I began to suspect that my younger son (8 years old) is dyslexic last fall. I don’t remember exactly how and why I began to be suspicious. Certainly the fact that he was still struggling to blend simple words together at 7-1/2 was disconcerting. I think it was when I was reviewing materials from AVKO and All About Spelling that I read the common symptoms of dyslexia and realized that he had many of them.
I started doing research, especially looking for homeschoolers who were teaching dyslexic children. Molly at Counter-cultural School has put together a fantastic article on Resources for the Dyslexic Child. Two of the books she recommends for parents are The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis and Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. I read The Gift of Dyslexia first, and though interesting, I didn’t find much that was a practical help with me and my son at this point, because most of the book focused on retraining an older child.
Overcoming Dyslexia contains helpful information for me to use now. The book begins with The Nature of Reading and Dyslexia. It continues with Diagnosing Dyslexia and Helping Your Child Become a Reader and concludes with a section on Overcoming Dyslexia: Turning Struggling Readers into Proficient Readers. There was a thorough explanation of the differences in the brain function of a dyslexic person versus a “normal” reader. To summarize those differences, a dyslexic uses less efficient neural pathways for decoding words. I learned that systematic phonics instruction is the only effective way to teach dyslexic children to read (no surprise there), and that additional training in fluent reading is imperative.
One large oversight on the part of the author was her failure to mention homeschooling as a viable schooling option. I do not know whether she failed to mention the possibility because she is opposed to homeschooling, or if it is something that she has not even considered. I did find it an obvious option that was omitted in her chapter about choosing a school for your dyslexic child. In that chapter she mentioned the many shortcomings of both public and private schools and pushed her preferred option of special schools for children with reading disabilities. Since those schools are somewhat rare and tend to be located only in large metropolitan areas, I think that homeschooling is a much better option than enrolling your child in a substandard public or private school. Where can a child get more individual attention than at home? Where better to tailor the child’s curriculum to allow for different ways of learning?
Shaywitz also stated that “reading instruction should be left to the experts.” But what is a person to do who has no access to those “experts”? It was almost amusing to read how she said that children needed someone to be their champion and then detailed all of the extra practice a parent can be doing with her child, and yet she didn’t see the obvious possibility of a parent actually teaching their own child to read.
Obviously most homeschooling parents do not have advanced degrees in reading instruction, but when faced with a problem teaching our child, we look for solutions. We search for the cause of the problem and seek how to teach that child. We do research on what curriculum works, we continually evaluate our child’s progress, and we care more than anyone else about our child’s difficulties. That is the reason that I read Overcoming Dyslexia. After reading it, I am definitely more equipped to teach my son. And even if he doesn’t actually have dyslexia, the teaching methods described are applicable for teaching anyone to read.
Stepping off my soapbox now… This is the 20th book I’ve completed in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. That puts me 3 books behind for the year. Fiction, here I come! Oh, and for the record, my links to Christian Book Distributors are affiliate links.