The Dyslexic and High School

I have written many posts about homeschooling my dyslexic child through elementary school, but very little about high school. We adopted a child with special needs two years ago and I stopped blogging, due to time constraints. I have fielded several questions recently about homeschooling my dyslexic child in high school, so I am going to post a series on that topic. This first one is an update.

Our son was diagnosed with dyslexia and slow processing speed in 2nd grade. He is in 10th grade now.

Over the years we have tried to do everything possible with audio or video so that he can keep up with his workload in subjects like history, literature, and science.

For example, we use Apologia science since all of their high school books and most of their elementary books are available in audio format. They also have CD Rom versions of their texts, so he can access his book on the computer, which is easier for him than holding and reading a physical text book.

For spelling this year I am doing Touch Type Read and Spell which is an online program that teaches typing and spelling skills using an Orton Gillingham model (which is designed for dyslexics). I wish we could be done with spelling but we are still trying to get him to a better spelling level. Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse but I am not ready to give up. He does type all his papers so that he has spell check on the computer, but I still have to edit for spelling because of homophones. Last year we focused on the 1,000 most frequently used words in the English language for our spelling, as those words represent 95% of the words people typically write. That was a helpful exercise, but time consuming for me. This year we are trying something he can do all by himself. TTRS (Touch Type Read and Spell) is extremely expensive if you buy it retail. I purchased the subscription through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, which is a free online co op that allows homeschoolers to band together to get volume discounts. It was WAY cheaper than their retail price.

My son uses a lot of tech, such as Dragon dictation (he dictates all his papers), and types almost everything on the computer so he has spell check. He is using One Note this year which allows him to take a photo of a whiteboard or power point presentation and it converts it to a searchable or even editable PDF on his phone, tablet or computer. One Note also allows you to photograph a document and then write or type on it, so it can be used to fill out worksheets. Someone just told me about Snap Type, which looks like a great app! It is on my to do list to check that out and see if it would be helpful for him. I believe it has some of the same capabilities as One Note, but may be more useful in certain applications. My favorite thing about One Note is that it makes outlining very easy, as it has a built in outlining application. Also, it is free! One Note is robust, so it takes some time to learn how to use it. Thankfully, there are many video tutorials on the internet to help you get the most out of One Note.

My son is able to keep up fine in math, but it just takes an inordinately long time for him to get all the work done. His teacher allows the students to use a graphing calculator and I can’t imagine how long it would take him without that accommodation! Because of the calculator, the upper level math has actually been easier for him in many ways than when he was younger and tried to do everything on paper.

He is doing great, he got all A’s last year in 9th grade, and most of his teachers were other people through online and local co ops.

My biggest surprise has been that he excelled in Latin I and II, which he took online through Latin in the Christian Trivium. I have since heard that others have reported their dyslexic kids did well in Latin. These were high school level Latin classes that he took in 8th and 9th grade, and he got an A in both. That is just amazing to me. He did not seem to struggle with writing or reading Latin the way he has with English! The human brain is pretty incredible, isn’t it?! He took these classes live online, but they also offer an AYOP option.

This year we are doing the Classical Conversations Challenge program. I expect he will do very well in Classical Conversations this year, also, but he will have to work very hard and I will be making some accommodations for him, which I will cover in my next post in this series. Although it will be a CC specific post, I think there is plenty of application there for anyone homeschooling a dyslexic in high school.

The accommodations I am making for him are mainly because of time…he plays football for a local Christian school and that takes up a considerable chunk of time each day, and last year he didn’t get enough sleep because he was staying up too late trying to get his work done. That is what prompted us to switch to Classical Conversations as I had very little control over his workload last year since he had 5 different teachers besides myself.  With CC I have control over his workload, yet he still benefits from that co op setting which he loves–so I believe it will be the best of both worlds for him.

CC is a Christian classical program with chapters nationwide. Over the years our watchwords have been “remediation and accommodation”–remediating things like spelling, handwriting, and reading speed and fluency/comprehension while using tech and audio books to help him work up to his potential in other areas. He excels when the eye/hand pathway is removed and he uses the ear/mouth pathway. This has been a great combination for him, as he is passable in his weak areas now yet can really soar when utilizing his strengths.

He gets his audio books from our own website, My Audio School, which we established when he was first diagnosed and from Audible. We have tried Learning Ally in the past but the quality wasn’t that good and it got too expensive for the quality, we felt. To be eligible for Learning Ally you have to have an official diagnosis. Last time I checked the price was over $100 per year. I pay $15 per month for Audible which gives us one book per month, and access to member sales. The books on our website are all in the public domain, and since we follow a Classical Model, many of the books we need are available there. A friend of mine recommended that we look into BookShare, which is an online audio library program. That is on my to do list. So many apps and programs for these amazing kids–so little time! I would love it if you left me a comment about what programs and apps you find useful for your struggling learners!

I also build a lot of his classes around what is available in audio, or choose programs (like Classical Conversations and Apologia science) which use resources we can get in audio. I will have to read a few things aloud to him this year, to save time–he could do it, but it takes so long. Another example of accommodation and remediation working together is that he has to read 5 Shakespeare plays this year for CC, so first he listens to an audio version for kids, then we watch a video version of each play, then he listens to the original version in Audio, and then he and I discuss the play using the book Brightest Heaven of Invention and a physical copy of the play, referencing the scene and line numbers. It takes more time than just reading the play one time, but he is really understanding it, and he is able to participate in the discussions of the play with his class at Classical Conversations, which is the goal. Since he gains so much through discussion I can already see after just one month that CC is going to be a great thing for him. Students meet once a week for a full day and discuss 6 different subject areas. It is a lot of work during the week, but the classroom format is ideally suited to someone who thrives in an auditory/discussion oriented environment.

We are ready to apply for accommodations for the SAT/ACT so he was just tested again so that we would have a fresh diagnosis. I hope to start applying for those accommodations within the next month, and I will certainly post about what we did and the results.


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