Last week, I promised to post some accommodations that parents and teachers can use to support dyslexic students (or other struggling readers) in the classroom and in homework. So that’s what we’re going to talk about…right after I get a chance to step on my soapbox!
My Soap Box
Accommodations and modifications can be a great support to students who struggle in school. And we should give students all the support we can! BUT…
It’s also important to understand that accommodations and modifications are NOT a permanent solution. They should be a temporary support while the real problem is being corrected.
Dyslexia and many other learning challenges are the result of weak underlying processing/learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough. Brain research proves that these underlying skills can be developed – the brain can literally be retrained to process information more efficiently. So smart children and adults with dyslexia or other reading challenges can and should become good readers. It takes pinpointing the underlying weaknesses, retraining the brain, and then remediating the reading and spelling skills.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, here are the accommodations.
Accommodations, Modifications, and Coaching Techniques
1. Dyslexic students can often listen and comprehend well. If appropriate, in subjects like social studies and science, they should be expected to participate in discussions and do all homework assignments with the help of a parent or tutor.
If the assignment is to read a chapter, have the student start reading each section and then the parent can take over the reading when the student gets tired. Even if the student only reads a sentence, the expectation will be that he can read the text and will start reading after each subheading. Knowing that he can stop when he’s tired, reduces the pressure. As his reading improves, he will gradually tackle more reading on his own.
When the student comes to a word she doesn’t know, she should try to work through the sounds as best she can, not just guess, then the parent can tell her the word as needed.
If an assignment is taking far too long to complete, parents should be allowed to note the amount of time spent and sign off on it. If this happens regularly, the teacher may want to note for the parents which parts of the assignment would be the most important to focus on.
2. On worksheets, the student should be expected to write the answers to a portion of the questions (for example, 2 out of 5) and an aide or parent could write the answers to the other questions as he dictates. Again, it is important that the student be responsible for the assignment and have responsibility for part of the writing so that he knows that he is capable. He should know that the amount of writing he has to do is being reduced so that he can focus on neatness and spelling. His best is expected!
3. The student should be allowed to take content area tests orally (questions read to her and responses given orally). This way her reading and writing difficulties are not getting in the way of her showing what she knows about the subject.
4. If the student is working on vocabulary definitions, a picture or a few brief words that show he understands the meaning would be much more valuable than copying a textbook or dictionary definition.
5. When reading, the student will likely do best with fairly large print that is not too dense on the page. Dyslexic students may have just as much difficulty with a first grade level book as a higher level book, because the lower the level, the greater the number of trigger words (small, non-conceptual sight words that trigger disorientation). High interest, knowledge of the subject, and more meaningful context will help the dyslexic reader use his good comprehension skills to support his reading.
6. When the student misreads a word while doing oral reading at an appropriate grade level, have him spell the missed word orally and then attempt to read it again. This will help him focus on all of the letters and sounds in the word.
7. When the student gets stuck on spelling when writing, have her say each sound in the word as she writes. This generally helps the student be more accurate.
8. The student needs to learn how to use an assignment sheet. Since copying from the board will be very difficult for him due to his spelling challenges, expect him to copy as much as he can in the time allotted, but at least the first assignment. Gradually increase the amount expected as his skills increase. Also, provide a filled out assignment sheet for him as long as he has copied down at least one assignment. He has to know that things are expected of him, but at the same time needs to be supported while his dyslexia is remediated.
9. When frustrated or shutdown, the student can be cued to take a deep breath to help her refocus. It may be appropriate to have her get up and move (get a drink, sharpen a pencil, do something quick and physical) and then resume the task. This will help her get “unstuck.”
10. Provide the student with a copy of class notes from the teacher or another student the teacher assigns. The student should still take his own notes, but having a complete and accurate set of notes as well will facilitate his studying and understanding.
11. Offer the student alternative ways to present what she knows. For example, instead of a lengthy written report, allow the student to do an oral presentation or a creative presentation that better fits her thinking style and still allows her to show knowledge of the content.
These are accommodations that may make school and homework more successful and comfortable for dyslexic learners, but should not be mistaken for the remediation that they also need.
If your child is struggling in school and you are looking for real solutions, we would love to speak with you.
VISIT www.learningdisability.com to find out the date and time of our next parent information meeting.
Come by Stowell Learning Center Chino or Irvine and mention the blog and we would love to give you a copy of At Wit’s End, A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities (also available at www.amazon.com).
Stowell Learning Center, Chino
15192 Central Ave, Chino, CA 91710
Stowell Learning Center, Irvine
1150 Main St. Suite C, Irvine, CA 92614