What to do if you can’t afford dyslexia tutoring

Recently, I responded to a mom who was looking for tutoring services for her son with dyslexia. They do not live near any dyslexia specialists, providers, or tutors. Although our prices are very affordable compared to other in-home tutors in the Atlanta area, the options we had were out of her budget.

I realize there are many parents out there in the same situation, so I thought that what I wrote to her may be helpful to other families.

Here are 3 options if you can’t afford a dyslexia tutor:

1. Work with a tutor doing a practicum for a lower fee per session until they are certified. (send us an email at ladderlearning@gmail.com to see what we have available. Or email your local branch of the International Dyslexia Association)
2. Find a parent, grandparent, babysitter, etc. who can do the Barton Reading and Spelling System with the student at home. If you’re in the state of Georgia and are a member of the Georgia Cyber Academy you can get sent to you for free. Otherwise, you can buy it at www.bartonreading.com First, you need to make sure the tutor can pass the tutor screening and your student passes the student screening.
(If the student doesn’t pass the Student Screening, we might be able to work with him online until he’s ready to pass.)
Yes, it can be difficult to work with your own child. If nothing else, you can try to get them through the first 3 levels of the program, and we can take over from there– and you have saved yourself some money that way.
3. You can try to get your school district to provide the tutoring and pay a tutoring company  like ours directly. Other parents have been successful with this if they either get an advocate, lawyer, or are knowledgeable about their rights. (Typically, these families have older students who have been failed by the school system for many years, and there is a history of neglect on the school’s part.) You must know your rights, the law, and be very assertive about what your child needs. More information about this can be found from this website: www.wrightslaw.org We are happy to work directly with a school district to do tutoring services.
NOTE: The MOST important thing is that no matter what the school says, DO NOT WAIT to start the intervention your student needs. Because of the “Matthew Effect,” without the correct type of help our students with dyslexia only continue to fall further behind as time goes on. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.matthew.effect.htm
Hopefully one of these options will work out for your family!
PS–Research shows that children who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate high school on time… and dropping out of high school increases your odds of ending up in prison dramatically.  I’m not trying to scare you, but I want you to know the facts so you make the best decision for your child. Yes, there are dyslexic high-school dropouts who started successful companies and became billionaires too… but I’m sorry to say they are few and far between, and that isn’t a chance I recommend taking with your child’s future.

Great simple idea for multisensory practice

If you are looking for a simple way to practice building decoding skills and fluency along with an Orton-Gillingham program, this mom/tutor has a great idea for a DIY board game where you can change out the words. She’s using the Barton Reading and Spelling System, but you could use this concept with any Orton-Gillingham program’s word list (real or nonsense words would work great). What a wonderful idea for at-home practice between lessons! I love the simple ideas, because they usually are so versatile. Also, I love how this is a larger game, so that gets your kids moving around while they learn– always a great thing!

Required materials:

  • posterboard
  • markers
  • post-it notes (squares)
  • tokens
  • dice
  • washi tape (optional)

Soft-C and Soft-G sounds

Hi everyone,
I want you to check out Sarah Z’s post from yesterday for Multisensory Monday (I took the day off). She has some great ideas of how to help your students remember that C and G make their soft sounds /s/ and /j/ before E, I, and Y. It involves a great hands-on art project that your students will love! This would be great for students with dyslexia, ADHD, and ELL/ESL students too.
You can see her video here: http://www.rlacortongillingham.com/multisensory-monday-soft-c-and-g/

Multisensory Monday: Word Ladders

Orton-Gillingham lessons tend to follow very set procedures, and sometimes this can get too repetitive for our students. I like to mix things up with different activities and ideas for doing the same skills, but in a different way (especially when reviewing a concept) so that my students don’t get too bored! One way I like to do this is to occasionally throw in a “word ladder.”

Word Ladders are great puzzles that engage your student’s phonemic awareness, decoding, and encoding skills!

The concept of a Word Ladder is that you start with one word on the bottom and change one letter (or add/delete one) for each rung in the ladder, following the clues, until you get to the top run with a completely new word! If you provide or create controlled word ladders for your students, they will enjoy it as a fun game break and still be reviewing phonics concepts they know. Also, they are a great center or homework activity for students which can be completed independently if they are leveled correctly for your students.

One great source for phonics-controlled word ladders is this book by Scholastic: Daily Word Ladders: 80+ Word Study Activities That Target Key Phonics Skills to Boost Young Learners’ Reading, Writing & Spelling Confidence
It starts off with CVC words, and moves into VCE words and more complex phonics. There are other sets in this series, which are not phonetically-controlled, but may be good for your older/more advanced students.

Or, here are some free downloadable worksheets created by a classroom teacher that follow the same concept (and are phonetically-controlled): http://mpsdwordstudy.wikispaces.com/Word+Ladders

If you want to design your own Word Ladder worksheets, here is a free template,

For a very beginning student, check out these cut-and-paste word ladders (with pictures instead of word clues) from SuperTeacherWorksheets.

Another Word Ladder idea that is more “hands-on” is to use Unifix Phonics Cubes and
with the Unifix word ladder accessories:

CVC words:

Words with consonant Blends & vowel teams:

These are a great choice for center-work for younger children or your more severe dyslexic children, because they do not require any reading of clues as the worksheets do (they simply require logic to move from one rung to the next).

I have used these with several students, and my only complaint is that the Unifix cubes do not always stick together; and their idea of a Vowel Team/blend/digraph is a bit different from my training/program. You could easily make some of these from Legos or other building blocks you have lying around too!

I hope this gives you a fresh idea for practicing phonics/spelling skills with your students!

Also check out Sarah of RLAC’s post today on Rolling with Word Families, a fun dice-game that would be good for students beginning an OG program in tutoring.

Multisensory Monday: Monster Words

Today I have a wonderful multisensory Halloween-themed idea courtesy of Kellie Lunsford of Marietta, GA.

Kellie taught for 12 years in the classroom and has now been in private practice as a diagnostic interventionist for 7 years. She is certified at the Associate Level of The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and serves students in Marietta, Georgia. While remediating students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and other comorbid learning differences, she has continued her professional development in order to receive her educational therapist endorsement.

Monster Words

Monster Words Blue Monster

This game will help your students practice the Doubling or 1-1-1 Rule and the Drop-e rule in an Orton-Gillingham program. This idea can be used in 1:1 tutoring, or in a small group setting.

Explain to your students that some words are real “Monsters” to read– so we call this activity Monster Words! We’re talking about words like:


These words are tricky for all students, but especially for students with dyslexia or ESL/ELL students. Recently, I had a dyslexic student who just couldn’t get any of these words right. She would flip one for the other almost every time because she was just used to guessing at them and was not motivated to figure out the baseword and rule used. We started working on these types of word-pairs when we got to Barton Level 6– after she had learned the Doubling Rule (aka 1-1-1 Rule) and the Dropping Rule (aka “Drop-E Rule”). This idea did the trick for my student, and gave her that extra push she needed to attend to the words and get them correct, and hopefully it will help your students too!

Monster Words

(to practice words with suffixes that used either the 1-1-1 or dropping rule)

You will need:

  • Monster parts– There is a great free printable here, courtesy of the SomewhatSimple Blog) — Or if you have an artist for a student, you and your students can try drawing your own (always fun!)
  • a popsicle stick with an “e” on one end and an arrow on the other
  • Monster Words Game Word List or your own word lists

To make the game:

Print out or draw up your monster parts, then cut them out and separate by part (arms, eyes, etc.). Print out and cut out your word-lists (I separated them into groups of 5 words but you can modify this as needed for your students). Take the popsicle stick and draw an “e” on one end and an arrow on the other end. This will be your pointer for the drop-e or 1-1-1 rule.
Here are all the supplies:
Monster Words Supplies

To play:

Your student will get a chance to build their monster if they read the words correctly and tell you the correct basewords.
Set a goal with your student that is appropriate for them. You may want to start with getting 3/5 words correct and that will earn your student a monster part. You can work up to 100% accuracy and then start working on fluency and using a timer if that is your goal.
Hand your student a word list, and tell them they must meet their goal of fluency or accuracy in order to earn a part for their monster. They can use the popsicle stick as a helper tool to determine if the word is using the 1-1-1 (Doubling) rule and the first vowel is a short sound:
Monster Words Doubling Word

OR the word had a dropped silent-e and the vowel is making a long sound:
Monster Words Dropping Word

Once they have figured that out and know the correct way to say the word, they can say it out loud and then tell you what the original baseword was. If they meet the goal, they have earned a new part to build their monster (start with a body, then add mouth, eyes, horns, hands, and feet!)

Here is an idea of what finished Monsters will look like:
Monster Words Blue MonsterMonster Words Green Monster

You can get the Monster printouts from the Somewhat Simple blog here: http://www.somewhatsimple.com/build-monster-free-printable/

Multisensory Monday: Winston Grammar

Today, I want to share with you a program that I absolutely love called Winston Grammar which can supplement an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching language skills very well. It can be used in 1:1 setting or in a classroom setting. I have used it successfully with many students who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, and/or ADHD.

I was never formally taught grammar or analyzing sentences in school– we just wrote a sentence, and it either sounded correct or it didn’t. But the formal study of grammar can be very helpful for those who struggle with writing skills or for whom English is not their first language. It can make it much more clear why a certain way to write is correct vs. incorrect, so for that reason I feel that it is an important thing for our students to learn.

Unfortunately, studying grammar, and diagramming sentences can be tediously boring for many students, and memorizing all the terms associated with grammar (noun/verb/adjective/adverb) can present a real problem for students with Language-Based Learning Disabilities such as dyslexia.

Winston Grammar is perfect for these students (and really great for all students, in my opinion) because it is a multisensory, hands-on grammar program. Best of all, it’s very affordable (no, they are not paying me to endorse them!) The Basic set costs $41 plus $4 shipping, and includes everything student and teacher need to teach the program.

The way Winston Grammar works is two-fold. First, you learn about a new part of speech and use color-coded clue cards to represent words in an example sentence. The program is cumulative and systematic, so it introduces one new thing per lesson and includes practice of previously taught concepts. While you are still learning parts of speech, you use solid black cards to represent an “unknown” word.

Once you get through the first 20 lessons, you know all the basic parts of speech, and when you analyze a sentence it looks something like this:

Winston Grammar Clue Cards

Then, after you practice a few sentences with clue cards, your students are ready to transfer that knowledge to “mark up” a sentence on paper (this is the part which is sort of like diagramming, and shows you how the different parts relate to each other).

Winston Grammar marked up sentences

Once you have practice with clue cards and marking up the sentences for each part of speech, then you begin to identify the “Noun Functions.” Every noun in a sentence has a function, and you learn to identify them all.

Each of the Noun Functions has a card, and you advance through them as in a flow-chart or “Choose Your Adventure” story– by the end you have identified the function of all your nouns. Here is what the Noun Function Cards look like:

Winston Grammar Noun Function Cards

That is what is learned in Winston Grammar Basic– there is also an Advanced Level which gets in to more complex topics.

According to their FAQ:

Because almost all grammar concepts are abstract, it is recommended that the Basic Level be done in 5th grade when children most often have developed their abstract thinking skills. In the front of the Basic Teacher Manual is a suggested lesson plan which, if followed, will take approximately one school year to complete the Basic Level. Using Word Works in 6th grade provides good reinforcement and helps with the difficult areas in our language. Teachers may choose to do the Advanced Level Program in 7th grade or choose to focus on other areas of language with review of the basic concepts that year. The Advanced level could then be started in 8th grade. The Advanced level is nearly twice as long as the Basic and could be stretched out over two years if desired.

Happy Dyslexia Awareness Month!

In honor of October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, I challenge you to learn more about this neurological difference which affects up to 1 in 5 people.

Here is a short video explanation of dyslexia:

And some recent articles to get you started learning more about the world of dyslexia:

At Ladder Learning Services, we offer specialized tutoring services which can change the brains of dyslexics to make them more efficient readers and spellers. We also offer a free Dyslexia assessment for Kindergarten and 1st graders in the Atlanta area.

Don’t make this mistaking when reading aloud to your children

Educator Pam Barnhill shares in this post on the Ed Snapshots Blog the #1 mistake that parents make when reading aloud to their children.

Everyone knows that we should start reading aloud to babies as soon as possible.

But, once children develop reading skills, parents often feel relieved that they are more independent now and read aloud to them less. Or stop altogether.

However, at this point they really need you to be reading aloud to them more, not less. This is because reading aloud to your children helps them develop language skills beyond decoding the words on the page. It helps with vocabulary, sentence structure, and most of all, comprehension skills. It also helps your children develop higher-level thinking skills.

It exposes your child to a wider background knowledge and words they won’t hear spoken in conversation. It helps them to hear the language spoken out-loud to know the patterns of language. This is especially important for kids with dyslexia, who may not be very strong at decoding, or kids with ADHD who may have trouble focusing on text when reading by themselves.

Other ways to expose your children to this type of language is to have them listen to audio books, or podcasts, or old radio shows. All of these auditory formats will help their brain’s language centers and further develop vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension.

When I was in school, I attended a school for kids with dyslexia, and our teachers always spent at least 30 minutes per day reading aloud to us. I credit this as helping me to score in the 99th percentile in verbal abilities on standardized tests. Your child may not get that type of instruction in his or her school, but it is easy to provide it at home.

If you find that when you’re reading aloud to your child they can’t follow an appropriate grade-level story, or they are only focusing on details and don’t get the bigger picture, then your child may have trouble with visualizing what they hear or read. This is a specific deficit in their comprehension skills, and our tutors can help with this type of problem.

Multisensory Monday: See to Spell Sight Words

Hi everyone! This week, I was lucky to have a set of these new “See to Spell Sight Words” cards sent to me to review, so I wanted to show you all how they work.

These will save you and your students a lot of time if you are into illustrating the sight words, and they are aligned with the sight words taught in the Barton Reading and Spelling System.

You can order your own set of See to Spell Sight Word cards from their website.

This week, Sarah Z. at RLAC has a challenge for you– are you up for it? head on over to her blog and check out her Think, Ready, Read MacGyver Challenge!

Are you homeschooling a child with dyslexia?

I found this great site today, written by a mom who home-schools her child with dyslexia: http://homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com/

Are you homeschooling a child with dyslexia? What are your biggest tips for making this work well? What programs do you use with your child?