2 ends of the spectrum

Yesterday I wore shorts on my morning run. Today I hit off on the alarm and went back to sleep after I looked at the weather report and it said “WINTER STORM WARNING!”  Sometimes I just can’t deal with the continual shift between extremes and I want to shut down.

This was the scene on our front patio this weekend, ice melt next to sidewalk chalk.  Two ends of the weather spectrum are flip flopping.

winter and spring

This is also the life of a person with dyslexia, it operates at two extremes.  Even though my brain operates like this, I find it very difficult to teach to two extremes.

One of the essential pieces of teaching a student with dyslexia is progressing very SLOW through basic skills.  The student needs to gain automaticity so their working memory isn’t overloaded. When automaticity is achieved they can take in new knowledge instead of focusing on how to sound out a word or spell a word.  The more profound the dyslexia, the more practice and repetition is needed.

At the same time that basic skills are incredibly difficult, these children are also very intelligent and outrageously curious.  Many times critical thinking skills are well developed at an early age.  Children who can’t remember that -ed is placed at the end of a past tense verb can remember and put knowledge together about history (or another complex subject) very easily.

And that is where the difficulty lies.  I believe that basic knowledge of how to read and write are essential for education (I was a first grade teacher after all!), and the rest will follow.  How do you teach a very bright child that is yearning for more and more knowledge but takes a month of daily practice to learn the -ed ending? How do you keep him stimulated but teach the basic skills without completely boring him and even worse, having him believe that learning is the equivalent to shoveling snow in May (aka: horrible and to be avoided)?  Luckily, history and -ed both deal with the past tense.

To keep motivation up #2 is starting a project about Russian history.  Worksheets, flashcards and drills, while essential to helping him gain the amount of practice he needs, quickly bore him and he daydreams easily.  Also, I think he was getting a little tired of my blank stares when he would ask me questions about the political motivation of Stalin before, during and after World War II and I would answer with a weak, “Ummm…. let’s Google that.”  When I had no idea how to find Chechnya on a map (without Googling it) I realized I needed a little Russian history too.

Throughout this month we will flip flop between the complex history of Russia and summarizing what he learns by writing sentences in the past tense.  He will be practicing the skills he has learned this year with the Wilson Language System (syllables and suffixes) while learning about a subject he is interested in.  Check back throughout May and I’ll share other projects I come up with to help him review his basic skills from 4th grade.


You have dyslexia? Do you see things backwards?

Dyslexia is a much used and very misunderstood word.  I’ve had many people say, “Oh, so your kids see things backwards?” or “Is dyslexia when you write your letters backwards?”

Yes and no.  Sometimes, especially with a severe case of dyslexia, there are problems with directionality.  Which way is left? Which is right? Directionality is why some people with dyslexia have a problem knowing if its a b, d, q, p, or g.  Issues with working memory also exist, which I will explore later.

Dyslexia is a language processing disorder.  This means that a person with dyslexia has a different brain than people without dyslexia.  The dyslexic brain is constructed differently than the non-dyslexic brain.  Dyslexia is an unpredicted problem with learning how to read.  This means, that when a child has been given every opportunity to learn how to read sometimes they don’t….and sometimes this is because the child has dyslexia.  Because reading is so complex there are of course a variety of factors that could be causing problems, but dyslexia has nothing to do with eye sight, vision therapy or color coding words….and none of these are solutions for helping a child with dyslexia.

Most humans have the innate knowledge that a symbol goes with a sound.  This is why so many different languages are constructed that way.  However, the dyslexic brain does not innately put a sound with a symbol.  In fact, the dyslexic brain doesn’t really understand individual sounds in a word.  Most young children understand that the word cat is made up of 3 sounds…..K-AAAAAA-T.  In the least, most preschoolers can tell you that cat starts with the sound /k/.  If you ask a dyslexic child what sounds make up cat they will stare blankly at you….because cat is the word that means that slightly creepy animal that never likes me yet insists on sitting on my lap (editorial comment on my feelings towards cats!)….it is not a series of sounds. The concept of individual sounds going together to make up a word is enough to baffle and overwhelm young children with dyslexia.

Teaching phonics is the core of my homeschooling with child #2.  I use the Wilson Reading System which was designed to help people with dyslexia learn to read, spell and write.


Essentially children learn over and over and OVER that words are made up of individual sounds.  Letters represent these sounds. They learn how to put the sounds together to make words (reading) and take the words apart to make sounds (spelling).

-ed suffix

In book 6 (there are 12 books), students learn about base words and suffixes.  This week we are learning about -ed.  #2 can read all the words on green cards quite fluently.  However, categorizing them by ending sound….close to impossible.  It is a painstaking process by asking him to first say the baseword then understand what the -ed suffix sounds like.  The task was completed, some more phonemic awareness was achieved, and he was rewarded by taking the dog on a walk throughout the neighborhood and some free reading time (he is currently devouring the “I Survived” books).

On a recent ski weekend a friend suggested I bring the kids to China and have them learn Chinese so they don’t need to deal with individual letters and I wouldn’t have to go through all these flashcard exercises.  She may be on to something….