Although the women of the United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is, in some respects, one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked... in which I have spoken of so many important things done by Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply, To the superiority of their women.

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dealing with Dyslexia

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive dyslexia post. This is broad brush look at what homeschooling with a special need (such as not being able to read) affects your life.

Background: My husband and I are extremely academic people. Straight A's, technical, scientific degree-holders, early readers, and self-professing nerds. We met on the school bus to math team competition, and found we both knew Rush Limbaugh's call-in number by heart. Get the picture?

My oldest daughter learned to read at five. I didn't want her going to kindergarten and getting screwed up with whole language, so I thought teaching her phonics before she went would head all that off at the pass. She learned to read without much effort on my part. When I pulled her out of school a couple of years later, I thought homeschooling would be a breeze. Teach them to read, then they'll teach themselves everything else. Simple. Easy Peasy.

Unless, your kid cannot read no matter what you do. I mean no matter WHAT you do.

 My next kid was the most motivated to read child you've ever met. If I told her to stand on head and chew bubble gum to learn to read, she would have done it with  zeal. I started trying to teach her like my older kid in kindergarten, but it was obvious that she wasn't ready. I said, hey this is what people must mean when every kid is different. So I tried again when we started first grade at age six. At first I tried A Beka, but she just didn't get it. Then I tried Explode the Code, then Hooked on Phonics, then just a random phonics workbook, then just flashcards, then just one word one day. We sculpted the word out of play-doh, we wrote it on paper, we said the words individually over and over. At the end of the day, I held up the word and asked her what it was. She acted like she had never seen it before. That's the moment I knew that there was something highly unusual going on here. Something that I was ill-prepared to deal with.

As a member of HSLDA, I took advantage of the Struggling Learner help-line and emailed my situation to one of their Special Education teachers. They emailed me back a plan. I went to the pediatrician and explained what was happening, and they basically said, yep, sounds like dyslexia all right. Here's a place that will charge you $75 and hour to do stuff you can do at home that specializes in treatment that one of our physicians that makes six figures uses for her daughter. My insurance would not pay for speech therapy, which she needed for a few sounds she still didn't have. So I had to formulate my own IEP, based on what the special education teacher at HSLDA advised me.

Background on this child: she was a late-talker, which has been the pattern for most of the rest of my kids. She would put together these 48 piece jigsaw puzzles over and over again, and for awhile I was wondering if she was autistic. When she began talking at 3 1/2, it was very garbled and remained so until she was five. By first grade, she was just down to about four sounds she couldn't make: f, v, th, and zh. Her hearing was fine, and the audiologist office informed me that a auditory acuity screen would be $500 which my insurance wouldn't cover. I asked what do you do when you find they have auditory processing problems? They said we tell them to do Earobics, a computer program that costs $60 at the time. I just bought the program, assuming something inside her head is not picking up on the differences between sounds.

So I put together a custom IEP just for her half way through 1st grade.

Speech Therapy - Straight Talk, a speech therapy program for home.
Earobics-  a computer program that supposedly trains the ear to distinguish between sounds, it has mixed reviews.
The Secret Stories - a visual phonics program, which is key when you can't hear the sounds accurately. Each sound comes with it's own story and the letters are like people who "do" things. Like the letter O, when not saying his name OOOOOOOOO long superhero sound, is in disguise and doesn't like to go to the doctor and doesn't want that tongue depressor to touch the sides of his mouth when he says ooo, and that's the short sound he makes. It forces the kids to do a motion with each sound, which is important for dyslexic kids, who tend to be very kinesthetic in their learning style.
McGuffey Readers - free and downloadable online. I like them because they have the new words introduced at the top and you can make flashcards and just work on those words for awhile before diving into the story. I would keep our Secret Story book and every time we came to a Secret Story, we'd look it up, remind ourselves of the story and continue with the word.
Brain Integration Training - I'm not sure if it helped, but I tried writing eights and the whole slew of exercises as often as I could. She hated it and it was hard to get her to do them. I did get some helpful advice from Dianne Craft's website about putting pictures behind the words to stick them in the memory. I took the reading lists from the back of the Secret Stories book and made flashcards out of them, putting the picture behind or incorporating into the word, always making the phonics sound in the list we were focusing on in a different color. These word lists gave us some words in her memory banks to work with.
Saxon Math - I used the Saxon Math worksheet pad things to get her math facts in. Fortunately, math is a language she understands and has always done well at math. Of course her numbers are all backwards, but she gets the right answers.

Of course, I had already spent my budget for the year and this stuff came to about $300, where am I going to get the money to pay for all this? I pondered this as I walked to mailbox, and found a letter from my mom that contained a check for $500 that she sent for absolutely no reason except to answer a prayer I hadn't even had time to make yet. So I'm anxious for nothing.

Anyway, I kind of dropped my older kid, who could read just fine. I told her she's going to be ok in this life and gave her a basic of list of stuff to get done while I worked with her sister. Having a kid who could not read was a major crisis for me, MAJOR. I executed the plan above like  a drill sergeant. Think Full Metal Jacket without the swearing. I chewed a hole in my tongue to keep myself from yelling "the word is happen, HAPPEN, HAAAP -PEEEN,  AAUGGHHH!!

Brain scan showing difference. Please don't tell me about "phonics" when I tell you my kid is dyslexic. I know about "phonics", okay? The brain scan shows why phonics doesn't work for my kid the way they teach it with sounding it out.

It was torture for me to watch her struggle with the obvious. We schooled through the summer and it took an eternity to work though that first McGuffey reader. My goal became the Fourth McGuffey Reader by Fourth Grade. It seemed like a reasonable goal if we kept at it. I'm happy to say that we met our goal and that the fourth reader blew me away with how tough it was. She was reading the Song of Hiawatha and Dickens, etc. I thought, man, I didn't read that stuff until 11th grade American Lit. Well, come to find out that the McGuffey Readers don't correspond with our modern grade system at all. Let me tell you how she bounced around the house to find she'd been reading on a much higher level than she thought she could. She started reading the American Girl books on her own, and this past year (a sixth grader) has been reading the Narnia books and more sixth grade stuff. Praise God. She still doesn't do well on standardized tests, and I may seek an official diagnoses for her so that she can take the ACT with dyslexic accommodation.

Of course, while I was putting my all into getting her to read, I totally dropped the ball with her little brother, who eventually  learned to read kind of sort of with the 100 Easy Lessons. He still doesn't like to read because he's a boy or something. I try to make him read a chapter from a Magic Treehouse book a day. He's very quick with his math and while he talked late too, he hasn't had any speech problems that would indicate auditory processing issues.

The next kid, my redhead boy, is six years old and not very intelligible with his speech. He goes to the early intervention preschool and probably kindergarten next year due to the amount of speech therapy and occupational therapy he needs. I know when I'm out of my depth and don't want the pride of saying I homeschool ALL of my kids to keep one of them from getting the help they need. He loves school very much because of the routine. Whenever he does learn to speak intelligibly, he's probably unbelievable dyslexic underneath all that. Everyone who works with him says that he's bright and no, he doesn't have autism.

The next kid. my little ball of cute, also has speech issues. I can understand what she's trying to say, but she deletes the ends off of most all of her words. Her speech eval revealed she's 1%, as in 99% of 3 year olds speak better than her. So she does speech therapy once a week, and most definitely qualifies for pre-K. She can write her name and loves to color, cut and glue, etc. We were playing around with reading and she seems to get it except she can't pronounce many of the words right.

The next kids, my second redhead girl, seems to actually be talking on time. It's been so long (15 years) since I had a "normal" talking kid, it's kind of freaking me out.

So my initial vision of homeschooling with everyone reading silently while a cross-stitch and keep an immaculately clean house didn't happen. Schooling takes way more time than it does for most homeschool moms. We do a lot of things together and out loud. Many times, I do the writing and she does the talking because doing both will stress their systems to where nothing will happen. Learning is what's important and not comparing what you're doing to what "school" is doing is critical to moving forward with confidence.


  1. THANK YOU for this. I can't tell you how I loathe it when people say that I must not have taught phonics well enough, or that if my daughter would just sound out the word, she'd be fine. You know there's something wrong when she has the same spelling word for two years, and at the end of the day, she'll still spell it wrong. If she can even read it.

    1. Yeah, those people just don't "get" it. I probably used to be one of those people until I had to deal with it first-hand. It helps to have at least one kid in the family that does read well with phonics to show that the problem isn't with you the teacher.

  2. Homeschooling a child with dyslexia can be very challenging. While there are many more programs available, they are often quite expensive. Others require a special training course to be able to teach them. And still others just don't work. It is hard to know w what will work for each individual child. It is also hard when you have other children who all have their own needs as well.

    Paul Quinn @ Med Care Pediatric


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