Thanks for all of the great feedback on the post I did two weeks ago sharing four different book resources that I have found helpful as we navigate through Anthony’s dyslexia journey. If dyslexia is a topic of conversation in your life, I hope you’ll hop over and check out the comments and additional resources readers left on this particular post. I am in the process of following up on some of the sites, books, and other references people left in the comments so I can recap them for you later in the month. This is the beauty of networking… we all can learn and gain information for our children.
Today I want to talk to you about accommodations and modifications that your dyslexic child might benefit from when struggling in the classroom and at home. These are resources that are working for Anthony. I am not a professional, simply a mom who has watched our journey evolve. When our journey began I had no idea what resources, accommodations, modifications, etc., were available to us, nor did I understand the process needed when asking for these tools. And in our situation the school did not just offer them. We had to ask- aside from the two year dyslexia program Anthony was enrolled in when his diagnosis was given. While this two year dyslexia program is great, there are needs that must be met in the traditional classroom setting and in his day to day learning.
Alphasmart- this is a lap size computer device that can be used in a simple manner or a more complex manner. There are different versions available- some with more frills than others. We have a basic version. This year the school supplied Anthony with three- one that stays at home, one that stays in his main classroom, and one to use in his reading classroom. At home we use it to practice for his spelling test and practice writing stories. You can also have it link up to your printer so the student can print out what he types. What is so great about this device is sometimes words and letters get lost for a dyslexic student when going from their mind, to their pencil, to their paper. How do I make that letter? Did I spell that word right? Can the teacher read my writing? The Alphasmart allows the student to focus on the story they want to tell instead of fearing their penmanship might not be legible, wondering if they spelled each word correctly, etc. With some versions you can even upload worksheets and allow the student to complete some of their classwork using the Alphasmart. Find what works best for your child. Right now the basic version meets our needs.
Break Instruction into Parts- this is a simple request. Sometimes dyslexic students become very overwhelmed when given too many tasks or steps at one time. Ask the teacher(s) to break things down into steps for your student.
Online Reading- likely your child’s classroom has a computer. Ask that your student be given time to read online. Sometimes just changing the medium in which a story is delivered can make the reading process easier for a dyslexic child. Ask that your child be given 20-30 minutes of reading computer time each day if available. (You can also do this at home!)
Modified Spelling List- if your child is dyslexic and is struggling with their spelling tests each week, there is absolutely no reason to put your child through that stress and feeling of failure. Ask that his spelling test be modified according to his learning needs. This is how it is implemented for us; Anthony is pulled out of his classroom each day for 45 minutes of intense training with his dyslexia teacher (this is part of the two year program). While working on things like decoding, fluency, accuracy, comprehension and phonological needs, his dyslexia teacher identifies where Anthony’s struggles are each week and his next spelling list is developed based on his current needs and struggles. This is genius and directly affects his success! (If your student excels and enjoys the computer and penmanship is a struggle, it is not out of line to request that he be allowed to take his spelling test using the computer or an Alphasmart.)
Request Regular Feedback- the dyslexia teacher at our school travels to other campuses. It is not always possible to find her on on campus, but I like feedback. I do not want to arrive at the end of a six weeks (or even a 3 week progress update) where I am suddenly being told Anthony is not meeting the mark for specific areas. We have an agreement that his dyslexia teacher updates us each day in his school planner with a quick note about how he is doing. A simple smiley face, a quick note that his behavior was not ideal, or a happy message that he is souring with his decoding skills is great. It allows us to know where we need to work harder at home.
Close Seating to Instruction- if your child struggles with being independent or lacks confidence it can be ideal to have him seated close to instruction.
Access to Reading Programs- such as RFB&D (recording for the blind and dyslexic) is a program for children and adults. Their program gives your student access to over 60,000 audio books for free. The audio access allows you to download books directly to a Microsoft Windows based computer. You should be able to obtain your free one year membership via your public school system or by visiting this link https://custhub.rfbd.org/registration. This is available to any student in the public, private or homes-schooled setting that has a certified print disability. Textbooks, novels, chapter books, etc., are included in their audio access library.
MP3 Player or Kindle- the school system can pay for this tool for you. It is simply another resource that allows your child to enjoy reading. We were assigned an MP3 player and it is at home with us. It is another option for downloaded books and allowing him to listen to them and read along while he finds his love for reading.
Access to Title One Reading Programs- because we are in a Title One school here in Texas, there is additional funding given to our school for at risk students who need extra help with skills such a reading. You do not have to have a learning difference or disability to participate in this program it is simply extra one-on-one learning for your child. A Title One reading program is offered at our school and was made available to Anthony this school year. He stays after school two days per week and gets additional one-on-one reading instruction for 30-45 minutes.
Whisper Phone- this is a nifty tool that can be very helpful to a dyslexic student when reading independently. You can read more about the whisper phone online. Anthony’s teacher actually has a knock-off version of this phone made using PVC pipe. Some dyslexic children need to hear themselves when they are reading but in the classroom this can get loud. The whisper phone idea allows the student to read to themselves in a whisper and the phone amplifies their voice and helps with comprehension.
Not Penalized For Spelling Errors- in traditional classwork, your student should not be counted off for, or penalized for, spelling errors. Obviously this does not apply to spelling tests. Why shoot their self esteem down by losing points on a writing assignment? The focus should be good content and good story telling.
Buddy or Peer- it can be helpful to have a buddy or peer identified in the classroom that your child can count on if the teacher is busy and he needs help pronouncing a word, or needs to ask for guidance that a peer can assist him with. Obviously the guidelines need to be identified ahead of time. You do not want your student being a burden to another student, but team work can do wonders!
Next week I will discuss with you the process that worked for us when asking for these modifications and accommodations. Initially we were not greeted with open arms and were actually cautioned that we were potentially hampering his learning and were told he could be successful without them. On the other hand, the school did customarily offer accommodations on all state standardized tests. You know, the tests that directly effect their scores, overall standing with the state, and potentially their funding.
Tell me, what has your experience been when seeking accommodations and modifications for your child in the public school setting? What is working for your child and what is not working? I would love to hear from you.