by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
Parents who have had their child tested for a learning disability lately are finding that there are some new terms for dyslexia. Educators recently have created categories to group several common types of dyslexia together to increase the effectiveness of their treatment. It is believed that this breaking down of dyslexia by categories will help educators develop strategies specific to the child’s needs more accurately. I agree with this approach. In fact, when I was a special education teacher, and later a learning interventionist in the public schools, I addressed each of these areas when the students were in my Resource Room.
I instituted a protocol that covered all of these areas of weakness. I did this in a forty-five minute daily group reading session. Many parents find they can do this at home, easily.
I have listed these interventions below the description and the new term for the type of dyslexia the student was experiencing.
1. Phonological Dyslexia (Auditory Dyslexia)
- Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words (phonics)
- Word guesser
- Spelling the same word different ways on the same page
- Slow reading
To address this difficulty with remembering the phonics “rules,” in our daily reading session, we put “Memory Hooks” on the phonemes the students needed. Using their strong imaginations, we embedded these Memory Hooks (zany, humorous drawings) directly on the letters of the phoneme. This way we taught to the student’s strong “visual memory” rather than having them learn the phonics rules using their weaker auditory memory. Using the Orton-Gillingham phonics method, we spent twenty minutes a day decoding words together. With the decoding unit (phoneme) in color and with the memory picture in the words, it was easy.
We didn’t write in a workbook or use dictation or tiles or games. We found that the students’ “photographic” memories were so good that with the pictures embedded in the sound, they easily remembered the sounds and made much progress in reading unfamiliar words and spelling. Anybody can do this at home. Other “phonemic awareness” programs that involved tiles, workbooks, and games were very valid also. We just found this “zany picture” method to be a fun way to teach the method of decoding long words. They often used this method later on in their college courses and said that they had better memory of words than their fellow classmates!
2. Dyseidetic Dyslexia (Surface Dyslexia)
- Difficulty remembering sight words (non-phonetic words)
- Difficulty spelling
- Attempts to “sound out” all words
Some of our students were strong in phonics and could sound out words easily. However, they seemed to have no memory for sight words. Thus they tried to sound out all non-phonetic words such as “what, was, from.” So the second step in our five-step, forty-five minute corrective reading session was to teach them how to remember the common sight words and those in their student readers. Again, we went to the very successful method of using their photographic memories. By putting zany, funny, emotion-filled pictures directly on the letters in a word that they had difficulty with, they found that they could not only remember the sight words but that they could spell the words forwards and backwards easily, since it was a “photograph” for them. This requires no curriculum purchase. Magic markers and a playful method of remembering worked so well. This is so easy to do at home.
This is one of my favorite quotes concerning teaching methods that work: “Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new memory synapse in the brain … UNLESS it’s done with PLAYFULNESS … in which case it takes only 10–20 repetitions.” —Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Kid and The Connected Parent.
3. Visual Dyslexia
- Reading reversals was/saw; on/no; for/from
- Difficulty keeping place in the text
- Referral to Vision Therapy (eye teaming; eye tracking; binocularity)
We take reading and writing reversals seriously. This is a child who is not just scrambling words visually or in writing but struggling in speaking and organizing thoughts. We found that it is not hard to help the child internalize left and right by doing a twenty-minute set of exercises daily. This protocol, which has been around for forty years, uses some whole body movement that crosses the midline. This seemingly simple approach is radically successful. By the end of the school year these students were not reversing in reading or writing and were fluently tracking their eyes while reading. There are many programs you can use that will help internalize left and right processing. Some programs are Brain Balance, Hope Centers, vision therapy from an optometrist, and the home program Brain Integration Therapy.
4. Rapid Naming (Auditory Processing)
- Auditory processing symptoms (confused by oral directions)
- Slow to respond orally
- In speaking, difficulty retrieving words
- Substituting words when speaking
- Working Memory difficult (lists of words, etc.)
When the auditory learning gate is blocked, many things become difficult. Often the child is saying, “What?” all the time or having to “subvocalize” instructions in order to follow them. Their word retrieval is painstakingly slow and often even hearing their “silent voice’ is difficult. In all my years of working with these struggling learners, I’ve never found anything as helpful as midline exercises. These simple exercises that you can do seem to strengthen the auditory connections that these students need. There are also some listening programs that are very helpful. Speech therapy gives practice in working with sounds effectively. Nutritionally, many parents have found that giving the brain the essential fatty acids (fish oil) causes the auditory processing to become noticeably easier. Meanwhile, we teach them by strengthening their visual memory for reading, spelling, math, and memorization of all kinds.
What about Dysgraphia?
Some students who have dysgraphia do not have dyslexia. Most students, in my experience, do have both issues, however. Symptoms of dysgraphia:
- Writing reversals (b/d; p/q)
- Copying is very difficult
- Hates to write
- No spacing between words
- Lining up numbers (math) difficult
If your child has dysgraphia, you can alleviate this problem using various methods. Occupational therapists have many good tools for this. In my classroom, I used Dr. Gettman’s midline exercise twenty minutes a day to train the student to internalize directionality and open up the blocked writing gate. The changes were remarkable.
Causes of Dyslexia?
There are many opinions addressing the “causes” of dyslexia. Many articles refer to developmental dyslexia, genetic dyslexia or acquired dyslexia (brain injuries or illnesses). All are valid. But, as a nutritionist, I am very fond of Dr. Jacqueline’s conclusion after studying hundreds of students with dyslexia. The title of her book is The LCP Solution (LCP=Long Chain Polyunsaturated fats). In her book, she states the evidence that ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia runs in families that have an essential fatty acid deficiency. It makes sense to me, since we know that the brain is 60 percent fat and that boys have a three times higher need for these essential fatty acids than girls. That appears to reflect the proportion of boys to girls who have dyslexia. So interesting.
As we continue to demystify dyslexia, we discover more and varied methods of teaching these students. For more on this subject, I refer you to the many articles on my and The Old Schoolhouse® websites.
Dyslexia does not have to be permanent.
Dianne Craft has a master’s degree in learning disabilities and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. Her programs, The Brain Integration Therapy Program, The Right Brain Phonics Reading Program, Craft Right Brain Student Readers, and Biology of Behavior Nutritional Program help families make learning easier for their children. Visit her website for many articles on children and learning and to download her Free Daily Lesson Plans for the Struggling Reader, Speller, and Writer at http://diannecraft.org, or The Old Schoolhouse® website.
Copyright 2023, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
Learn more about homeschooling students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties and special needs at CHEA’s Special Needs Solutions Online Conference on October 16-17, 2023. Join us for just $25 per family, with CHEA members attending for free.