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Dyslexia Tool Kit for Tutors & Parents (book) – What to do when phonics isn't enough. Review by Christine Hindle

Yvonna Graham, M.Ed. and Dr. Alta E. Graham

Dyslexia Tool Kit for Tutors & Parents is a detailed book to help tutors or parents teach reading to dyslexic students when phonics hasn’t been a great success.

I am the homeschool teacher for my grandchild who has dyslexia. Phonics has been a long, rough road and we have not progressed as quickly as I wanted to. This book is full of new hope for me. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most helpful book I’ve found on the subject since we started this journey. I have bought many books on dyslexia and helping dyslexic students and most are difficult to digest and implement.

This book gives simple, step-by-step methods to use daily to help. It explains the child’s perspective and offers tips on games and activities that can enhance the child’s learning. I am so excited about the methods in this book that I have been using some of the recommended games that we already had on our shelf and adding more to my Amazon shopping cart each time I order.

The tools (chapters) are:

  1. Sensory Integration
  2. Cognitive Skills Games
  3. Tracking
  4. Scanning
  5. Silent Reading First
  6. Oral Reading Maybe – This is at the student’s comfort level.
  7. TSSO (#3,4,5,6 Use all together one after another in the same sentence or paragraph) Tracking is reading aloud while the student follows along. Scanning is having the student point out key words in the text. Silent Reading is having the student reread the material silently. Oral Reading is optional but allows the student to then read it aloud if they wish to.
  8. Alternative Path (This one is bypassing sound as part of reading.) – This is tricky and requires the teacher to unlearn old methods. This method does not require the student to read the text word for word but gain meaning from the overall text by reading silently and then answering some questions.
  9. School and Homework (modeling) – Work closely with the student and show them what you want to get from the assignment. The teacher shows the student how to do and then works with the student on it. The final step is mastery or the student being able to do it on their own.
  10. Self-generated Stories (The student orates and teacher records the story.)
  11. Choral Reading (This is the teacher reading in unison with the student)
  12. Boxes and Shapes - They recommend using the BOXES font which is available online to help students visualize and remember the shape of words.
  13. Colored Overlays – These are available from various vendors online.
  14. Spelling
  15. Keyboarding
  16. Board Games
  17. Root Word Games
  18. Touching and Moving to Learn
  19. Balancing to Learn (We are using an exercise ball.) – Other possible tools would be a T-stool or a squishy pillow on the chair.
  20. Word Imaging – This one is a long process. The teacher writes a keyword a paper and the student traces it with a crayon and then draws lines around it. The student then thinks of a picture to associate it with and transforms it into that object. The student then shuts his eyes and visualizes what he has just drawn and then writes the word in the air with his hand. The final step is writing the word on a white board to show mastery.
  21. Body Position and Third Eye (This means reading in different positions.) – Dyslexic students have trouble focusing at times and they have found that changing position may help change what the student is seeing. They have the student pretend they have a third eye in the back of their head and it helps the student to use that “third eye” to visualize and get a better look. I am still studying this one and haven’t tried it yet. They also recommend that you let the student choose the intensity of the lighting in the room.
  22. Audio Books (big thing in our family as one of the parents is dyslexic as well)
  23. Sensory Comfort (important in my classroom because I also have an autistic student)
  24. Speed Reading (I’m eager to try this one as soon as I can get more of the basic tools in place and solid.)

The third tool in the book is a method called tracking. This is so simple and makes so much sense that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. It takes the pressure off my student while learning still progresses. Basically you read and have the child read along silently, making sure he/she does not lose their place. You do this by stopping and letting them read a word every few words. Then they are getting the big picture and the flow. It is suggested that you start putting the subtitles on movies so they can read along on that as well.

Some of the tools may or may not be helpful, depending on the child. I have already tried the colored overlays (#13) suggested and had some moderate success with that. I have tried about 1/3 of the tools and will give every one of them a fair try as the school year progresses. At this point I need something to flip that switch in my grandchild’s brain and I am very optimistic that this book is finally the key.

For all homeschool parents who have a student struggling to read, please give this book a try. You will be happy you did and your student will be ecstatic!

-Product review by Christine Hindle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2016

And another review:

A diagnosis of dyslexia is not something any parent wants to hear. Our journey with our son has been one filled with trial and error, good and bad days, steps forward and what seems like as many steps back. There are plenty of proven methods available, but most are costly and involve intense training. And frankly, some of those proven methods don’t work for every student.

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Dyslexic Took Kit for Tutors & Parents (What to do when phonics isn’t enough). It was written by Yvonna Graham and her dyslexic daughter, Dr. Alta E. Graham.

To begin with the authors provide us with their own dyslexic experiences. They also give us a clear explanation of what it means to be dyslexic. I particularly like their analogy that dyslexics see forests, not trees. Dyslexics also tend to learn best by hearing and telling stories. This runs contrary to the traditional educational method of memorizing facts. You might know that teaching phonics to dyslexic students has been the most recommended method. However, you might also be aware that teaching phonics doesn’t always work.

The book is intended for anyone who is working with a struggling reader. Beyond working with my own dyslexic son, I found many wonderful ideas to implement with our homeschool reading club. The 24 tips included inside the book can be used for any age. We are also given a sample one-hour tutoring session.

So what kind of tips are included? I can assure you that none of them require extensive training or a college education. One of my favorites (#2) is to include Cognitive Skills Games. Games! Did you know that you can help improve learning to control the brain by playing jigsaw puzzles, board games or chess?

One tip that we have been implementing as of late is to use the “self-generated story.” The student dictates a story that is written (or typed) down by a parent or tutor, using different sizes of letters, colors or type-face. The student then reads his or her creation.         

Another tip that has inspired me has been Tip # 23 or Sensory Comfort. This is simply providing for your student’s specific environmental needs in his or her learning space. Is the lighting abrasive? Are there distracting sounds or unpleasant smells? Meeting those individual needs can make a world of difference for your student.

This is a terrific book for any parent looking for help with their dyslexic child. In my opinion, every tip is something I can implement at home.  The authors provide us with doable and practical solutions. I highly recommend it.

-Product review by Rebekah Teague, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2016