October is Dyslexia Awareness Month! Let’s talk about some dyslexia terms.
A diagnosis of dyslexia in your child may be difficult to accept, says renowned Dyslexia expert, Dr. Gavin Reid. However, from his own personal experience, he knows it can also bring a huge sense of relief. “Relief that your gut feeling was correct—something was not right and it was not a figment of your imagination.”
What comes next is, learning how reading remediation can help your dyslexic child.
To help you understand the various remediation terms, we’ve put together this mini-lexicon and list of resources for more in-depth definitions:
- Phonemic awareness is the number one phrase you will hear most often when discussing reading remediation for a dyslexic child. People with dyslexia have difficulty understanding the sound structure of language. By teaching them how to improve their phonemic awareness skills, they will learn how to listen for sounds in words, speech and language. After this, they are better able to recognize, manipulate, blend and divide individual speech sounds to understand words and sentences.
- Phonics and decoding skills. These skills are needed to link the recognition of letters with the sounds letters make. To improve students’ phonic and decoding skills, they are taught to analyze unknown words by sounding them out, letter by letter, and syllable by syllable.
Example: In the Barton Reading and Spelling System—the evidence-based reading remediation program the Open Door uses—students touch coloured tiles associated with letters or digraphs, say the sounds, then slowly blend the sounds into words. For each sound, they pull down a tile.
- Multi-sensory learning is the method dyslexic children need to be taught with to learn successfully. It engages all of their senses using visual, auditory and kinesthetic techniques.
Example: In the Barton system, the student touches and moves coloured tiles to sound out letters and blend sounds to spell words. Another example is the PASP (Phonemic Awareness Skills Program) designed for younger children. The tutor places coloured tape on the floor and students “jump” over each line for each syllable they hear.
- Components of language covers vocabulary, word usage, prefixes, suffixes, and other parts of words that have meanings. Dyslexic children have difficulty with language processing and word retrieval. As a result, they have trouble comprehending word meanings. This slows their ability to learn and prevents them from understanding text when they read by themselves.
This is why it is so important for parents and educators to read books to dyslexic children. By doing so, the child will develop an understanding of complex words and their meanings.
- Comprehension skills are needed to derive meaning from text. Some children may read fluently but have no understanding of what they just read. Parents can help their children improve these skills by reading stories to their children and asking open questions about the storylines and characters. See International Dyslexia Association Fact Sheet on the Importance of Reading Aloud.
Remember too, that good reading comprehension skills are essential to learning many other subjects, including math and problem solving. Spending time helping your child comprehend and understand a math problem isn’t cheating. Think of it is helping them understand the problem at the same level as their non-dyslexic classmates.
- Fluency means a student reads spontaneously—pronouncing words correctly and understanding the words in sentences as they go along. Dyslexic children may read haltingly and without inflection because they can’t decode letters and recognize words. This further prevents them from understanding text and reading smoothly.
- Spelling skills and strategies: By acquiring better spelling skills and strategies, dyslexic children learn how to sound out words by syllables, then pronounce and spell them correctly.
Example: In the Barton Reading and Spelling System, students learn the Kiss the Cat Spelling Rule.
The letter “C” makes the hard /C/ sound most of the time, as in CAT except when it is followed by E,I, or Y. If it is followed by E,I, or Y, then “C” it makes the soft /S/ sound, as in “CIRCUS”. If you hear a hard /C/ sound followed by E, I or Y in a word, then the hard /C/ sound must be spelled with a “K”, as in KISS.
Maybe you’re like me and said, “Hey, I never learned that spelling trick at school!”
Note: the Barton Reading and Spelling program teaches numerous reading and spelling tips designed specifically for dyslexic children. To find out more, visit The Open Door.
For further reading resources on dyslexia and reading remediation techniques, check out these books:
- Dyslexia, A complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them by Dr. Gavin Reid
- Dyslexia Tools, Workbook for Teens, 120 exercises to Improve Reading Skills by Dr. Gavin Raid and Jenn Clark
- The Dyslexia Checklist, A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers by Sandra F. Rieff and Judith M. Stern
- The Everything Parents Guide to Children with Dyslexia by Abigail Marshall
- How to Reach & Teach Children & Teens with Dyslexia by Cynthia M. Stowe, M.Ed.
Other Open Door blog posts on this topic that you may find helpful, include:
- Does my child have dyslexia? What to watch for, what to do.
- Considering a Dyslexia Screening for your child? Meet Pam Graydon—The Open Door Assessment Specialist
- Approaching the teacher about your child’s dyslexia
- Could your child benefit from individual instruction?
- How can I build my dyslexic child’s self-confidence?
- When should I stop reading aloud to my child?