Ello and Dyslexia: Ways to Support Struggling Readers

Lauren Sittel
Literacy Specialist

Of all the questions Ello’s social media and customer support teams get, there’s one topic I get consulted on almost daily: dyslexia. This isn’t a bit surprising, considering about 15% of any given population is dyslexic. That means in a classroom of 26 children, about 4 would have some degree of dyslexia. Put another way, a child is more likely to be dyslexic than left-handed.

There’s much more to unpack with this topic than, “Will Ello work for my child with dyslexia?” But that’s still a very good question, so here’s the short-ish answer:

We have numerous readers with dyslexia using Ello with great success, and this is by design. Ello uses direct, explicit phonics instruction, which research shows is exactly what works for helping dyslexic children learn to read. Ello is not a dyslexia curriculum or intervention for dyslexia, but it’s a great supplement.

And here’s a short message from a real Ello parent, Lacy G.: “Thank you so much!! My daughter, who has dyslexia and dreads reading, is loving this program!!!”

BUT! If you’re looking for a deeper dive into dyslexia without having to spend hours and hours googling, here’s what I, as a reading specialist, share with parents who are concerned that their struggling young reader may have dyslexia.

Pro tip: one of my go-to resources for all things dyslexia is the International Dyslexia Association. It’s a great place to go beyond this blog for valuable, easy-to-access information.

15% of any given population is dyslexic. Put another way, a child is more likely to be dyslexic than left-handed.

What dyslexia is—and what it looks like in children

Quick disclaimer: I am not qualified to diagnose a child with dyslexia (nor is any reading specialist), but I do have Orton-Gillingham training and know the right resources and people who can help evaluate and support a child through various phases of the dyslexia journey. My sincere hope is that you come away from this blog feeling educated and empowered!

So, what exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the way a person’s brain processes all language, not just reading. This means that dyslexia isn’t just “letters looking mixed up” on a page; the root cause is deeper.

First things first: dyslexia has no bearing on overall intelligence. Dyslexic brains just have trouble recognizing and manipulating the different parts of words and sentences, which is necessary to be able to understand the sound-letter relationship between spoken and written language.

As a dyslexic child enters kindergarten, you notice they reverse letters or even entire words when writing, or have very poor handwriting and issues with spacing between letters and words. This is developmentally normal for all children to an extent, but if it’s extremely frequent and/or lasts into 2nd grade, it’s considered a sign of dyslexia. 

Your main allies in monitoring these signs are your child’s teachers, so share your concerns based on your at-home observations with them and communicate about how they track reading progress and issues. This will help both of you decide if and when it’s necessary to have your child evaluated.

Dyslexia has no bearing on overall intelligence. Dyslexic brains just have trouble recognizing and manipulating the different parts of words and sentences, which is necessary to be able to understand the sound-letter relationship between spoken and written language.

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Getting your child evaluated

Even though dyslexia isn’t a visual learning disability, its symptoms often become painfully apparent when a child starts learning to read. You or your child’s teacher may notice your child struggles with concepts like rhyming, blending sounds, memorizing, and retaining letter names and sounds. In this case, evaluating them for dyslexia is the best way to understand how to best help them as soon as possible.

It’s extremely common to go through your child’s school for a dyslexia evaluation, but many parents don’t know that you can also start the evaluation process through your child’s pediatrician (and here’s a great list of questions to ask from the National Center for Learning Disabilities). 

Whichever route works better for your family, the trained professional will evaluate school records, and your child’s medical and developmental history, then decide whether to recommend an assessment for dyslexia.

The evaluation itself is a series of assessments of spoken and written language and should include tests of:2

  • Phonological Awareness – an individual’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of his/her oral language
  • Phonological or Language-Based Memory – ability to recall sounds, syllables, words
  • Rapid Automatic Naming – speed of naming objects, colors, digits, or letters
  • Receptive Vocabulary – understanding of words heard
  • Phonics Skills – understanding of the symbol (letter) to the sound(s) relationship, either individually or in combination with other letters
  • Decoding – the ability to use symbol-sound associations to identify (read – pronounce) words, including real words and nonsense words
  • Oral Reading Fluency – ability to read accurately, at a story-telling pace – to facilitate / support comprehension
  • Single Words
  • Sentences and Paragraphs
  • Spelling
  • Writing

It’s extremely common to go through your child’s school for a dyslexia evaluation, but many parents don’t know that you can also start the evaluation process through your child’s pediatrician. 

Whichever route works better for your family, the trained professional will evaluate school records, and your child’s medical and developmental history, then decide whether to recommend an assessment for dyslexia.

Getting Your Child Support

Part of the reason a dyslexia evaluation is so important is that it’s the best way to get the right services and accommodations for your child, both in school and through supplemental intervention.

Now comes the tricky part for me, since every state is different when it comes to accommodations for dyslexia. Once again, I’m recommending the International Dyslexia Association, this time their fantastic page on advocating for your child.3

But here are the basics: for a diagnosis of any learning disability, your child’s school is required to write an IEP or 504 Plan, which includes modifications and accommodations.4

What sorts of modifications and accommodations, you ask? Now’s where my reading specialist experience finally gets to shine!

I loosely group areas of accommodation into curricular, classroom, intervention, and at-home categories. For example, your child is entitled to a reading curriculum that is proven to work for children with dyslexia (the buzzwords to look for here include “Science of Reading,” “Structured Literacy,” and “Orton-Gillingham”).

In the classroom, they may need to be seated as close to the teacher as possible, and receive extra time for assignments and tests that require language processing. They are also entitled to have assistive technology (for example, being allowed to speak on a recording device instead of writing short answers on a test).

Your child should be receiving supplemental intervention beyond classroom curriculum and environment, either during school hours or with a qualified professional your district pays for outside of school hours.

And lastly, your child may require accommodations for things like homework and the number of pages they are required to read per week at home. All of these accommodations make a lot of sense, but as a parent, if you go into an IEP meeting knowing what helps many other dyslexic children, you can better advocate for accommodations for your own child.

What Ello can do for children with dyslexia

Here at Ello, we like data and evidence. And in the case of dyslexia, research shows that enough students are dealing with some degree of dyslexic tendencies that it just makes sense to incorporate evidence-based best practices for dyslexic students into instruction for all students.5 

On top of that, numerous studies show that methods for teaching dyslexic students how to read are also effective for a wide range of struggling readers, and help all children become stronger spellers and more confident readers.

So while I make the big disclaimer that Ello isn’t exclusively putting decodable books in the Ello library (more on that in another post, I promise), the way Ello assists and corrects young readers is in line with the direct, systematic, phonics- and morphology-based instruction that the research advocates.

Bottom line: Ello by itself isn’t a dyslexia intervention, but is designed to be a fun, motivating reading supplement that works for dyslexic brains.

Whether your child already has a dyslexia diagnosis, you’re in the process of being evaluated, or reading just isn’t “clicking” for your child, Ello can make reading at home with your child more effective, less painful, and most importantly, more enjoyable.

Give your struggling reader the right support at home
$5 for the first month + free shipping
“This has given our daughter (who is dyslexic) her love of reading and confidence back in just two months after a terrible school year without proper support. Ello is worth every penny!”
- Angela M.
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Sources

1. Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician if Your Child Is Struggling. National Center for Learning Disabilities. https://www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Questions-to-Ask-Pediatricians.pdf

2. Dyslexia Assessment: What It Is and How It Can Help. International Dyslexia Association. https://dyslexiaida.org/dyslexia-assessment-what-is-it-and-how-can-it-help-2/

3. Advocating for Students With Dyslexia in Public Schools. International Dyslexia Association. ​​https://dyslexiaida.org/advocating-for-a-child-with-dyslexia-within-the-public-education-system/

4. Accommodations for Students With Dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association. https://dyslexiaida.org/accommodations-for-students-with-dyslexia/

5. Bowman, Julie. "Structured Literacy, Multi-Sensory Strategies, and Neurological Sciences Improve All Students Lives" (2022). 2022 Student Academic Showcase. 8. https://digitalcommons.lindenwood.edu/src/Posters/Session1/8

Category
Dyslexia