Reading Strategies for Dyslexic Students
1. Use an Excellent Reading Program
Sally Shaywitz, in her excellent book, Overcoming Dyslexia, recommends (for adults) Language!, the Wilson Reading System, and Starting Over. Any of these would certainly be a good place to begin. But, if they don’t seem to help, try other methods.
2. Read while you Listen
When my son began using “Books for the Blind and Dyslexic”, a wonderful resource, Tony followed along in his books (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings). Later, listening to the same books again and again, he tried to read along as he listened. Eventually, he read the books on his own. But it was clear that he could do this mainly because of his excellent memory. It didn’t seem to help him read his textbooks. With students less severely dyslexic, this should be an excellent method.
3. Tutoring in Phonics
Learn Phonics – starting with letter sounds, then blending, and moving on to sounding out words, works well with many students but not with everyone. Even if you learned this in the early grades, it is worth trying it again now. You will need help from your office of learning disabilities or a tutor who has taught first or second grade.
4. The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis, 1977, is very interesting. His main suggestion is a centering procedure. I find it hard to understand why this would work, but it’s worth a try. His explanation is that dyslexic people see everything in three dimensions, not two, and this means they rotate letters and see words in constantly changing orders. My only evidence on this is that this book isn’t mentioned in most of the best books on the subject, leading me to suspect it doesn’t work well. Perhaps it works with some people and not others. In addition to this procedure, he describes several other methods that seem very promising.
5. SpellReading can improve Reading and Spelling
In the book, The Gift of Dyslexia, a strategy called “SpellReading” is described . It sounds like an interesting method. It will cost nothing but a little time and it is easy to do. First, you need a good reader to work with you. You begin to read a book of your own choice. When you get to a word you don’t know, spell it, reading the letters out loud. If you know the word after spelling, say it. It you don’t, your assistant says the word and you continue.
Apparently, reading the letters in order helps you focus clearly on the word. There is no need to sound out words. In fact, they recommend that you don’t try to use phonics. According to the book, after spelling out a work ten or twenty times, students often begin to recognize it. There is more to this system, including learning to read phrases. If you have used this method, please let me know how well it worked.
6. Centering and using Clay
Another interesting method suggested in The Gift of Dyslexia is very interesting. He suggests getting a large chart of simple letters of the alphabet and some clay. The student forms the letters in clay. comparing them to the letters on the chart.
David goes on to suggest that dyslexic students have less difficulty reading words like father, cow, or school because they can visualize these words. They have problems with words like and, is, has, might, around, love, afraid, etc. because they don’t have mental pictures of these words. Working with clay or pictures that can be used to form images of these words is supposed to help reading. I would be willing to give this a try.
7. Do NOT give up. Tony’s efforts of “reading” while listening to books didn’t help much. It might have helped him move from reading at second grade level to third grade level. But he didn’t give up. After getting his degree in Physics and a MA in Education, he picked up a book he really wanted to read.
Now he had time. He didn’t need to finish a chapter before the next day’s class. He just started trying to read. When he got stuck on words, he’d finish the sentence and think what would make sense. He skipped some words but understood them when he found them in another sentence. It was a long, slow, process, but he read the book. Then he read it again and again. The only problem then was he couldn’t stop talking about what he had learned.
He went on to read many other books by the same author. The neurologist who tested him said Tony might never learn to read. Most students with a reading problem this severe would have given up. But Tony decided to teach himself how to read. I would imagine if we had images of Tony’s brain, reading in high school or college, and images of his brain reading now, we would discover that Tony actually changed his brain.
If Tony can teach himself to read, you can too.
The next strategy is Spell and Write