By Kathy Kuhl
Know a dyslexic teen, or any adolescent who struggles with reading? It’s so frustrating for these students and their parents. The students are probably avoiding reading as much as possible, and may be resisting your efforts to teach them. It would be no surprise if they are discouraged. They may even try deny there’s a problem to avoid the pain. It’s easy when you are a dyslexic teen or adult to think you are stupid. (For example, see My Dyslexia, a memoir by Pulitzer-winning poet Philip Schultz. A link to my review is below.)
So how do you help these adolescents? The best online and video programs may lack the personal adaptation your child needs. Here is an Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach to use at home before you invest in private tutoring with an academic therapist or O-G certified practitioner: Never Too Late to Read: Language Skills for the Adolescent with Dyslexia by Ann Caldwell Tuley.
Teaches you how to teach reading
These 175 pages won’t make you an expert. But this book provides you with practical, detailed instructions on how to teach the skills that make reading possible. It gives you a simplified version of an O-G approach, also known as a Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) method. For some dyslexic teens, this will be enough to enable them to read. It may also help teens who have not been diagnosed with dyslexia.
This is no curriculum. It’s a book to teach you how to teach. It’s very clear, with planning suggestions at the end of each short chapter. It is written for classroom teachers, but is easily adaptable to home education. In fact, since it’s chiefly a one-on-one approach, it should be easier for homeschoolers to use than it would be for classroom teachers.
The author, Ann Cashwell Tuley, assumes readers know a little about dyslexia and some educational terminology, but nothing beyond my regular readers. (E.g., the author explains what a closed syllable is on page 42.)
The book is based on the work of Alice Ansara, a pioneer in the field of dyslexia education. Marilyn Zecher, who has taught me much about dyslexia, writes, “Alice Ansara’s work is wonderful. It is a beacon of hope for those working with older students who have failed to learn to read.”
- Chapter 1 discusses what is distinctive about adolescents with dyslexia, compared to children.
- The author discusses testing in Chapter 2. She also provides some informal evaluations you can give as you homeschool, to help you understand your teen’s challenges.
- Chapter 3 presents the core principles and strategies: the two-level approach, the MSL approach, the penciling technique, and the student notebook.The two-level approach addresses a big problem teens and adults face. They need to keep up with the intellectual level of content in other subjects, while catching up on their reading skills. Typically, dyslexic adolescents fall far behind their peers in vocabulary simply because non-dyslexic students are exposed to many thousands more words.The penciling technique looks worth the price of the book by itself.The student notebook is a carefully organized reading tool that could be a huge help for our adolescents. In effect, it’s a personalized reading resource for your teen that you build together. A good portion of this and the following chapters is devoted to helping your teen construct it. I wish I’d known these two when I homeschooled my dyslexic teen!
- Chapter 4 addresses sounds and syllables, the building blocks of reading. She explains terms but expects you to remember them immediately, so think of this as your textbook for an education class you need. She explains the six kinds of syllables, and then tells you how to teach them.
- Syllabification is the subject of chapter 5. She includes hundreds of words organized for effective practice.
- Chapter 6 covers vocabulary. When I homeschooled I probably would have thought learning Latin, Greek and Anglo-Saxon prefixes were too much. But when my son learned them from an academic therapist while in college, he disagreed. He said knowing roots made everything make more sense, and therefore much easier to recall. To this day, he loves to know big words and he analyzes them by their roots.
- In Chapter 7, spelling, word structure—those rules our dyslexic kids need explained to them—are explained clearly. Lesson ideas are included.
- I’m delighted that the last three chapters cover phrasing (often neglected), comprehension, and study skills.
I highly recommend Never Too Late to Read, both for homeschool parents and anyone working with dyslexic adolescents. It’s wonderful that Ann Cashwell Tuley has given us a clear and usable summary of some of the late Alice Ansara’s methods. It is available in print, and also on Amazon Kindle, though I’m not sure the Kindle version reproduces the many useful charts correctly. (In the sample chapter I downloaded, it did not.)
Got a tool to help teach dyslexic teens? Please post in the comments below. Thanks.