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Bringing over from general board/help diagnosing and improving dyslexia


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Many of you gave me great advice on the general board. Claire recommended that I bring this over here. Dd is 15 and dyslexic. From my post on the general board I was advised how important it is to get a proper diagnosis for her. How do I go about finding the correct professional to make this diagnosis? What other recommendations do you have for helping with her written work and specifically her spelling. We did work with an Orton-Gillingham tutor for about 2 years and this helped tremendously. Some additional information that I did not include is that I'm pretty sure she has some sensory integration issues, also. She hates music and loud noises. Classroom settings make it very difficult for her to concentrate.

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For a diagnosis of dysgraphia, you really need a neuro-psychologist. Do you have medical insurance? If so, I would call your insurance company, explain that your dd needs a complete neuro-psychological evaluation, and see what they say.


Someone else mentioned that the diagnosis is important for ACT and SAT (college board testing). This is true, but a diagnosis alone is *not* enough to get accommodations for these tests. There has to be a long paper trail of documentation that the disorder requires accommodations. Even schools are having trouble providing enough documentation to satisfy college board requirements. Homeschoolers have even less chance of getting these accommodations. My dd tests okay on multiple choice tests and we live in an area where the ACT is preferred over the SAT (ACT does not require the essay), so I'm not even trying for accommodations on the college boards. If your dd can pass a basic entrance test into community college, an easier route to a four-year degree is to take community college courses for two years and then transfer to a four-year college. ACT or SAT are highly likely not to be required then.


There were only two programs that helped my dd with spelling. The first was Sequential Spelling from Avko. Since your dd is 15yo, you would probably want to get their 2-book "adult" series if you decide to try this program.


The other program that really helped was Spelling Through Morphographs. STM was specifically designed as a remedial program for middle and high schools students, and some colleges use it for their remedial spelling course. There is an online placement test for STM that you can find by Googling "Spelling Through Morphographs" "placement test". Have your dd take it to see whether you should start with Sequential Spelling or with STM. The downside of STM is its cost, almost $300 with shipping. You *must* have the Teacher's Guide for this program because all of the scripting is in it. You also need a student workbook.


Is your dd keyboarding? Many dysgraphics have difficulty acquiring keyboarding skills, and my dd had this difficulty. Quite a few programs did not work for her. The one program that finally did work for her was Keyboarding Skills by Diana Hanbury King. This is not a computer-based program. Until you are sure your dd types using the correct fingers, I highly recommend watching her during her lessons until correct finger placement is established.


Has your dd ever had an occupational therapy evaluation? If her only issue is loudness of sounds, then TLP is a program that you can do at home. This program has a good track record with normalizing responsiveness to sound frequencies. However, it uses classical music (through headphones) as its delivery system. Your dd would need to be able to tolerate listening to his music (can be on a very low volume) for 15 minutes a day to be effective. Cost is around $350.


My dd has difficulty working in a classroom setting. She started public high school in 9th grade, and that first year she noticed that she missed a lot of information that her classmates acquired naturally. She still has difficulty picking up information in the classroom setting, but now that she is a junior she has acquired a lot of compensation skills that help. She's still not great, but she can get by. Among other things, she now makes sure that she writes down assignments, test dates, etc. and also makes sure she checks with classmates about what is expected on upcoming tests. (That first year she spent a lot of time studying things that weren't on the test! And not studying things that *were* on the test!)

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Your attention to detail and your passion for helping your dd come through so clearly in your posts. You know her so well, and that knowledge will help tremendously when you go to have her tested. The tester should interview you at length and also have you fill out several evaluation forms, both as her parent and as her teacher, to help round out the tester's picture of her performance and to separate out any other issues. Our tester wanted to ensure that she knew if there were behavioral or psych issues that would skew her results. But back to my point, being a mom to a child with difficult issues is very taxing. Congratulate yourself for all the ways in which you have supported and enabled her to get to where she is now! :)


Re. spelling and writing. If she is truly dysgraphic, she *must* learn to keyboard, even if it hard for her. She needs to learn to take notes realtime, even if on the computer. It is a vital skill. We learned by doing notetaking while watching videos, which could easily be stopped when ds hit frustration level. Little by little, ds' proficiency improved, so that by the time he was ready for lecture classes, he could manage reasonably well. He still has a notetaker, a fairly commonplace accommodation in colleges. (The college provides NCR paper to the notetaker.) For very difficult material, such as his programming class, he listens almost exclusively and relies more heavily on the notetaker. He also has a mini-recorder, but that has not proven to be very useful, as it takes time to go back through the lectures.


Believe it or not, we had to practice a signature. I taught ds to write a fast and messy but practiced-looking signature, rather than doing a painstakingly legible signature. (Kinda' like having a tattoo on your forehead that says "Dysgraphic!") She also needs to learn some kind of a "compensation scrawl", something that she can do to take/make notes in a jamb when she doesn't have a keyboard. Those don't have to be neat or legible or spelled correctly, just functional.


One of ds' accommodations for college is that he won't be graded adversely for spelling or mechanics. !! That was part of the "package" of standard accommodations, one that I did not even request. (When I wrote the letter to the Disabilites Services office at the university explaining what we were asking for, since I was the stand-in for a "counselor", I asked the DSS office to also approve any other accomommodations that they knew would be appropriate for him.) BTW, I tokk him in to the DSS office at the CC, to walk him through acvocating for himself, but the next semester at the university DSS office, I went in with him but let him handle it. I was there only as a backup, if I was needed. The counselor came out and told me he was doing well, and thanked me for having him fly solo. :)


On spelling, Claire mentioned several possibilities. Ds' spelling improved 20 pts after a year of OG work, which was what he needed for "mastery". He will always struggle with spelling, but it is not a showstopper. I'm thankful for IM and all the new media--perfect spelling is less important among his peers than it has been in our generation. That said, I know parents of dyslexics who have not had as much academic grace extended to them as we have; they routinely proofread their kids' papers in vet and med school. I guess, you do whatever it takes to enable a kid to pursue their passion. When they have their own practice, they'll pay a secretary to do it! ;)


Finally, I wanted to respond to something Claire said:


<<Someone else mentioned that the diagnosis is important for ACT and SAT (college board testing). This is true, but a diagnosis alone is *not* enough to get accommodations for these tests. There has to be a long paper trail of documentation that the disorder requires accommodations. Even schools are having trouble providing enough documentation to satisfy college board requirements. Homeschoolers have even less chance of getting these accommodations.>>


I think she's exactly right! It is important to have the paper trail, and I'm convinced that that fact that we were homeschoolers led to the delay in the CB processing our paperwork. Literally, we received his accomodation letter the day before the PSAT, even though I had been hounding and hounding the CB office and had filed the paperwork 8 mos before the PSAT. I won't even begin to tell you the hassles and grief with them. One case of incompetence after another! However, they did approve him for extended time on all the CB tests (PSAT, SAT, Accuplacer, and APs if we had taken them.) I also did take the back door route in through CC like Claire suggested, but the CB accommodations allowed him to have twice the time for his Accuplacer essay.


Because of his PSAT scores and later his SAT scores, taken with time and one-half, he was also able to qualify for the Early Admission Program/Honors College at the local branch of the state university. Without the PSAT score, that would not have been an option. The EAP program carries with it a stackable scholarship, which can be added to another merit scholarship based on a combo of GPA/SAT scores. If he is able to keep his GPA at a certain level (that may be in question), he'll have his college almost entirely paid for. We're just going to take it one semester at a time, and we'll be thankful for the scholarships as long as they are available, knowing that for him to keep a certain GPA will be very difficult, considering the issues he faces.


All that to say, no matter what route you take, some kind of documentation and the ongoing paper trail, semester by semester, will be very helpful to you dd, whether it is for the high stakes tests or for college.


It's a journey! Thanks for putting up with my long-winded "trip report."



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