Beating Reading Difficulties
by Judy Waitley, past board member of HECOA Special Needs Advisory Board
Approximately 10 million children in the United States alone suffer from reading disabilities. Not only does this affect their ability to learn to read but it affects every area of their lives. Out of the 10 million children that are diagnosed with reading disabilities, only 2% of them actually go on to finish a four year college degree. If intervention is sought early, these same children have a 90-95% success rate of overcoming their diagnosis thus giving them a greater chance at success later in life.
A reading disability won't "magically" go away but it can be managed successfully. For many children suffering from a reading disability, the problem lies in decoding; converting single sounds such as the word "bag" into smaller pieces of sound. Decoding is a skill that is unconscious and automatic for most but when it isn't, problems result. Decoding issues can also lead to comprehension problems and converting sounds to written language. When specific reading disabilities such as Dyslexia or Visual Processing Disorder are thrown into the mix, parents end up frustrated and frazzled trying to figure out how to help their children.
Dyslexia is a reading disability that causes difficulty in reading, writing, and spelling. It has nothing to do with a child's intelligence or the "want" to learn. In fact, many dyslexics have an above average IQ score. With that fact in mind, can you see why early intervention is so important? A child that has the mental capability of being challenged academically but does not have the language component of those abilities will become even more frustrated as time goes by. Writing essays, understanding textbooks, and even grammar skills are all harder for a student that has dyslexia thus making it harder on the homeschooling parent trying to help their child succeed. Dyslexia is not a sentence of failure. Great minds such as Henry Ford, Patricia Polacco, and Stonewall Jackson were diagnosed dyslexics. Your child just may be the next great inventor or children's book writer despite their diagnosis!
Visual Processing Disorder (VPD) also affects a child's ability to read but this diagnosis is a bit different in that it is a reduced ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes. There are many specific sub-categories of VPD but all usually affect reading in some way. VPD is more common than most people think and many times a child will be diagnosed with other issues such as dyslexia only to find out later it was VPD causing the problem. Children with this diagnosis many times have 20/20 or greater vision which is why VPD isn't always thought of first. As with any diagnosis, it is not a sentence for poor reading and language skills if intervention is sought early and treatment is consistent. Even if the issues aren't found early in childhood, a student can still have success in managing the issue with consistent treatment.
There are many simple things you can do during your homeschool day to help your student with dyslexia or visual processing disorder. Although they are two different diagnoses, they share many similarities and many of the same tips and activities apply.
- Practice reading from many different types of materials
- Use adaptive technology such as screen readers and text to speech capabilities
- Seek out curriculum that will play to your child's strengths
- Adapt curriculum to fit your child's needs by allowing answers to be done orally or using audio books and movies for literature
- Use large print books and magazines
- Highlight important information so the student knows what to focus on
- Use color coded instructions
A reading disability does not mean a child will never become a good reader. It does not mean they will never enjoy reading. Seek help early on if you feel there is an issue. If you have a diagnosis or an idea of what your child is struggling with, be consistent in treatment. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in this. HECOA is more than happy to answer any questions you may have concerning reading disabilities. Remember, we are not physicians and cannot diagnose your child's issues but we can provide resources and encouragement to help you in your homeschooling journey.
To get you started, here are some resources recommended by HECOA's members:
National Center for Learning Disabilities – Dylsexia
Homeschool Reading Programs for Dyslexia
VPD in Detail
National Center for Learning Disabilities – VPD
Zane Education (video-based therapy)