Q: My 15 year old daughter was recently found to be severely dyslexic. Her public high school has set her to enroll her in an online high school because her local school can’t meet her needs. We’ve been told that her vocabulary is weak. What program would you recommend?
A. The answer to your question may depend on what structured literacy program she begins and what ways she learns best.
Most structured literacy programs have a vocabulary component which is interwoven with phonemic awareness instruction in the forms of multisensory practice and books based on vocabulary and letter / letter-blend instruction that they’ve received.
Because non-dyslexic students acquire words as they read, over time if she doesn’t listen to audiobooks regularly, her gap in word knowledge will fall increasingly behind non-dyslexic peers. Some students (and even more adults) have difficulty reading along while listening to audiobooks.
Before giving up on that combination, she should try optimizing her ebook reader – choosing a book or books series that she already knows well, slowing down the rate, increasing the font size, and limiting the number of words per lines to see if listening along with reading becomes easier.
On Voice Dream Reader’s site, app creator Winston Chen shared how dyslexic scientist Matt Schneps was able to optimize his e-book settings to listen while reading along.
See his settings at right:
On an iPad – Portrait Mode Dark
Avenir Next 36
Line Spacing 1
Character Spacing 5
Side Margins 180
One additional tip – instead of reading the word when it’s highlighted, Matt found it easier to read along looking just before the highlight.
The reason for mentioning this is that over time, if she can be trained to listen while reading to audiobooks, she can acquire many more words – and words especially from her interests in reading.
For that matter, it’s also a good idea to encourage her to look up words as she is reading independently. When reading physical books, she could use a scanning pen that has an audio dictionary; also, some e-book readers have a look-up dictionary. In Kindle Paperwhites, there are vocabulary functions which allow you to look up and store, and make flashcards from words that you come across in reading that you don’t know (read more HERE).
Developing a regular practice of reading with an audio dictionary app like this one will also help in her learning new words. She may need to have an app or dictionary that reads the full definition aloud.