This article provides a complete guide to:
- Professionals that help with dyslexia
- What dyslexia tutors do
- Programs that help with dyslexia
- The best teaching methods for dyslexia
- How dyslexic students learn best
- How long kids with dyslexia need tutoring
Let’s jump right in!
Professionals that help with dyslexia
The primary professionals that help with dyslexia are:
- Psychologist or special education teacher
- Reading skills tutor
- Self-esteem coach
- Neurodevelopmental movement program expert
- Learning skills tutor
Psychologists or special education teachers are most appropriate for getting a dyslexia diagnosis.
If you suspect that your child has dyslexia but don’t have a confirmed diagnosis, the first thing you’ll want to consider is getting an official dyslexia diagnosis.
In parallel with getting a dyslexia diagnosis, it makes sense to consider what other professionals you want to support your child with dyslexia.
We’ll go through each of the various professions in detail below.
But first, you may be wondering…
What do dyslexia tutors do?
There are several different types of dyslexia tutor, so what they do depends entirely on the type of dyslexia tutor they are.
Each different type of dyslexia tutor focuses on different things, so what they actually do depends on their area of expertise.
To simplify this, we’ll describe each type of program that helps with dyslexia separately, and explain what each different kind of dyslexia tutor does given their specialty.
Programs that help with dyslexia
There are four types of programs that are typically offered for dyslexic students:
- Reading skills tutoring
- Self-esteem coaching
- Neurodevelopmental movement programs
- Learning skills tutoring
Before we get into the details, there’s something to be aware of: while dyslexia is a useful diagnosis, it’s a general term.
There’s as much variation between individual dyslexics who fit in this category as there is between dyslexics and ‘normal’ students.
So, exactly which programs are appropriate for your child depends on their individual situation and their individual makeup.
Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyslexia
Reading Skills Tutoring
Most specialized dyslexia tutors focus on teaching reading skills.
The best method for teaching reading skills to dyslexics is the Orton–Gillingham method.
There are other variations of the Orton–Gillingham method, more generally referred to as “Multisensory Structured Language Education” or MSLE. Generally, all of these MSLE approaches are good, provided that the individual tutor themself is good.
What an Orton–Gillingham tutor does in a tutoring session will be customized to each student, and depend on the specific strengths and weaknesses of the student.
An Orton-Gillingham tutor breaks reading and writing into smaller skills and gradually builds skills over time.
They will start with letters and sounds. Next they’ll teach simple words that have phonetic spelling (i.e. words that are read how they are written, like the “cat”). Then they’ll move onto more difficult words that are not purely phonetic, like “read” and then even tougher ones, like “tough” and “bough”.
Orton-Gillingham uses a multi-sensory approach, which means that rather than just using pencil and paper, they engage other senses in the learning process. For example, rather than only writing on a page, students may write letters in trays of sand or use physical letters (like play blocks) which students physically assemble into words.
This multi-sensory approach engages more of the brain and can make learning easier for dyslexics.
If your child is young and has not received any specialized reading skills tutoring, this is the best place to start. Having said that, it is still wise to consider a neurodevelopmental movement program and learning skills tutoring in parallel with reading skills tutoring. (More on those later.)
There are a few people who claim to be “dyslexia coaches.”
These tend to be people who are not trained as special needs educators, but rather are life or workplace coaches who support their clients in dealing with the self-esteem issues that often come along with the challenges of being dyslexic.
Dyslexia coaches tend to use the same skills they would use with any coaching client. Asking questions, getting to understand the client’s world view and situation and providing empathy and understanding. They’ll then work with the client to address limiting beliefs about themselves and come up with solutions to the challenges they are facing.
While life coaches can be great in many contexts, our view is that the best specialized dyslexia tutors do address self-esteem issues and limiting beliefs while also helping their students improve their performance and be more successful.
We would recommend finding a great specialist dyspraxia tutor over finding a dyslexia coach.
Neurodevelopmental movement programs
Neurodevelopmental movement programs are a great teaching method for dyslexics.
These programs do not teach specific skills for reading and writing, but rather improve overall brain function, so that the student has a stronger cognitive basis for learning other skills.
As such, neurodevelopmental movement programs identify and address any neurodevelopmental weaknesses the student may have.
So, what is a “neurodevelopmental weakness”?
Simply put, it is some weakness in brain development.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. It might be something as simple as not fully developing their ability to process what they read. And these are things that can usually be addressed once they have been identified.
Most people have some weaknesses in their neurological development. And dyslexics may have specific weaknesses that are affecting their ability to read and learn.
So, if your child is struggling to learn to read even with specialized reading tutoring, it’s appropriate to assess and address those weaknesses.
This is where the field of neurodevelopmental movement comes in.
Quite simply, neurodevelopmental movement gives your child a way to strengthen the neurodevelopmental weaknesses that they somehow missed.
Madeleine Portwood  has written extensively about this approach in her book Developmental Dyspraxia: Identification and Intervention: A Manual for Parents and Professionals. While that book is focused on dyspraxia, it’s just as relevant to dyslexics.
HANDLE providers are also trained to develop neurodevelopmental movement plans for individual students.
So, we recommend working with a specialized tutor with expertise in creating a neurodevelopmental movement plan for your child. The plan should be based on observing your child in real life situations and 100% customized to your child.
How a neurodevelopmental movement expert supports your child should depend on their age.
Here are the best teaching methods for neurodevelopmental movement programs for younger dyslexics verses for teen and adult dyslexics:
For younger children
If you have a young dyslexic child, you know them better than anyone else.
You see them every day. You know what they do well. You know where they struggle. You know when they get confused. You know when they get frustrated.
You see all these things. But you may not know how to interpret them and what to do about it. That’s not your fault. You’re a good parent, but you’re just not trained in special education.
So when we work with younger children, we ask you to take short video clips of your child going about their daily lives. Video clips of them doing the things they struggle with, the things that upset them and also things they do well all provide useful information.
Then you share those clips with your specialized tutor – who knows how to analyze the video clips and knows what to do about what they see.
Then your specialized tutor will give you ‘play’ activities to do with your child. These ‘play’ activities are specifically designed to help your child learn and thrive.
You sharing video clips of your child in a variety of situations with us gives us much richer information than we used to get by coming to observe your child in-person.
For teens and adults
For teens and adults, we work directly with the student. And, of course, advise the parents as well.
Dyslexic students often have difficulty processing the information they’re reading. When a tutor is sitting beside the student in-person, it’s hard to see their eye movements, how they’re scanning the information on the page, and where they get stuck.
But online, the tutor can actually see the student’s face as they’re working with the information they’re reading. The camera is right on the computer screen that the student is reading, so the tutor gets a bird’s-eye view of how the student is processing the information.
This turns out to be a significant advantage.
Once your child has strengthened any important weaknesses in their neurological development, it will be much easier for them to learn to read, and to master other academic skills.
When I started working with Oxford Specialist Tutors, I had difficulty absorbing written text. The only things that would keep my attention were things like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.
Now I’m able to focus not just on reading the words, but what these words are describing. I recently finished reading a book, and when I was done, I was able to tell people what happened in the book from beginning to end.
My self confidence has improved a lot too. And for the first time in my life, my family has started to take me seriously.
Read about Roisin’s experience and results in her Neurodevelopmental Programme: Roisin’s Story
Learning Skills Tutor
Learning skills tutors teach dyslexic students how they learn best.
While there are some general patterns to how dyslexic students learn best, every child is different, so a learning skills program needs to be customized to each individual child. And adapted over time as the child grows and develops their skills.
So, the best teaching method for a given child with dyslexia will be specific to that individual student.
Now, dyslexic students do have difficulty processing written information, but there’s so much more going on for them.
They process information differently and think differently.
If you have a dyslexic child, you’ve probably already noticed this. It may be hard to put your finger on it, but somehow you’re aware that they just do things differently from other children.
A great learning skills tutor will help your child discover how they learn best, by teaching them:
- How to work with the limitations of their dyslexic thinking style
- How to understand and appreciate the particular genius of their dyslexic thinking style
- How to bridge the gap between:
- their unique thinking style and
- how their teachers expect them to explain their thinking in order to get good grades
Well, that all sounds good, but what does this type of dyslexia tutor actually do?
First, dyslexics tend to have more limited working memory than most other people, so it’s important to give them ways to break tasks down into smaller steps. This allows them to process complex information without getting lost or overwhelmed. It makes working on class assignments and tests easier for them.
Then, there’s a fundamental difference between the thinking style of most people and dyslexics:
- Most people learn details and procedures first and then figure out the big picture later
- Dyslexics do it the other way around. They think best when they get the big picture first, and then learn the details and procedures later.
Unfortunately for dyslexics, classroom teaching matches how most people learn and mismatches how dyslexics learn. This makes it hard for them.
So, the trick for the dyslexic student is to learn how to use these simple steps:
- Reframe what is taught in class into a framework that actually works for them (often using techniques to relate the new knowledge they are learning to the existing web of knowledge they already have)
- Think about the the problem in ‘their world’ – coming up with answers in a way that’s easy for them
- Translate their answers back from ‘their world’ to the linear, procedural answers that their teachers want to see to get good grades
Once your child has learned how to do this, they’ll struggle a lot less and discover that they can thrive in learning.
Before meeting Margo I was mostly getting B’s.
Now with her help and expertise almost all of my essays are getting an A+.
The most important thing that Margo has taught me is to believe in myself.
And that is a lesson that I can’t thank her enough for!
It is important to note that these approaches to specialized dyslexia tutoring increase the student’s ability to learn.
Once they have developed their cognitive abilities and learning skills, they’ll be more able to learn independently themselves.
They’ll learn more easily in traditional classroom settings. And if individual subject-matter tutoring is still needed, they’ll learn much faster with their subject matter tutors than they would have without this specialized support.
Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyslexia
If you would like to discuss how we could work with you and your dyslexic child to not just get by, but to thrive in school and in life, book a free consultation today.