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Often dyslexia can go unnoticed for a time: Dyslexic students are often quite creative and eager to blend in with the rest of the class, so they memorize several words by sight in order to appear that they are reading on grade level. But while the dyslexic student is obviously bright and seems to be keeping up with the class, possibly even “reading” books attentively during independent reading time, that student is actually lagging further and further behind in reading skills.

And when the dyslexia is finally discovered, the child’s parents often wonder: Is it possible for a dyslexic child to catch up quickly to the rest of the class from one or more grade levels behind?

For decades, the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading has been the answer for many dyslexic kids who have fallen behind in reading — whether they’re lagging just one grade level behind or multiple grade levels. This method of teaching dyslexic children to read works well because it ties reading into the many ways that people with dyslexia process information:
It breaks words into smaller parts like phonemes and morphemes in order to teach phonics
It incorporates multiple senses in the learning process: seeing the words, hearing the sounds of the words and sentences, touch (tactile learning), and kinesthetic learning (using motion), such as tracing letters in the air.
It is a systematic and structured way to learn how words and sentences are constructed, so the child develops better mastery of phonics, reading and writing.

Once a dyslexic child begins to use an Orton-Gillingham reading program, results often follow quickly. The Language Tune-Up Kit (LTK) is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, and has often resulted in dyslexic students advancing two or more grade levels in just a few weeks or months.

Orton-Gillingham-based teaching aids like the LTK work quickly because they finally teach reading in a way that’s accessible to the dyslexic mind. The LTK software helps students learn to decode words using phonemic awareness and other Orton-Gillingham methods, only relying on sight word memorization for those words which don’t follow the normal phonetic spelling rules. And true to the Orton-Gillingham multisensory approach, the LTK incorporates tactile-kinesthetic learning as well as audio reading, oral reading of words and stories, and dictation (the student types the word or sentence provided by the program).

Dyslexic students as young as 6 can begin using the Language Tune-Up Kit, and the complete program takes the student up to a grade 8.5 reading level. Students who use the LTK software 3-4 times per week for sessions of 30-45 minutes each often experience improved reading skills within two weeks — and that rapid progress provides confidence and the motivation to go further. Our testimonials show how other parents, tutors and teachers have successfully used the LTK to help dyslexic kids quickly build solid reading skills and attain the right reading level.

Homeschool parents enjoy using software of all kinds (math, spelling, reading, foreign language learning and more) to make it easier and more fun for their children to learn at home. And parents who have children in school but feel that their kids need more enrichment or private tutoring to do their best also understand the power of a good learning software program. But learning software isn’t just for one-on-one use — it is also useful in a one-on-many classroom setting with small groups.

There are different ways to use reading software in the classroom. It is very effective for kids with dyslexia or other learning disabilities to use for learning in a multisensory way and at their own pace. Of course, reading software is also a good computer lab activity and a way for children of all reading levels to reinforce their skills.

But software can also be used very effectively in a small group setting in which the teacher is working with students of similar or dissimilar reading skill levels to help students:

  • develop phonemic awareness
  • learn the sounds of letters and letter combinations
  • practice high-frequency words
  • learn to read sight words that don’t follow phonetic spelling rules
  • practice spelling short words
  • build fluency by reading short sentences

Whether it is used as an adaptation for a dyslexic child who needs to catch up to the right reading level or as a tool to teach a small group of children at the same time, reading software such as the Language Tune-Up Kit (LTK) is a welcome addition to the teacher’s toolbox.

Research has shown that learning disabled students can benefit from a combination of whole class instruction and small group instruction in which LD students are integrated with non-LD students. The LTK and similar reading software provide a wealth of options for teachers to work with individual LD students, to use with small groups of LD or mixed-ability students, or for all students to use in a computer lab setting.
That versatility is part of the reason that our LTK software has been used successfully to help so many students advance multiple grade levels in reading.

And because it is useful in so many settings (home, school and tutoring use), the Language Tune-Up Kit is sold in different versions. The Family version is available for two students and takes them from beginning reading through a grade 8.5 reading level. The School versions of the LTK provide support for an unlimited number of students on a single PC with the LTK for Schools Single Station version, or an unlimited number of students on an unlimited number of PCs with the LTK for Schools Enterprise Network version.

So the teacher can lead a group working at about the same speed, or let each student progress at his or her own speed in a group setting — depending on your class structure and student needs.

Students with dyslexia and similar learning disabilities are often highly creative and good at problem solving — because their processing disorders really represent a different way of thinking and learning. But when it comes to learning to read, that different way of thinking unfortunately means that these children will not be as successful with the standard methods of teaching letters and phonics.

Most of us intuitively know if we are more of a visual, auditory or kinesthetic (hands-on) learner. But for learning-disabled children, combining the three kinds of learning often yields the best results. They need to be taught to read and write in ways that tap into their own unique way of processing information, and the multi-sensory Orton-Gillingham method of learning phonics is tailor-made for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

The Orton-Gillingham approach is named for physician Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948) and psychologist Anna Gillingham (1878-1963).

Based on their studies of learning difficulties in children, Orton developed the concept of multi-sensory instruction and Gillingham designed a system for teaching 44 phonemes (sounds) made by the letters of the English alphabet as well as morphemes (the smallest units in a language that have semantic meaning, such as prefixes and suffixes).

A 1935 book called Remedial Training for Students with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship, which is still in print and known as The Gillingham Manual, laid out the tenets of this approach — and today, the Orton-Gillingham method is still widely recognized as the most effective way to teach dyslexic students to read and write.

Because it is multi-sensory, the Orton-Gillingham approach relies not just on sight (recognizing letters and words) but also on auditory and even kinesthetic cues. So the sense of sight, sound and touch all come together to help the child learn new ways to recognize letters and their sounds, form and decode words, and have a more meaningful interaction with text. This multisensory way of learning phonics has been used successfully to help learning-disabled kids catch up to their grade level in reading.

The Language Tune-Up Kit is a reading software program that uses the Orton-Gillingham method to help not only dyslexic students learn to read, but also kids who have a wide variety of other learning disabilities or language learning difficulties (LLD), need a more hands-on (kinesthetic) program, or are just beginning to learn to read and want to do so in a fun and engaging way. The LTK is the only reading software that teaches 104 phonemes, and it reinforces previously learned skills through a variety of activities as the student progresses.
Each lesson ends with a fun, game-like assessment — so you always know how far the child has progressed in reading and other language skills.

The LTK has been used successfully in many settings: in the classroom, with a private tutor, or in a homeschool situation where a parent is the teacher. After students complete the 87 lessons in the LTK, they can decode and read 90% of all words in the English language — and recognize many others that have non-phonetic spellings.

The dyslexic student faces a lot of challenges in the traditional schoolroom: The high ratio of students to teachers means the teacher can’t spare a lot of time to devote to teaching a dyslexic child according to the child’s needs or learning style. Individualized learning is too time- and labor-intensive — so the students are all expected to learn in the same way, at the same pace, from the same textbooks and workbooks.

Another significant challenge: The kind of book-based curricula most schools use aren’t exactly geared for dyslexic learners, who don’t do as well when confronted with heavy reading assignments, lots of writing assignments, spelling lists to memorize, and learning based almost exclusively on reading.

Instead, most dyslexic students fare much better with a curriculum that includes a multi-sensory approach that isn’t so dependent on processing (or writing) big chunks of text. Multi-sensory learning helps cement the information in the dyslexic learner’s mind through an approach that includes seeing, hearing, speaking, and doing hands-on activities.

For example, dyslexic learners can learn many concepts much better through:

  • Auditory learning, such as via audio books (the child can try to read along in the text)
  • Educational films and programs on DVD
  • Oral discussion of the material, or maybe even a dramatic presentation or play that the child acts out
  • Art projects that incorporate the subject being learned

 

Of course, the real world won’t always be willing or able to accommodate a dyslexic individual’s needs or learning preferences. Text-to-speech or speech-to-text programs are helpful, but don’t provide an answer to the underlying learning problems. Real skill mastery, and not just accommodation, is a must — and that’s why it’s so important for a dyslexic student to work on developing better reading and writing skills.

Software programs for dyslexic students, such as the Language Tune-Up Kit (LTK), are extremely helpful at bridging the gap between the multisensory approach to learning and the real reading and language skills the child needs to succeed in school and life. That’s because the LTK, which is based on the Orton-Gillingham phonics method, teaches through the use of audio, visual and tactile-kinesthetic (hands-on) exercises.

Using this multisensory approach that has been proven to work well for dyslexic students, the LTK gradually teaches dyslexic learners to sound out words, practice word-building, and read words, sentences and stories out loud — with questions for comprehension. Students using the LTK also practice dictation, in which the program dictates a phrase or sentence for the student to type. The LTK also teaches students the sight words that don’t conform to normal phonetic rules, and provides quizzes to check progress.

The Language Tune-Up Kit has been used successfully by dyslexic children who are in school and need extra help, as well as home schooled dyslexic kids whose parents realized they would benefit from a multisensory approach.

As a result, the LTK has helped many dyslexic students learn to decode words and catch up to their correct grade level in reading. And that helps dyslexic students not only keep up with the class (or their studies at home), but also feel better about school and learning in general!

Isn’t phonemic awareness the same thing as phonics? Not exactly: Phonics is the study of the relationship between written letters and the sounds they make, while phonemic awareness is the ability to pick out the individual sounds (called phonemes) in a spoken word.
Phonemic awareness also helps students pick out similar sounds in different words.

But, you might ask, what does phonemic awareness have to do with teaching a child to read?

Fun Phonemic Awareness Activities

Phonemic awareness is developed through reading rhymes, poems, and stories in which word play and alliteration are used (basically everything that Dr. Seuss ever wrote for kids). Rhymes and tongue twisters also help kids to recognize and predict sound patterns and sentence patterns based on what came before.

Those are fun ways to help your child or student get to know phonemes, and you can take the phonemic learning further by creating word family charts based on the child’s favorite nonsense rhymes or rhyming books. You can also create a word family chart of words in which changing just the first letter makes a whole new word, such as sat, hat, rat, bat and mat.

There are many other ways that parents can help their children and teachers or tutors can help students develop phonemic awareness and have a great time in the process! If your child is a reluctant writer, he or she will probably find it easier, more fun and less intimidating to practice creating words with magnetic letters or letter tiles (such as Bananagrams or Scrabble tiles).

Once your child is comfortable with phonemes in short words, you can show how larger words are also made up of phonemes, like di/no/saur. Deconstructing bigger words in these ways helps your child decode the different letter combinations that go into those now-familiar phonemes.

How Better Phonemic Awareness Helps Dyslexic Readers

Phonemic awareness is an especially helpful tool for teaching dyslexic students, who need additional ways to recognize and sort out the most basic language elements so they can go on to become competent readers and writers.

The Orton Gillingham approach places an emphasis on the individual learner, making it ideal for homeschool students and dyslexic students who are working with reading tutors. The Language Tune-up Kit (LTK) uses the Orton Gillingham method to teach and reinforce sound blends, and many teachers in small classroom settings and parents teaching their children at home have found this approach highly effective at bringing dyslexic students and kids with other learning disabilities up to an age-appropriate reading level. And when kids feel more comfortable with reading, they are more likely to love it.

Whether part of a homeschool reading program or as after-school enrichment, the LTK has helped many students achieve greater competence with phonemes. But there’s always plenty of room for parents to play favorite word games with kids, make up silly rhymes, and cuddle up for story time — so kids associate reading with fun and enjoyable activities even before their reading skills reach grade level.