As the non-dyslexic mother of 7 dyslexic kids (and wife to one dyslexic husband), it has taken me some time to come to terms with the idea of worksheets and dyslexia.
It probably doesn’t help that I am a producer-type who practically drools over checklists of any kind. I love order, neatness and well, worksheets.
My students with dyslexia need a lot of practice to learn their phonograms (sounds), letter formation, and sight words. In my left-brained, linear mind, slipping a few worksheets in throughout their day makes perfect sense.
But do dyslexia worksheets really work?
Yes, and no.
Early on in our dyslexia journey, I found a wonderful reading resource that actually followed many of the principles found in the most popular and effective approach to teaching reading to dyslexics, the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach.
This resource taught syllabication rules and provided worksheets for practice with the concepts. However, even after filling out the worksheets for weeks on end, the information failed to stick. My kids couldn’t remember what they were being taught. The lessons were systematic; they taught each rule the same way. They were explicit; they left nothing to chance and taught each rule clearly. They were even cumulative; they reviewed and built upon previously learned concepts.
The problem with dyslexia worksheets.
Worksheets are lacking 2 major components of the O-G approach;
individualized and multi-sensory instruction.
Dyslexics do not learn like other kids. Shocking, I know. Without these 2 facets, learning is way less efficient.
Here’s how a lack of individualization will affect a dyslexic student. On one day, Charlie remembers a particular rule and can apply it to his reading or spelling. Another day (or week) Charlie has mysteriously forgotten the rule and needs to relearn it – or at least review it. Worksheets and workbooks are not individualized. It really isn’t possible for them to be individualized because every dyslexic child is unique and will learn on their own unique trajectory.
And then there is that multi-sensory aspect. In my example of the reading workbook above, the rules and strategies for breaking down longer words were fairly solid. The problem was that simply writing words that follow a particular rule wasn’t enough to make the information stick. In multi-sensory learning, kids see, hear and touch. It is based off of the theory that most children learn more easily through one sense than the others and that kids will learn more and more efficiently if they are taught using more than one sense at a time. Multi-sensory teaching also aids retention and increases motivation!
When worksheets work with dyslexia.
Having said all of that, there are a few situations when worksheets are useful.
- worksheets that are purely for review
- worksheets that include games or strategy practice and are for review
- worksheets that are used with a teacher
Worksheets and workbooks for dyslexia that we like.
In our homeschool, we use a minimum of worksheets or workbooks and then, primarily for review.
Here’s what we’ve used and liked:
Skill Building Worksheets for Dyslexia:
Our kids have benefited from these free letter reversals worksheets from Bay Tree Blog.
The American Dyslexia Association website has over 1,500 free, printable worksheets. I looked through most of the categories and found an interesting variety of subjects that could be used as either review or for teaching with a parent.
Dyslexia Support Services of Australia has a ton of free downloadable literacy worksheets available on their website.
Build handwriting skills with these free, downloadable worksheets from SenTeacher.org. There are several different levels;
Graphic organizers make writing so much easier by helping students organize their thoughts before writing. Download these free graphic organizers from Understood.org.
Reading Worksheets for Dyslexia
Explode the Code workbooks Comes in 8 levels with a wide variety of exercises that reinforce what has been learned in your Orton-Gillingham-based reading program. Note: My one child who is not dyslexic (big sigh) actually learned to read from doing Explode the Code workbooks. Yes, I cried. I was shocked when I realized how easy it was for her to learn to read compared to her dyslexic siblings. I only use these as review and assign books that cover material that my kids with dyslexia can do independently.
Although not a workbook or worksheet, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a screaming deal on the web-based version of Explode the Code. A 1-year subscription that has access to all 8 levels is only $35.00.
These reading skills worksheets from K12Reader.com cover subjects that reinforce comprehension skills across a variety of skill areas including cause and effect, context clues, literature, drawing conclusions, fact and opinion, main ideas, inference and more. May not be able to be done independently but a good resource.
Math Worksheets for Dyslexia
These free math sheets from HelpingWithMath.com teach some interesting math strategies like visualizing math bonds and bridging as well as a wide variety of free math fact worksheet generators.
If you’re looking for resources for learning math facts and not just review, use some of these math resources.
More Resources on Worksheets for Dyslexia
How to Make Any Worksheets Dyslexia-Friendly With Assistive Technology Read this excellent article from assistive technology consultant, Jamie Martin, on available technology to help students with dyslexia complete worksheets independently.
Using Worksheets With Your Dyslexic Learner
A successful teacher will find ways to balance their own learning style preference with those of their students. A good strategy to have with worksheets is to use them primarily for review. Worksheets that are not able to be done independently should be complete alongside a parent, teacher or tutor.