Reading is essential in today’s world, from reading instructions on a test or a job application, to reading legal documents and safety information. Dyslexia can make reading even the simplest document incredibly frustrating for students. Without proper interventions, these students may struggle to read their whole lives, making it more likely they will end up in poverty or the criminal justice system.
My son was diagnosed with dyslexia in fourth grade. I homeschool him, and I understand first-hand how hard it is to watch your child struggle day after day. I also tutor several other students with dyslexia.
These are my tech essentials for teaching dyslexic students:
1) Reading Horizons: I first found out about this tool from Mary Ann Sutherland’s blog, Homeschooling with Dyslexia. Since my son is a little older, I wanted to find something he could interact with independently, without my guidance. It’s a digital curriculum that uses a special marking system to teach letter sounds and groupings. It allows students to work at their own pace and select reading passages that appeal to their individual interests.
(Next page: More tools for students with dyslexia)
2) SnapType App: Dyslexic students can also struggle with writing, and this app lets you take a picture of a worksheet with blanks that you need to fill in, so they can fill them in electronically rather than by hand. This can also help if students have illegible handwriting.
3) NaturalReader: With this app and desktop site, dyslexic students can upload files in a variety of formats and have the text read aloud to them. That way, even when they are struggling to read, they can still keep up with their learning in other subjects.
Using these tools, particularly Reading Horizons, my son’s reading went up four grade levels in nine months. They have given him the confidence to take charge of his own learning and figure things out on his own. Instead of asking me for help all the time, he’s now able to use these resources to find his own answers.
My tutoring students have also seen great strides. For instance, I had an eighth-grader who was reading at a first- or second-grade level, but in four months he increased his reading ability by two years. Others have made honor roll. One of my fourth-grade students made all As on his report card after only a few months.
When kids get diagnosed with dyslexia, especially at a later age, sometimes they’ve already kind of given up. They think that they’re not capable of doing the things their friends and siblings can do, so they stop trying. Sometimes they’re angry.
I had one such student, a 10th-grader, and I could see the anger and frustration in his eyes when he first came to me. I told him, “Your struggles have nothing to do with your intelligence. I don’t want anybody letting you think that that’s the case.” After that, he started learning and trying, just because he started to believe he could. These are not bad kids. They’re not stupid or lazy; they just need to do things differently. With the right tools and supports, I believe there’s no reason any student with dyslexia can’t learn and thrive.