Wondering if your child might have dyslexia? Look for these signs.
You notice that your child has difficulty with writing, and their reading fluency is very slow. They are struggling to sound out words when reading. Their self-esteem is starting to plummet as they compare themselves to peers who are excelling. You might wonder if your child has dyslexia. Below are some grade-specific signs:
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Most preschool-age children do not yet read or write. Many have not yet learned to recognize sound/letter relationships or write letters. However, even at this young age, early signs of dyslexia can be identified. Your child might struggle with phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate sounds in words. For example, rhymes might be a challenge. They may have trouble identifying:
- Initial word sounds (e.g. What sound does the word “pizza” start with?)
- Medial sounds (e.g. What is the middle sound you hear in the word “hot”?)
- Ending sounds (e.g. What is the final sound you hear in the word “red”?)
Try asking your child to say the word “dog” without the /d/ sound or “chop” without the /p/ sound. Struggling with the ability to manipulate word sounds may be a sign of dyslexia. Also, children with dyslexia might find it a challenge to follow directions or provide the correct word to describe an action or object.
Why the Orton-Gillingham Approach to
Treating Dyslexia is The Best Approach
The Orton-Gillingham approach is a popular and proven way to teach reading—especially to students with dyslexia.
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Reading and writing demands increase rapidly as students progress through elementary school. At this age, you might notice that your child struggles to decode, or sound out, words–especially words they have never seen before. When reading, they may rely on picture clues and sight memory to figure out words, rather than attempting to decode them. Their reading fluency may be slow, and they may start to avoid reading out of lack of confidence or embarrassment. You also may notice that your child looks at the beginning sound of a word and guesses the rest of it, or struggle to spell basic, single syllable words. Writing sentences and stories can be a challenge, and they may try to finish an assignment as quickly as possible by writing the minimum amount necessary.
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Typically, by middle school, students with dyslexia have already been identified. However, some students develop coping strategies, allowing them to “mask” their learning challenge for quite a while. While masking can often carry them through early grades, many students hit a wall in middle and high school, when reading and writing demands ramp up. You might find that your child’s speed of reading and completing work is very slow. They may also struggle with the simultaneous demands of writing: mechanics, grammar, organization, and spelling, and they may likely find very little joy in reading. They may also experience low overall self-esteem.
While dyslexia can be a lifelong challenge, being diagnosed with dyslexia often comes as a relief. Children and parents feel better knowing the reason for the constant struggle, that action can be taken. The sooner students receive remediation to help with their dyslexia-related struggles, the easier reading and writing will be. Specialized learning methodologies, including the Orton Gillingham technique for spelling and decoding, along with similar research-based, multi-sensory techniques for writing and language processing, can help dyslexic students as they progress through school and face growing academic demands.
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Originally designed for students with dyslexia, the Orton Gillingham method is a structured approach for teaching reading and writing skills. Technically, the Orton Gillingham technique is a “language-based, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible” method designed primarily to teach decoding and spelling.
It involves the explicit and systematic teaching of language sounds while employing visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic teaching techniques (Bates, 2014).
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The Orton Gillingham method is multi-sensory, integrating visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic learning modalities, and is continually individualized according to the needs of each student as lessons progress. The instruction is carefully-structured, and each lesson builds upon previously-taught lessons.
The Flags and Stars program is a multi-sensory reading and writing program based on the Orton Gillingham method. The program begins with single consonant and short vowel sounds, and later it moves into blends (ex. fl, pl, gl, etc.), consonant digraphs (ex. th, wh, sh, etc.), vowel digraphs (ex. oa, oo, ea, etc.), silent e patterns, multi-syllabic words, prefixes, and suffixes.
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Each lesson contains multi-sensory elements, including drills with audio-visual cards, sand writing, and sky writing, followed by exercises in a workbook. The lessons also address fluency development, with word-per-minute timings, as well as sentences and stories for students to read, after which they apply concepts that were taught.
A sample lesson from the Flags and Stars Vowel Digraphs might be structured as follows:
Audio-Visual Card Drill
- The teacher (or parent) holds up an audio-visual card with the vowel digraph ee on the front and the corresponding key picture (feet) on the back and says to the child: “This is the vowel digraph ee (holds up front of card), like feet (turns card around and shows a picture of feet on the back of the card), it makes the sound /ee/ (turns card back around to show letters).
- The teacher or parent then says aloud the sequence of letter names/key picture/sound together with the student (i.e. ee, feet, /ee/), and the student repeats the sequence independently three times.
- The teacher or parent models forming the letters in the air, while saying the name of each letter and then the sound the vowel digraph
- The instructor then performs this sky writing together with the child
- The child forms the letters in the sky independently three times.
- Similar to sky writing, the teacher or parent models forming the letters, this time in the sand, saying the name of each letter and then the sound the vowel digraph makes.
- The instructor then performs this sand writing together with the child in a tray filled with sand
- The student forms the letters in the sand independently three times.
- The same sequence can be performed using shaving cream instead of or in addition to sand.
- The child then completes exercises in the Flags and Stars Vowel Digraph workbook, corresponding to the vowel digraph being taught (in this case the /ee/ sound).
- The child traces letters, identifies pictures that contain the sound, and performs other related exercises, such as filling in words and completing sentences.
- After this sequence is performed for all of the vowel digraphs in a given section, the instructor emphasizes decoding, or blending sounds containing these vowel digraphs together to form words, using cards and magnetic tiles.
- The child reads word lists, sentences, and stories contained within the Flags and Stars workbook to reinforce the sounds taught in a given lesson.
- The child is encouraged to read orally from a controlled reader (book or story) at the end of each session to apply the sounds covered and any previous sounds taught.
The Orton Gillingham method can have a positive and profound impact on a child’s reading and spelling skills, particular those who have language-based learning disabilities. However, even children without diagnosed learning disabilities can truly benefit from this instruction.
Online ADHD Treatment
Children who might benefit from online treatment for ADD and ADHD are often disorganized, have trouble managing their workload, and lose papers and homework. They may struggle to study effectively and stay focused for long periods of time. Yet as students progress through school, each demand increases exponentially. As a result, children who could benefit from online treatment for ADD and ADHD often face diminishing school performance and grades with each passing year. Below are study strategies to help your child avoid this downhill path and excel in school.
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Completing a research project, studying for a multi-chapter science test, or learning pages of information for a quiz can seem like insurmountable tasks to students who might benefit from online treatment for ADD and ADHD. By encouraging your child to break down each task into smaller chunks, you can help them feel less frustrated and more in control of their workload. For instance, if she has a history test that covers 3 book chapters and 18 pages of class notes, help them spread out her studying over one full week by:
- Spending two days studying one book chapter and six pages of notes
- The next two days studying the second book chapter and six additional pages of notes
- The subsequent two days studying the final chapter and six more page of notes.
- On the final day she can focus on reviewing all of the material
In sum you can help your child study by breaking down a seemingly daunting task into seven manageable days, using smaller increments of time.
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ADHD students often think, without writing their assignments down, that they can remember everything. While a memory-based approach may work for the early years of school, as students approach upper elementary school, doing so becomes increasingly hard to do. So that your child doesn’t miss any assignments, encourage them to use an assignment book on a consistent basis. Paper books work well, or they can use a computer or phone-based planner. It is important, each day, that they writes down their assigned tasks, even if their school uses an online portal. Also useful is writing down any non-academic events, after-school activities, or sports games, making their planner the central point of organization.
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Children learn differently, including those with ADHD.
- Silence: some prefer silence when studying and work best at a quiet desk in their bedroom
- Background noise: others prefer a slight buzz in the background, like white noise or soft music playing.
- Movement – rocking on a rocking chair while studying, for instance, or throwing a ball as they define vocabulary words.
Crucial to your child’s learning habits is identifying the style that best suits them and creating consistency.
Find an Optimal Study Time
Some ADHD children work best while still in “school mode”, immediately after school. They may feel relieved by “getting their assigments over with” so they can move onto non-academic activities. Others need a break and feel fried by the end of the school day. For these children, some physical activity and a snack before sitting down to work is more optimal. Many students, especially older ones, thrive on that post-dinner rush and work best later in the day.
Planning is key: to make sure critical work isn’t overlooked or pushed to the very last minute, encouraging your child to plan out and prioritize his work as soon as they come home is a powerful solution.
Children with ADHD tend to be easily distracted. To minimize distractions, try to implement household rules during studying time, such as “No TV” or “No Electronics.” Rewards can also be built in to earn these banned activities. For instance, if your child completes an hour of focused school work, they can earn 10 minutes of electronic time. This reward system may help motivate your child to complete his school work and other tasks.
Use Active Studying Techniques
Active reading strategies can help children who might benefit from online treatment for ADD and ADHD. Most important for them is staying focused and remembering the material they are learning. Instead of simply reading a chapter from start to finish, try a three-color strategy to help them learn material from a textbook.
- Before they begin reading, have them peruse the chapter for pictures, captions, headers, and subheaders to give them an overview of the material.
- Then have them highlight the topic (one, two, or three words describing the passage) in blue.
- Next, they should move through the sections one sub-section at a time, highlighting the main idea of each sub-section in green (what the author is saying about the topic) and the important details in yellow.
- Once they are done with the chapter, they can create a two-column study guide, writing the topic at the top, main idea of each sub-section on the left, and the important details using bullet points on the right.
The above technique will help her actively learn the material and effectively plan for an exam.
The rigors of school can be challenging for children who might benefit from online treatment for ADD and ADHD. Executive functioning, organizational, and studying demands often feel overwhelming. However, by implementing these strategies, your child can face these challenges head-on and be well on their way to academic success.