8 Things I do Each Day With my Dyslexic Reader

by | Jan 9, 2021 | Teaching Tips | 42 comments

These are the daily habits that help my dyslexic reader to be more successful.

These are the daily habits that help my dyslexic reader to be more successful.

I have been homeschooling kids with dyslexia for over 20 years!  Where did the time go?

I am mainly focused these days on my 9 and 12-year-old sons.  One of these guys is moderately dyslexic and one profoundly; nothing comes easy but it is coming.  I realized that we have developed some daily habits that are helping us have success and so it is these things that I am sharing with you today.

8 Daily Habits to Help the Dyslexic Reader

Let them move a lot in the morning. This could be jumping on our well-used trampoline, building elaborate forts, or just running around in the backyard.  I encourage him to get outside before school every morning because exercise has been proven to help with academic achievement.

Eat a healthy breakfast.  Because my kids have some attention and focus issues (mainly overcome by short, intense lessons throughout the day) I insist on them having a healthy breakfast every day.  This might be yogurt and granola, some whole grain bread and nut butter with fruit and lots of water! My oldest son also has a small cup of coffee most mornings which also has helped with his focus.

Having a regular routine.  Since several of my kids have variations of ADD & ADHD, we keep a regular routine so that they always know what is happening next.  Kids with executive function weaknesses tend to have trouble with transitions; they just don’t shift gears quickly. Sticking to a routine helps them to stay on the train so-to-speak until we are finished with our daily tasks. Whenever we get away from this routine (as happens to all of us) it becomes hard for them to get organized and focus is way more difficult.

Review, review, review!  A few years ago, I learned of the term ‘overlearning’.  Overlearning refers to the process required for language information to really stick in the mind of a dyslexic.  A lack of automaticity in remembering sounds, digraphs, and sight words result in frustrating lessons and a lack of fluency.  So I review what every we’re currently working on (or have worked on in the past few weeks/months) every day.  This can be phonemes and sight words for younger kids or syllable types and more difficult sight words for older kids. I try to make a game out of review time, almost like a warm-up.  There is a lot of laughing and talking during this time.

All About Reading.  While our older kids are doing their morning routines, we start reading instruction.  It is easy with so many kids at home to teach for this intensive time to get cut short or not happen at all unless I’m intentional to get to it early in the day. We have been using All About Reading for years.

If you’re looking for a research-based, effective. and homeschool-friendly reading program for your struggling readers, check out my comparison of the top 4 Orton Gillingham reading programs for homeschoolers. 

Using lots of discussions.  Learning to read and write and spell is difficult for kids with dyslexia.  To break up the pressure my kids feel during difficult subjects like reading, writing, and spelling I may ask my son what a word he is spelling means and to use it in a sentence. If he is spelling a word incorrectly, I ask questions like, “What is the rule for the /k/ sound at the end of a word with a short vowel sound?” This often results in interesting and or hilarious conversations – making the process more relational and enjoyable.

Take notes.   Everyday, after teaching reading, I make a list of areas of strength and weakness so I can tailor the following day’s lesson to exactly what he needs.  For example, if he is confusing the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ I’ll make flashcards with words that contain those letters so he can get more practice. Or in the example above, if my child forgot a rule, I will make a note to review it again the following day. You can download my free reading lesson planner here if you haven’t already.

Monitor kids’ learning.  I don’t know why this is but some days learning is easier and some days it is just hard – like the information just won’t go in.  If it’s a good day, we work longer. If it is ‘one of those days’ we cut things short and move on to something else.

Are you homeschooling kids with dyslexia?  What things do you do daily that help your child learn?

42 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    My son is 10.5. He is reading well, but still needs lots of practice. One thing I have him do every day is read to his younger siblings – they are 6, 3 and 1. I let Sam pick the books, usually he picks very simple board books, but I figure any practice is better than none.

    Reply
    • marianne

      I love this idea Jennifer. I need to get back to this!

      Reply
  2. Brigid kram

    i have a just 10 year old and we do stretches and cross body exercises. This really seems to help. Also we just got her a dog so she can read to her and write stories about her. My daughter loves this part 🙂

    Reply
    • marianne

      Brigid – I have a few animal lovers too. Having animals around to care for and play with are a big part of their every day. Thanks for the reminder about the cross body exercises. I need to start those again. Do you follow a particular program?

      Reply
  3. sarahelisabeth

    I’ve heard but don’t know the evidence that there is more day to day variation amongst children with dyslexia than those without reading problems. My eight year old also has dyslexia and I can tell almost immediately if we are going to have a good day or a more challenging day with reading.

    Do you do reading and spelling every day? We do the reading programme regularly, each day and really need to do a daily spelling programme (we have All about Spelling) but struggle to fit both in-it seems a fair amount of phonics in one day.

    Reply
    • Cristen

      I experience the same thing. I can tell almost immediately whether we’ll struggle with emotions on any given lesson.

      Reply
  4. Kathy

    The day to day does vary. If they are tired or sick, they may have a little more trouble.

    Reply
  5. Blanca

    Before I ask my question, I’d like to thank you for putting together this wonderful resource! I have found it so helpful. My son is 16 months old and is quite the busy little guy! Every male on his dad’s side of the family (including my husband) has dyslexia and ADHD. Although I don’t want to project anything on my son, I do feel it is my responsibility to educate and prepare myself as early as possible, just in case. We are blessed to be able to have my husband stay at home with my son while I work. My husband does really well with very clear and detailed written instructions (he has a whiteboard in the kitchen that he uses to write notes on). I’d like to put together a schedule – not a rigid one – but something he can use as a guide to start establishing a routine with our son. Do you have any recommendations on games/exercises/etc they can do together than can start helping him son develop skills he’ll need in case we find out in the future he has dyslexia and/or ADHD? Any other parenting skills or resources for toddlers with ADHD? Again, thank you!

    Reply
    • marianne

      It’s great that your husband can stay home with him because he will benefit from the one on one. A routine is definitely going to be a good idea. Like you said, not too rigid, just a general schedule. Also playing games is excellent for developing thinking skills and all kinds of organizational skills. Reading aloud is the next biggest thing. He should be ready to often. Find rhyming books and read those often. They will help him to develop an awareness of sounds and how they work.

      Reply
    • Cherie

      Blanca, since he is still young, not a lot of reading activity- but you can do lots of physical activity such as swimming, and gymnastics type activities. The best two physical activities for young children. Gymnastics for young kids would be: jumping, hopping, skipping, rolling sideways, forward, backward, sit-ups, hold a bar and swing, pull-up, lift toes to the bar, hang and walk across with hands. And many more things. There are classes for young children, but you can do many activities at home, also.

      Reply
    • Cherie

      Bianca, I also would introduce music to young children. Very young children just plat lots of classical music and sing fun songs and play lots of preschool type CD’s. When about 4-5 yrs. old you can start piano. Th Mayron Cole Method is very good to start young children with.

      Reply
  6. Debby

    I have a 10.5 yr old son. I took him to a tutor who is qualified in Wilson. Just finished testing him. As she said he is the most severe dyslexic she has seen. She is leaning toward LiPs and then Barton with me at home. Trying so hard not to be discouraged. I have tried 3 curriculum over 3 years and it’s his recall that isn’t there. I haven’t been able to move past basic readers and the phonograms. So very discouraged. Please tell me I can find something that will unlock his mind. We’ve done AAR 1 and I switched away because we weren’t making any more or less headway.

    Reply
    • marianne

      Hi Debbie. We have a son who was diagnosed with profound dyslexia when he was 10 as well. We had tried everything at home and had 3 years of Barton tutoring. He still could not read. Everything was SO slow. We switched from our wonderful Barton tutor to an NILD tutor. NILD.org combines Orton-Gillingham reading instruction with brain gym type exercises and lots of working memory training. He took off that year. He was in 7th grade! He just graduated from high school and is just about to become an Eagle Scout. He is not too keen on the idea of going to college but is very entrepreneurial and has lots of ideas. We may use his college money to help him start a business. Hang in there! Help your son to understand his dyslexia and find his strengths! Help him to develop the gifts and talents that he has. He’ll be fine but it isn’t a straight road.

      Reply
      • Steve O

        Hi I am 67. Seventh grade was when I read to my level. This was after two summers at reading school. This is were all the children who could not read were given the big SRA box to read small books and answer questions. However no reading instruction. Another summer wasted indoors. Yeah that did not work. Also fun fact my parents never helped me with homework ever.

        My Dad hired certified teacher to tutor me the summer after 6th grade. I believe Mrs. Owens had plumbing job done and tutoring was exchanged. We did 1 hour 2 x per week with home work all subjects covered to keep my skills current and add new skills.

        Sister Robertine asked my Mom if she could spend 1 hour each day with me after school. As you can imagine my Mom said YES probably (Hell Yes). Sister Robertine my 7 th grade teacher and Mr Bauer my 6 th & 7th grade teacher saved me.
        Later I found out that both Sister Robertine and Mr Bauer were studying special ed in the 60’s. Mr Bauer taught science which was my interest.
        Scouting also saved me and I made Eagle at 17 and went to Philmont at 14. I lettered in cross country and swimming in HS. Also had a paper route all 4 years of HS and worked with Dad in summers.

        Saved my money and went to Miami Dade Jr college to study diving methods and marine technician. Worked 30 hours at market and paid my own way, no help from parents. I made deans list both semesters.
        I ran out of $ and returned home to Buffalo and worked plumbing to get more $. I studied Calculus and Physics at night CC. Entered Erie CC to study Chemical technology program and completed in 1975. I was accepted at three universities to continue BA/BS. I chose Buffalo state and completed BA Chemistry certified by ACS in summer/fall/spring/summer graduated 1976. I was invited to continue for masters in chemistry. I won award for teaching excellence in 1978. The graduate teaching assistant paid $100/week, free tuition and faculty goodies for 15 hours of lab instruction and office hours. I continued as a master plumber during MA and also tutored HS students for $. I made more than the all those good HS students that went to the steel plant.(closed in 1975). I
        I was also taught plumbing by my Dad since age 10. I scored 100% on master plumber exam at 21, no one ever did this before. This was my only 100% ever.

        I completed a summer fellowship at great lakes lab in 1978. In April 1979 I started as Lab supervisor of Virgina tech. Occoquan watershed monitoring lab. Finished writing thesis 1979 and MA Chemistry. I was promoted to faculty member. I still did plumbing & home repairs for my land lord.

        1979 I married Cheryl we dated since 1973. Cheryl graduated Georgetown medical school in 1986 and became a board certified OBGYN.

        I started at Potomac Electric in April 1981 to start a new lab to study insulating fluids in electrical equipment and testing of PCB. I retired after 35 years as supervising chemist and subject matter expert.

        In 1976, 5 years after Hs, I was walking across Buffalo state quad and saw Margaret. She was the top student at HS class of 450. I stop to say hi and ask what she was up to. Margaret said she was starting st Buffalo state to study teaching. Se continued that her father insisted she be a lawyer. So now after the nervous breakdown she was starting her dream of being a teacher. knew what a struggle she had because my Mom had a nervous breakdown when I was 10. She asked what I was doing. I was pleased to say teaching chemistry the only subject that I was ever really good at.

        Always play to your strengths plumbing and Chemistry.

        My Dad always said different people are good at different things and no one would ever out work me.

        I hope all you folks working with us dyslexics find hope in my story.

        Keep Smiling Always because they sure do not know what you are thinking. !

        PS my favorite day at catholic school was spelling bee each week. Why because i could sit down early and enjoy the view of pond , farm and woods across the street. one word dictionary.

        Steve

        Reply
        • Elizabeth k

          This is a great story Steve! Life is not school, and while I sometimes wish schools was easier for my dyslexic daughter,
          I know the work ethic dyslexic kids develop because learning is harder will serve them well in life. Congratulations on your success!

          Reply
    • Shelley

      Try Fast For Word , it’s the cheapest but not cheap , and most progressive thing we have done., accompanied by SPELD readers which you can get free online , also have a look at the Nemechek Protocol finding the right pieces to each individual puzzle Ivan be long but we have tried almost everything and those have worked the besy

      Reply
    • SusanCK

      Debbie I realize your comment is from 2014 and I hope reading has become easier for your son. If he is still having issues here is what we use with our son that has worked the best – Explode the Code. Our son who is 10 1/2 is dyslexic and he probably has ADHD. His Daddy has ADHD and dyslexia so thankfully he has experience in dealing with both. I have been trying to teach our son how to read for 4 years and with Explode the Code workbooks some thing are finally starting to stick. He is very bright and has an excellent memory. He has a such a great memory that we’ll ask him to remind us to pick stuff up from the store or ask him about different machinery that he’s watched shows about and he can tell us all about it.

      Reply
  7. Donna

    We have been using Dyslexia Games worksheets and I think they have helped my 15&11yr olds. My 11yr started their DIY Unschooling notebook this year as her morning work and it has helped her become so much more independent.

    Reply
  8. Anna Lynn

    I too am combining All About Reading and Wilson for my son who is 10.5. With each passing day, I find I’m using Wilson less and less. I like that AAR & AAS can be taught independently so his reading can develop at his pace without being held back by spelling. Of Wilson’s materials, I find the magnetic journal with tiles and the sound cards helpful (mainly because I like the way they teach the welded sounds better…). Other than that, I’m finding the Wilson scope & sequence just different enough from AAR/AAS that I can’t use their materials without frustration. I’ve invested quite a chunk of change in the Wilson materials and would like to sell what I won’t really use. Any tips on what Wilson materials you use? Many thanks!!

    Reply
    • marianne

      I feel the same way about separating spelling Anna. At first I did both together by adding the classic OG method to the AAR lessons. Progress, or should I say mastery, was so slow! I’m now using AAS and AAR and we are making good progress and not hitting walls day after day. I am not using the Wilson materials much at all except for the letter cards. As you said, the scope and sequence is enough different that it is just frustrating!

      Reply
  9. mei

    My son is 38 years old, a musician, and an accomplished carpenter. He had ADD as a child and the hardest part of learning for him was reading. One thing I would do with him when he was 9 or 10 years old was to put vocabulary words on a kind of homemade dart board. He could read it from far away and he concentrated on it. Then I got him to read any word he saw aloud and then try to hit that word with a suction cup dart. The distance, the activeness, and the challenge got us through those words really fast. Another interesting thing is that we went to China for a year when he was 15 years old. It was the first time for any of us to experience the language. He found reading Chinese characters much easier compared to the linear method that is part of reading English. The ‘pictureness’ of the characters actually helped, and he even began reading English fluently and at a manageable speed that year. So never give up trying new ways of discovering how you child’s brain works.

    Reply
    • marianne

      Thank you SO much for this encouraging feedback! I am going to try a homemade dart board here! I think my kids will love it!

      Reply
  10. Kelly Miller

    Very nice article Marianne! I have been teaching at a special needs school (Winston Preparatory School) in New York for quite long. Many children go to school with no more than a sugary cereal to start their day. A good nutritious breakfast is important for all children, especially Dyslexic kids. At Winston, students were suppose to do breakfast in school. High protein diet and right complex carbohydrates are very important to give them long term energy and the ability to focus and pay attention. We have seen remarkable improvement in them with this.

    Reply
  11. Lacey

    My son is 6 and showing signs of dyslexia, though not officially diagnosed. I usually start our day with our Susan Barton reading and writing program. It has almost replaced all of our language arts, though I do have All About Reading too and use it for letter sound practice. I’m just really struggling with getting him to write anything as he HATES handwriting. I also struggle with if I’m doing enough to help him.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Lacey. While our boys are little, I buy them colored dry erase markers and have them practice on a dry erase board without lines. They gain confidence, enjoy the colors and can erase mistakes easily. I don’t worry about slight delays in handwriting but I do have them practice a little every day.

      Reply
  12. Gin

    Great ideas. My 8 yr old son isnt homeschooled, but has been diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities including dyslexia. Currently he has tutoring twice a week with a lady who has worked in the schools with children like my son. I specifically looked for that when i was looking for tutors.
    When he is home and we do spelling I’ve learned have him tap the word out. How we do this is for each letter in the word he taps it down his arm and once he spells he runs his hand up his arm saying the word. Than if hes still struggling he traces the word with his finger. For reading in the summer i write the sight words down hide them through out the living room. I say the word and he has to find it, than say the word, spell it, and say it again. Since he has it with numbers too when we go grocery shopping we tell him how many apples we need and have him count them out. He is still struggling but we’re doing all we can, even fighting with the school.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Excellent teaching tips Gin. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Susan Park

        My son has ADD and is very much a physical learner. He’s now 33. He got through high school on charm and a good memory.

        He has auditory processing difficulties and Sitting in a lecture is/was horrible for him so college was a wash. He was never diagnosed with dyslexia, but I wouldn’t have been surprised. We weren’t in an area where that kind of testing was available.

        The one thing that really helped him with spelling in elementary school was that we used the sign language for the deaf alphabet to finger spell his words. The physical action made a big difference in his ability to spell and remember.
        With the internet now, it’s easy to find websites that can teach you the alphabet. Don’t worry about learning regular sign language, all you need is the alphabet.

        Reply
  13. Jerri

    My son is 10 and has been recently diagnosed with mild dyslexia. His main struggle with reading is not saying suffixes on the ends of words and leaving out all little words altogether. I bought the Wilson program and went to a three day training on how to use it. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the program and not sure that he needs that much intensive remediation. We have used all about spelling through level III and I’m torn between doing all about reading with him or doing the Wilson. I would love some advice from someone who has used both. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi! I am trying to figure out if I should use the Wilson program or all about reading as well I wondered if you ever got any answers on this?

      Reply
      • Marianne

        I wouldn’t recommend Wilson unless you’ve done the training. It is not easy to implement. AAR is much more user-friendly!

        Reply
  14. Amanda

    My daughter is 12 and in public school. Her main difficulties are organization and recalling directions. Her handwriting is still extremely difficult to read and several of her teachers are requiring her to type her homework. Does anyone have any recommendations for strengthening executive function?

    Reply
  15. Jenn

    Our eight year old dyslexic diagnosed son does his homeschool paperwork portion now solely with Star Wars reading, writing, and math books, grades 1&2, because he is a Star Wars fanatic and it makes him sail through his paper portion of school. We used Wilson Fundations for K and part of the 1st grade curriculum, but now we use it just for letter formation and reminders on connecting sounds to letters. My child has amazing penmanship, probably due to Wilson! We used Easyread online intensively for about a year, after his diagnosis at age six. But now, I find he is very eager to complete the Star Wars stuff and doesn’t freak out as badly as when we were just doing comprehensive curricula. He also uses Reading Eggs and Mathseeds online, and ABCMouse just added second grade (glory Hallelujah!) and he enjoys it because it reads TO him.

    That’s the interesting thing about our dyslexics: They are extremely intelligent, but in the academic environment, being read to would put up a dunce cap red flag, and that’s just not cool. What are we trying to accomplish: Comprehension, right? He comprehends perfectly; can retell everything he ever sees or reads…

    I agree with routine, too, and have experienced the “on-days” and “off-days” thing, totally. If he gets moving right away in the morning, everything goes so much more smoothly. Thanks for your post!

    Reply
  16. Amy

    How do you mix Wilson and All About Reading?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  17. Marsal

    Are you an NILD practitioner too, as well as certified in Wilson/O-G? Our son has an O-G tutor, but progress has been slow. I’m interested in NILD; haven’t heard much.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I am not certified in NILD but hope to be one day. Check out their web site at http://www.nild.org to find a therapist near you.

      Reply
      • Julie

        I was just looking at their website but there are no tutors in my area. Do they do online tutoring?

        Reply
        • Marianne

          Yes, they do!

          Reply
  18. Olivia Bruner

    HI Marianne,

    I just heard you on Read Aloud. Thank you so for all you do to help families. I. have 6 children and the last two have Dyslexia. They are 10 and 12. I found an amazing curriculum that incororates everything you talk about. It is called Smarter Intervention. Our son’s dyslexia teacher in public school was going to use it to tutor Cody. I looked it up and took the training. I took both of the youngest back to the foundations level and am going through it with them. Amazing the difference. Just a reference for you.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Thank you Olivia! I’ll look into it. 🙂

      Reply

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