forming it with clay and writing it with the finger in shaving cream

Homeschooling is an especially flexible environment for using the senses of taste and smell as well. For example, a child can further reinforce learning the word 'orange' by using string licorice to spell out the word then eat it or roll cookie dough into the shape of the word, enjoy the aroma while it is baking, and then enjoy a special treat.

Other activities using the multisensory approach to reading can involve the whole body. For example, five words can be placed on one end of the room, and when a particular word is called out, the child runs to it, touches the word, says it, spells it, and runs back again. When all of the learning modalities are used, different parts of the child's brain are activated simultaneously, which enhances memory and the learning of written language. Furthermore, parents are able to discover which learning style fits best for their child.

Other Resources

Interactive learning through games and activities can also helpful when homeschooling dyslexic students. Computer software programs and online reading games offer instruction in the core reading skills, such as letter recognition, sight words, reading comprehension, and so on. These resources can be used to introduce, as well as reinforce skills. They often involve both visual and auditory learning and are self-paced, allowing the student to progress at his or her own level.

Lesson Summary

Dyslexic children have difficulty learning to read through conventional methods. Homeschooling a dyslexic child is both possible and rewarding with the right guidance from professional educators and assessors, as well as the right approaches to learning. The Orton-Gillingham method is a widely accepted approach to teaching reading to dyslexic students. It and other multisensory learning approaches involve use of all of the learning modalities. Homeschool students who are dyslexic can also take advantage of interactive games and activities for learning and reinforcing reading skills.

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