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Dancing with Dyslexia

Dancing with Dyslexia

“Life is short, so go for things you enjoy…”

– Dame Darcey Bussell


Q: Do you have any helpful strategies for dance?

There can be a number of extra challenges that come with dyslexia when learning dance.


Some of the issues have to do with the potential for reversals when observing, and confusion about verbal right-left prompts. Here are some tips recommended by fellow dyslexic dancers:

  • Ask to video tape classes and film the teacher from behind or in a mirror to avoid the reversal problems.
  • Ask your teacher to say “outside leg ” or “inside leg” instead of right or left
  • Write down the steps later to make them easier to remember.
  • Some teachers recommend teaching the feet steps first, then adding the upper body later.
  • Some dancers mark their right and left shoes or wear a watch.
  • Use the term “upstage” and “downstage” instead of forward and backward which may help them when they have to reverse the material.
  • Create landmarks in the choreography by connecting steps with musical cues.
  • Singing a sound or word in time while going through the steps will also help with learning the rhythm and musicality of the movement.
  • Some dancers create their own keywords like sounds or funny names associated with a movement. Todd Rosenlieb, chair of dance at the Governor’s School for the Arts said, “If you cross your legs and swirl to the floor, call it a swizzle stick.”
  • Some students prefer seeing the entire sequence rather than dividing up a dance into too many little parts.
  • Learn your routine with landmarks in the room, like a window or piano.
  • Known when you’ve had enough and stop before you get overloaded.


  •  Eric Franklin has a method of using metaphors (like reaching for an apple).
  • Chain images together like reach for an apple, open a curtain, etc.
  • Identify transitions – in-between moments and name them (your shoulder blades are melting your back like ice cream on a warm day).


  •  Some dancers keep a notebook of choreography, draw out routines.
  • Teachers should provide dancers with copies of the music if they want to physically or mentally practice steps in their time away from the studio.
  • Break down routines into 3-4 at a time and link them together before practicing them at half time to music.
  • Try saying the names of figures out loud – even reading from a list…it may make them easier to learn than if you only said them silently.

Read more HERE and HERE.

Dame Darcey Bussell used to hide in the closet at school because of her dyslexia, but she became a prinicipal dancer at the Royal Ballet at the age of 20. She is a former judge of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show. In the video enjoy this split screen of Darcey and her partner and the original Astaire-Rogers number!

Math Education During Pandemic

Math Education During Pandemic

With many states ordering schools to remain shut for the remainder of the school year AND the prospect fall quarter may also be waived, there are certainly going to be gaps in math education. Parents and teachers must try to make as intelligent decisions as they can in the midst of these worries and uncertainties.

Math is a gateway to higher education – in its requirements for college as well as for technology, engineering, math and science careers. Math is also incremental, building on itself, so that gaps – as a result of the pandemic – can set students back in ways that may make it difficult to catch up. A study by the NWEA has warned that school disruptions could result in students losing up to a year of educational growth, especially in math.

So what are students to do?

Before explaining what I would recommend for math, I first would like to say that perhaps in no greater subject is there such a wide disconnect between what a student needs to know for math and how it is taught.

For the typical dyslexic student who finds math challenging, math becomes a blur of symbols, problem sets that are impossible to finish, algorithms and procedures that they don’t understand.

If you are looking at trying to keep or even advance your student’s understanding in math in the midst of the pandemic, it IS possible.

For dyslexic students, it’s especially important to help students understand the WHY and not just memorize steps or procedures. Math mastery may seem daunting when there are so many other things to work on and now the schools are in disarray. In actuality, there is not so much that has to be learned if you focus on the end goals. Dyslexics individuals in general excel at reasoning, logic, and problem solving, so it is not surprising that many can do well at mathematics if they are taught in a way that builds on their strengths and anticipates their difficulties.

On a personal note, my son and I have struggled to a certain extent with dyscalculia. I still count on my fingers and will muddle some multiplication math facts if I’m asked to respond quickly.

Our son struggled a great deal until he mastered basic math facts and saw his working memory expand in his teen years. Even as a 1st grader, though, he could reason algebraically with Hands On Equations of the type seen in the video on the opposite page.

Until his working memory expanded, it seemed as if we could show very little progress with math. Because of dysgraphia and lack of writing automaticity, he would get lost in his problem solving, and really only fared better with talking through problems (a few at a time), later moving onto a now ancient math software called Math Pad from Intellitools. This level of working and progression was so slow and effortful that he couldn’t keep up with any sort of traditional math class – whether online or in-person. There were even some years – probably in late elementary when it seemed that we did very little math – or spent time reviewing concepts because he had slipped backwards so much.

The point of me sharing the story is that for many students, math progress can look non-existent…even for years until all the cognitive skills finally meet a certain threshold and BAM! It sort of comes together.

So although the article cited at beginning of this one is typical of the type to cause parents and students to doubt themselves, what I have seen personally both in our own family and in the many families we got to know a little bit about in our clinic, the ultimate prognosis is good – don’t panic – things will come together when the time is right.

I will tell you honestly, that there were many years when our son languished in his math skills to the point we thought it might prevent him from ever attending college…but progress is VERY NON-LINEAR. You cannot look at 8th grade and assume what things will look like in 9th.

Another important thing I learned from our son’s math journey came from an unlikely source, an old game show called the $64,000 question. A TV psychologist became famous for winning the question.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, a psychologist, decided she wanted to win the top prize of $64,000. She studied people who were chosen as contestants on the show and realized that she could win if she became the master of trivia of a limited area of knowledge. She ultimately chose the field of boxing, because she thought the show would like an unusual area of expertise for a woman, and set herself to learning everything she could about boxing. Needless to say, her strategy worked brilliantly and she became a a famous TV personality. It was only quite a bit later that she revealed she had no interest in boxing.

How does this story apply to math? There’s not as much math that one needs to know if the goal is mainly to do well or well enough on college entrance exams. If I were to put all the math textbooks from 7th grade through 12th on a shelf, that would be a lot of math…actually an impossible amount of math for our son to work through and learn. But what he wanted to do was what I had actually done – is take his last math class ever in high school. For me it was Calculus, but for him it was Algebra – but he achieved what he set out to do at the beginning…not have math limit what he wanted to study in higher education.

In our son’s case, he did work through ALEKS, that I mentioned in our last newsletter, but also a few months before he was supposed to take the SAT, we bought the College Board book of something like five actual SAT tests (old ones), and he ended up taking the same test over and over… self-correcting his scores with the answer key and then checking with his dad if he could figure out how to arrive at the answer. Our goal was much simpler than learning all that was presented in math textbooks. If you realize that this is your goal, then you should also realize you shouldn’t worry. About a week before the test, he would try taking the same math section every day – sometimes getting only 20% right, then sometimes getting 80% right. The process made him more conscious of his recurring errors. Because every test had the same assortment of different questions, he even didn’t have to try different tests – they were all essentially the same.

He was able to score high enough to make the top quartile on math and as was his desire, never have to take math again. When we look back, we look at all of the wasted energy worrying and dreading. Training for a high stakes test was much easier than keeping up with the homework and tests traditional classes demand. So should you worry?

No, but focus your efforts. One of the truths about
dyslexia is that development is always happening
for young people and designing an individual path
is almost always better than an off-the-rack one.






Based on what we know about the incidence of dyslexia and the number of students that are formally identified, for every 1 person who is told of their dyslexia, there are 3 who are missed.

Recent legislation is focused on the early years of education…K-2 especially. These screening and identifications programs are important, but what about older students?

There’s a nice review for teachers that came out last year from Smart Brief.

Here are the key points:

“Silent Readers”

“A strong warning sign of an older student with dyslexia is avoiding reading out loud. Students may also refer to themselves as “silent readers.” When they do read aloud, they stumble over multisyllabic words. The student may fatigue quickly or claim to be “bored” when reading or writing, and reading fluency may change based on the subject matter.”

Because of the high incidence of dyslexia, every classroom is likely to have dyslexic students – and many be unrecognized. Teachers should be encouraged to read aloud to their classes and perhaps take volunteers to read passages, but they should not be conducting round robin reading or popcorn reading because these practices don’t improve struggling readers’ fluency and there are many negative results like triggering anxiety, shame, bullying, and school disengagement.

Instead of round robin or popcorn reading, choral reading, echo reading, listening to audiobooks in class can ensure that everyone is accessing the reading for any discussion or assignments that follow.

If you’ve identified struggling readers in your class already, providing them with accessible texts beforehand can also be empowering and inclusive for your students.

Task Avoiders

“Task avoidance is one of the most common behaviors that students with undiagnosed dyslexia may exhibit in the classroom. Task avoidance is anything from consistently not turning in work while still attending class, to skipping class when a book reading or written assignment is due. Students will also go to great lengths to avoid being embarrassed in front of peers. If this means skipping class or being thought of as lazy or belligerent, so be it. Some students with language-based reading difficulties find oral presentations in front of large groups to be anxiety-provoking, while others may find this is the only time they can shine. It’s important to understand the nature of the language-based learning difficulty to meet the individual needs of the student.”

Writing Problems and Misspellings

“When it comes to reviewing your student’s written work, you might notice that their placement of periods and apostrophes is incorrect. They may have poor handwriting to mask their poor spelling skills, or dysgraphia may also be an issue.

Some students write in all capital letters, because upper- and lower-case letters are confusing. The student may exhibit a great deal of knowledge when speaking but struggle to complete a short-written answer on the same subject.

“If the student has an unusual name or a name with numerous options for spelling the vowel sounds, such as “Michael,” spelling his/her own name correctly may be challenging for many years. Additionally, days of the week and months of the year may also be misspelled, even though the student has seen them numerous times. Remember, it’s not typical for an older student to misspell these words, and it’s not typical for an older student to need time to think about how to spell these common words.”

Unfinished and “Careless” Mistakes on Tests

Writing difficulties are a common way for dyslexia to present in the middle and high school classroom, but to this list from Smart Brief, we would also add “misreading” questions on exams and assignments, and unfinished exams due to the students not being provided with more time.

Almost all dyslexic students need time for exams because of a myriad of factors, including slow reading, skipped words, retrieval issues, and perceptual problems. Many bright students identified as “underachievers” may actually be dyslexics who have missed identification in earlier grades.

If you believe that tests may be underestimating a student’s fund of knowledge, then schedule time after an exam to test the student orally and see if her or his test results underestimate knowledge.

Students who haven’t been formally identified may know very little about dyslexia, may not know how their school struggles can fit in with the picture of dyslexia, and how they can be helped.

Depending on where your state and school are with dyslexia legislation, there may be some uncertainty regarding formal testing (see APM reports). In the best situations, look into having your school’s psychologist test your student for dyslexia. If your student is on an IEP or 504, you can also ask IEP team members such as a speech language pathologist. Some schools keep lists of private testers. An online screening tool is available through our partner Neurolearning, but check with your school to see if the results will be accepted. Some resources like Bookshare require the test be administered by a specialist in order to qualify for free materials.

* N.B. A school may see a behavior problem, but the reality may be unrecognized and unremediated dyslexia.

Remote Learning and Dyslexia: Certify Your Students – Free Ebooks and Discounted Audiobooks

Remote Learning and Dyslexia: Certify Your Students – Free Ebooks and Discounted Audiobooks

Although much uncertainty still remains for the near-future and fall in regards to school closings, perhaps the single most important thing you can do to avoid your student falling behind this summer and fall is to qualify them for free audiobooks and ebooks that can help enjoy accessing texts while improving their fluency at the same time.

In the US, students who may have previously had access to audiobooks and ebooks through school – now may be cut off from these great resources paid for by the federal government. If you don’t live in the US or don’t qualify, you may still access their over 800,000 ebooks for less that $1 per week.

If you have been previously identified as having a “learning disability” (this includes dyslexia by their criteria), then filling in this brief form and signature by a certifying individual will qualify you for these free resources.

Their statement about certifying individuals:

Appropriate certifying experts may differ for different disabilities. In the case of blindness and visual impairments, an appropriate certifier may be a physician, ophthalmologist, or optometrist; in the case of a perceptual disability, a neurologist, learning disability specialist (a teacher with this type of certification is an example), or psychologist with a background in disabilities may be the most qualified certifying professional. A social worker with direct knowledge of your circumstances or a federal or state agency that maintains registries of qualified people with disabilities for benefits purposes may provide certification. If you are a college or university student, your school’s Disability Student Services staff may provide certification.”

If you have not yet been formally identified, you may be able to be screened at certified through the NEUROLEARNING App which is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The cost is $39.99 and includes a full report of results as well as Bookshare certification if you qualify. If you are qualified for Bookshare, then you can also qualify for the human-read audiobooks from Learning Ally. Learning Ally’s program is currently discounted due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to $99 per year. 

Individuals may also be able to be certified wit in-person or remote professional assessments by psychologists or reading specialists.

There now is substantial research literature supporting the benefits of audiobooks for individuals with a reading disability. Being able to listen or listen in addition to reading text, provides access to higher-level texts and information that otherwise might not be possible. The use of audiobooks not only provides increased access but also improves reading fluency and reading accuracy as students acquire more words through print than if they had to rely on eyes alone. A study by Milani et al (2009) found that teens and pre-teens allowed to use audiobooks with reading showed “significant improvement in reading accuracy, with reduced unease and emotional–behavioral disorders, as well as an improvement in school performance and greater motivation and involvement in school activities.”

From Benetech:



Coronavirus Resources for Dyslexia : Free Resources and Trials for Remote Learning

Coronavirus Resources for Dyslexia : Free Resources and Trials for Remote Learning



Because events are changing rapidly, email Fernette (team “at” dyslexicadvantage.org) with any changes or new resources that might be valuable to add to this list.

The gold standard for remediation of dyslexia is structured literacy as it was coined by the International Dyslexia Association. A structured literacy program is an explicit and systematic multisensory program of remediation that addresses phonology, orthography, syntax, morphology, and semantics.

The following vendors or institutions have free resources or free trials in the setting of school closings due to COVID-19. Having the option to examine and potentially try out curricula before buying can be especially helpful

All About Learning Free Reading Spelling Resources


Epic Library – Free for Teachers Until the End of June


Flyleaf Publishing Books and Worksheets (from basics through r-controlled vowels, free)


  Pay What You Want Summer Subscription for Teachers or $5- 1 month trial for Parents


Libby Free Ebooks and Audiobooks from the Public Library Overdrive


Literacy How Youtube Videos


Nessy Virtual School (videos, games)


Neuhaus Mastery Checks

Reading A to Z Decodable Books

Readworks Passages with Questions

Really Great Reading Digital Letter Tiles (online use)


Sonday Winsor Parent Empowerment Packs (downloads) including Audio Pronunciation Guide


SPELD Phonics Books and Worksheets (downloadable)

Starfall (free access codes if school closures)
Starfall Free Resources

WCNY. Reading Classroom


Wilson Reading System Workbooks in PDF



COVID SCHOOLING:  Should We Be Worried?

COVID SCHOOLING: Should We Be Worried?

Short answer: NO.

As at least half of the schools across the country closed for health reasons, students from the earliest ages to post-graduates find themselves schooling from home, usually through online programs.

In the best situations, students have smoothly or semi-smoothly transitioned
to distance learning. In the worst, students don’t log on, and uncertainty exists as to whether there are sufficient resources (like devices and internet access) or if they know how to get connected. Teachers and school systems are undertaking many out-of-the box solutions to get entire classrooms online.

What does that mean for dyslexic students?

A report from NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) warns about potential “COVID Slide” or potential losses that occur when schools are not in session. The education researchers are extrapolating based on what they have observed in students following summer vacation:

“While there is some controversy about the magnitude of summer learning loss, three trends are consistent across seasonal learning research findings: achievement typically slows or declines over the summer months, declines tend to be steeper for math than for reading, and the extent (proportionally) of loss increases in the upper grades.”

The NWEA is concerned that school closures because of the virus will be twice the duration of summer vacation, with significant impacts on school achievement.

While these are legitimate concerns, all students are in this boat together, and assuming that you’re able to read this newsletter, you’ve at least been able to find our organization Dyslexic Advantage and read this magazine online.

Because we’re all in this chaotic present together, I think for the majority of dyslexic families – this period of COVID schooling can have some incidental benefits.

Shorter School Days and More Technology

First, assuming schools are not requiring full online days for school (those that do are making a big mistake), many dyslexic students will have more ‘down time’ in their school day, which is a good thing. Many students fare better when able to move around and focus their concentration in short bursts.

Technology usually benefits dyslexic students as well if they are given a chance to experiment with and learn what a system can do. Remote learning may also be a great opportunity to ensure that all accommodations are in place and that your student has all the access to information and reading, writing, spelling, and math supports they may need.

With online classes, students may be able to dictate their responses and have text read aloud…something that often isn’t done in conventional classrooms.

Parents Can Learn More About Their Student’s Experience in School

Parents may learn more about their students’ experiences in school – whether positive or negative or both. Sometimes sending students off to school is a little bit like a ‘black box’ – where you can’t see what happens.

With live classes or recorded classes, it may be much easier to see what your student has trouble with or where she or he gets lost. At the same time, you also might get a chance to hear your student shine in an online classroom discussion.

Be Prepared to Advocate If You Need To

If your student is having trouble, then speak up about needs. Students (and families and teachers) are under great stress right now and few schools have established routines and protocols.

To read more about what other families are going through, check out “I just can’t do this…”

If students aren’t tech savvy, they may have difficulty learning and working with the new platform. The stress and uncertainty of the current situation is also likely to take its toll on working memory and emotional well-being.

Keep your teacher informed about difficulties your student could be having with communication as well as with assigned work.

Request fewer assignments and more time if necessary to complete assignments.

Request permission to record classes.

If supports are lacking, be prepared to request out-of-the-box solutions to problems that arise because of the pandemic.

For instance, if classroom discussions aren’t in a college course, but you need discussion to comprehend material, then request an online tutor through the student support office. If none is available, contact a classmate and see if they might be willing to study together online.

If your student was given worksheet packets to complete and she or he is struggling with the quantity of material assigned or experiencing undo stress from being unable to keep up with the amount of work, request a reprieve and share the information with your teacher. With remote schooling, teachers can’t see if students are getting overwhelmed or if assignments are piling up at home.

Communicate frequently in an informative and non-emotional way until expectations are manageable for all concerned. Tell your teacher if the amount of
reading with the switch to distance learning is too much. If online discussions are overwhelming, shy students may have trouble thinking of what they want to say when everyone in class is looking at them. This sort of thing can also make ‘tip of the tongue’ problems worse. Teachers can help by giving students the questions that they will ask them the day before – it can help students to prepare as well as build confidence.

Finally, try not to worry if you decide to take a break from formal schooling. These are unusual times.

If you wanted to keep up a little reading and your student hasn’t yet gotten used to reading along with listening, this period would be a great time to find a platform and workflow with technology.

If you need to certify as having dyslexia to qualify individually for Ebook or audiobook resources from Bookshare or Learning Ally, various psychological associations have made announcements that their professionals are permitted to use “telemedicine” during this time of the pandemic. Also dyslexia screening is available through Neurolearning.com using an iPad, iPhone, or Android devices (for ages 7-70).

Example from research about dyslexia and short lines of text. Click image to view

There has been some suggestion that the earlier people start with reading along with listening, the easier it will become. Some students struggle with this because of working memory being overwhelmed or problems with divided attention. If this is the case, have a student practice with a short passage (a book chapter or less depending on age), listening first, then re-listening while reading along while the text is highlighted. Having already heard the chapter first, reduces the work of having to figure what’s being said while following the text by eye. Doing this does provide more print exposure and training and it’s much better than not reading or listening alone.

Try reading on a phone and adjust the display so only a few words are visible at a time – it may reduce the work of reading and make it more enjoyable.








[PREMIUM] Project-Based Learning for Dyslexic Students

[PREMIUM] Project-Based Learning for Dyslexic Students

Related to the issue of digital portfolios is project-based learning. On the opposite page, there are quick reviews between learning through projects and true project-based learning or PBL. With PBL, the students assume a central role in the direction of the project and the end goal is to publish the project to the real world […]
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