Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dealing with Dyslexia & Dysgraphia

Learning that my middle son has learning disabilities has been quite the educational experience for me. My preconceived notions, assumptions, guilt, and even denial have been some pretty significant hurdles to get past over the last few months. I've done a great deal of reading, research, comparing, asking questions, and have spent much time in prayer. Eventually, I'd like to share what led us to having Ben tested and what the testing process was like, but for now I'd just like to share what we know now and what we are doing to help him.

Ben has dyslexia: Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that affects reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes even speaking. Ben has classic dyslexia.

Ben also has dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing. Ben has severe dysgraphia that causes him have have trouble forming and organizing his letters, numbers, or words on a page.

Ben also has ADHD, inattentive and impulsivity. This is not a new diagnosis, but it is relevant here because it probably one of the factors in the severity of his dysgraphia.

  • Barton Reading ~ After carefully considering our options we chose to tutor Ben at home using Barton Reading. It is going well, so far. We set aside 45 minutes, 4 days a week, for our tutoring times. The rest of the house is respecting that this is our quiet, not-to-be-interrupted time. I wouldn't say that Ben enjoys these lessons (it's not like he gets excited and looks forward to it all day), but he is not showing frustration or exasperation with the lessons. He is very cooperative, even when some of it might seem just a little silly to him. 
  • Ipad ~ Ben is using an iPad for all sorts of tasks to help him compensate for weaknesses caused by the dysgraphia. The dictation feature on the ipad is invaluable to him! Using this tool he can complete written work that would otherwise cause him a great deal of frustration. I use the Pages app to create worksheets and templates for him and he can simply open them, dictate his answers, and save his work. We are also finding a variety of other apps to help him. I've found apps for virtually any subject. Many are free, most are low cost. Some of our favorites so far: Whiteboard (perfect for scratch paper, helping solve math problems, etc... without using up paper), Miriam Webster Dictionary (which takes dictation, so you don't have to know how to spell the word), Brick Builder (virtual Legos), Inspiration (help organizing thoughts in the writing process), Speak It (it reads text), and Mathfacts. 
  • Sunburst Type To Learn ~ Ben started using Type to Learn this week. It is a keyboarding program that will help Ben become proficient at keyboarding to help him overcome the communication barrier created by his dysgraphia. The program is fun (my daughter is wanting to try it as well, and as soon as I can figure out how to set up an additional user, I will get her going) and interactive. It uses games and a virtual space camp where the user is supposed to save the planet. (What kid wouldn't want to save the planet?)
  • Audible.com ~ For the duration of the Barton Reading program, it is recommended that kids only spend time reading the material in the lessons. But, kids should still be enjoying great literature throughout the time. We purchased a monthly subscription to Audible.com. With the subscription Ben can choose one book per month to download and listen to on his iPod. The best part is the guarantee that comes with each book. If you don't like the book, simply return it (electronically, of course) and choose another one. No penalty! Ben loves listening to books on his iPod. Getting him to read before, was like pulling teeth...but now I don't have to remind him. He listens to his books while he plays with Legos, while he sits outside,  and while he rides in the car (he could never read in the car because of motion sickness). 
  • Graph Paper for Math ~ Ben uses graphing paper with a 1/2 inch grid to do all of his written math work. He tries to do as much as he can in his head, because the act of writing is so difficult for him. But as his math gets more complex that becomes harder. Using the graph paper allows him to keep his numbers lined up in proper position so that it doesn't get any more confusing than it already is. I've also started allowing him to use a calculator for certain functions, but only when the function is just one step toward the answer.
  • Giving the Strengths as much time as the Weakness ~ Of all the things I read when learning about dyslexia, one thing stood out more than anything and that was this: You should spend as much time helping your child grow in his strengths as you do helping him with his weaknesses. Wow, to me that was really profound. One of Ben's biggest strengths is his ability to build things.  He has an excellent ability to visualize complex things and then build them with Legos ~ Including moving parts, interchangeable parts, and the most simple, but important details. When I considered how to give this interest equal time, I realized it wouldn't be accomplished by leaving his Legos buried in his room. He shares a room with his brother, a small 10 by 10 room, who has   five guitars (last I counted), two amplifiers, and a myriad of other musical equipment. Ben was battling to have just a few small square inches of space to build Legos in there. So we cleaned out Ben's desk in the den (which he wasn't using for school work anyway) and filled all the drawers with Legos and declared it his Lego Zone. He loves this space and is spending lots of time there. We've also gotten a couple of apps for the iPad that encourage this same time of spatial skill. 


4 comments:

  1. Sounds like Ben is really doing well and even exceling. So glad that he enjoys listening to the books. He will be our engineer one day building a skyscraper. Good positive report on Ben. Glad you chose to teach him. You are a great mother and teacher and don't ever feel like you haven't done enough. Kudos to you.

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  2. This update is great, April. It looks like you're tackling his needs head on! I was especially happy to see your last point about remembering to develop his strengths as well as working on his weaknesses. That's so important for his self-image and for his future successes which will be built on those activities and skills he loves.

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  3. April, Thanks for the update on Ben. You are doing what your children need and I hope you do not feel guilty about any of Bens challenges. You have researched what he needs and you are providing that for Him , as well as the other two children. I know you will continue to Educate yourself on what is needed. Keep up the good work. Love you Gramps

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  4. I just want to echo what Gramps said. Ben is such a sweet child and I know what you are doing will help him deal with his difficulties, while enhancing his strengths. This is a courageous thing you've done but it's not the first time you've taken on a BIG task! :) All of the kids are benefiting from your willingness to take on the responsibility for their education. Keep up the good work and give my love to everyone at the Gainey household!

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