Could It Be Dyslexia? - Cynthia Dapello

"Even her Grandpa has mentioned that she has more confidence."
     ~Lisa - Mom of 4th Grader - Claremont, CA

"I wanted to let you know Samantha's reading has greatly improved. She set a goal to achieve 100 points through a reading program at school. She worked very hard to achieve that and accomplished it this week. She also was invited to a party at school for the top readers. I just got off the phone with her teacher and Samantha took a reading aptitude test and is reading at 6th grade level. This is the best news and I am so proud of her. At the beginning of the year her reading level was at 2.5, this is a huge improvement."
     ~Malisa, mother of 4th grader, Alta Loma


While your child is acquiring his/her basic reading, writing, and spelling skills through an Orton-Gillingham Multisensory method, classroom accommodations will be needed.

To learn which ones, why they are fair, and how to get them, watch a free one-hour webcast on classroom accommodations on the Bright Solutions for Dyslexia website. Just go to:
It is the third video in the list, called Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students.

Here are the most commonly requested classroom accommodations that will allow your child to demonstrate his/her knowledge even though the child is not yet reading, writing, or spelling at grade level:
  • Oral Testing
    Tests are read to the student (or provided pre-recorded on audio tape), and student are allowed to give answers orally (or tape record their answers).
  • Untimed Tests
    Dyslexic students do not perform well under time pressure. It also takes them longer to read the questions, compose the answer in their head, and get it down on paper.
  • Eliminate or Reduce Spelling Tests
    Classroom teachers rarely teach spelling rules in the same way or same order as a dyslexia tutor. Many teachers will accept a spelling test given in a tutoring session as a replacement for the classroom test, or only grade a classroom spelling test on a small number of pre-determined words.
  • Don't Force Oral Reading
    Teachers should never force students with dyslexia to read out loud in front of the class. If for some reason this is absolutely necessary, warn the student in advance and show them exactly which passage they will have to read so that they can practice ahead of time.
  • Accept Dictated Homework
    Dyslexic students can dictate answers much more easily and quickly than they can write them down. Allow parents to act as a scribe.
  • Reduce Homework Load
    Many teachers create homework assignments by estimating how long it would take a "normal" student to complete it. They may not realize it takes a dyslexic student 3 to 4 times longer to complete the same assignment. Teachers should agree to a maximum time to spend on homework. Parents should sign the end of the homework page showing the amount of time spent on the assignment.
  • Grade on Content, not Spelling or Handwriting
    Some teachers take spelling and handwriting into consideration when assigning a grade. For dyslexic children, this is not appropriate. Teachers should be asked to grade only on the content of an assignment.
  • Reduce Copying Tasks
    It takes dyslexic students longer to copy information from the board, and if they have dysgraphia, they may not be able to read their notes. So provide lecture notes, or discretely assign a fellow student to act as a scribe using NCR paper.
    • Quick print shops can create NCR sets of binder paper. (NCR paper is sometimes called carbonless copy paper.) The top sheet of binder paper has a coating applied to the back of it that is pressure sensitive. When someone writes on the top sheet, the coating automatically makes a copy appear on the lower sheet of binder paper. So when class is over, the scribe just tears off the lower sheet and gives it to our student.
  • Alternate Assignments
    Teachers should offer alternative ways to show mastery of material other than a long written paper. Alternatives could include oral or video presentations, dioramas, collages, or debates.
  • Avoid or Reduce Essay Tests
    Use match up, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer formats for tests. List vocabulary words for fill-in-the-blank sections at the top of the exam.
    • Multiple-choice questions are also difficult for dyslexic students due to the volume of reading required to answer them correctly.
  • Conduct a Class Review Session Before the Test
    Also, provide a study guide with key terms and concepts to the students.
  • Ask the Student How He/She Learns Best
    Often, dyslexic students can explain strategies and techniques that help them learn to teachers. These are usually easy to incorporate into a classroom.
Computer technology makes the lives of dyslexic students much less difficult while they are acquiring their basic reading, writing, and spelling skills. Here are some of the most useful technology tools I've found:
  • Naturally Speaking
    Continuous speech recognition software that runs on Windows-based PCs. Software comes with a headset. You just talk, and the software types in what you said, spelled correctly. The hardest part is training the software to recognize your voice. Training requires reading a long passage displayed on the computer screen. (I sit beside my students and whisper the hard words into their ear.) Once trained, the person with dyslexia just talks to the computer in his/her normal voice at a normal speed, and the software types in the words, correctly spelled. It will even read the passage back to you when you're through. Available in most major computer stores. It can also be purchased from the publisher, Nuance, in Burlington, Massachusetts (781-565-5000).
  • Franklin Spelling Ace
    This portable electronic dictionary runs on batteries and is a wonderful tool. You can enter the phonetic approximation of a word, and the closest choices will be displayed, along with a brief definition. Available at many office supply stores.
  • Books on Tape
    Available to download through Learning Ally.
    Books for pleasure and books for literature classes, read by professional actors, can be rented through Recorded Books Rentals. And most states also sponsor a state-funded Books Aloud program through their public libraries. Contact your closest library for details.
    Even after a dyslexic person has learned to read, recorded books are useful, especially in high school and college, where it may prove impossible to read fast enough to keep up with the demands of many different teachers.
  • Type to Learn
    This is an excellent program that teaches both children and adults how to type by touch. It is available from Sunburst Software for both Macintosh and Windows-based PCs.
  • Any Word Processor
    It goes without saying that once you can type, your most important technology tool will be any word processor that has a good spell checker.
There is no magic bullet to quickly fix or cure dyslexia. Your child was born with dyslexia and will die with dyslexia. Orton-Gillingham-based training methods can avoid the reading, writing, and spelling failure so often associated with dyslexia. But these methods take time; anywhere from one to three years.

Watch out for any method or product that costs lots of money and promises 4 to 8 week "cures."

A method is considered a "controversial therapy" if:
  • There is no research to prove that it works.
  • The research has not been independently replicated.
  • The claims of the method or product far exceed the research results.
Before signing any contract or purchasing any product that sounds too good to be true, ask to see the independent research papers that support their claims. Also ask for local references. Talk to professionals in the field about the method. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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