This is in honor of my mom, who has dedicated many years to helping dyslexic kids in our area.
Dyslexia will probably not have a single solution. Similar to our post about SIDS, dyslexia seems to be a combination of different causes for the same symptom. You can ask teachers, the solution to this one is very personalized. But the symptom is pretty well-defined: struggling to learn to read or struggling reading.
It’s a spectrum disorder. Some people have it much worse than others. Consider for a moment the most fluent reader in the world. That reader may look at average or even strong readers as impaired in some way. If we all have the ability to read at that capacity, each of our reading abilities has room for improvement. I’m not saying that we’re all dyslexic, but I’m not saying we aren’t either. So if instead of grouping together those people who don’t read well, shouldn’t we all strive to optimize our reading ability? That way there is no disease, only subjects that need further optimization.
There are a bunch of studies out there showing all sorts of ways that people have “cured” dyslexia. But not all approaches work on all people. So I suggest the shotgun approach: tinker with all the possible variables until you’re happy with the results.
Covering one eye works. In some students, the eyes work against each other. Reading with special glasses that eliminate one eye have been shown to help.
Background noise matters. Find your sweet spot. Is it the coffee shop or soft jazz in your headphones? Or is it perfect silence?
Head position matters. Your head position matters. Some people saw drastic improvement just by changing their reading head position.
Posture training helps. Along the same lines as the head position, posture control also has been proven to help dyslexic children.
Exercise helps. Studies have shown that short exercise prior to reading has increased fluency.
Boredom matters. Are you or your students interested in what you are reading? It will always be easier when the subject is interesting, or seems important. We have to go back a long way to tie boredom to mental strain. In short, boredom literally creates stress.
Diet makes a difference. Diets lower in sugar, helped reduce erratic eye movements, which reduced reading impairments.
Self 2 is the reader. I stole this term from The Inner Game of Tennis. You may have a different name for it, but these kids need to be able to read without thinking about reading. The goal is an effortless flow of ideas from the author to the reader. We aren’t looking for the fastest way to get them literate. If it isn’t effortless, or getting easier, they will find something else to do with their time.
Think about what you’re reading, not what you’re reading. The only purpose of the words is to convey ideas. When we have kids dissect words into their smallest parts, they disconnect from the intended flow. Kids are thinking about the words on the page or even letters on the page, not the thoughts on the page.
Changing fear into confidence. If you have struggled reading, it may become something that you fear or dread doing. Turning this dread into excitement comes with time and practice.
Let’s get one thing straight: You have to learn to read. If you have several things working against you, you are going to struggle to learn. If we remove those obstacles, you aren’t going to magically read, but you should learn faster. And read faster, once you learn.
For those of you who don’t have dyslexia but are just looking to improve your reading, change something. Chances are great that there is more than one thing left for you to optimize.