Tutoring kids with dyslexia: What you need to know

At a glance

  • Private reading instruction can provide big benefits for kids with dyslexia.

  • Look for a tutor who uses a multisensory structured language education (MSLE) program to teach reading.

  • People who provide this kind of instruction are often called educational therapists or reading specialists.

Kids with dyslexia often get specialized reading instruction as part of their (IEP). That’s very important in helping them learn to read. But it may not be enough to get every child reading fluently at grade level. Having a tutor outside of school can help. Here’s what you need to know about tutoring kids with dyslexia.

What to look for in a tutor

Kids with dyslexia learn to read best with a specific type of reading instruction. This kind of instruction is called multisensory structured language education (MSLE). There are a number of MSLE reading programs tutors can use.

Most of these programs are based on an approach called Orton–Gillingham (OG). You may hear them referred to as either MSLE or OG programs.

When you’re looking for a private reading instructor for your child, try to find one who uses an MSLE or OG program. Ideally, your tutor should use the same program your child’s school uses or coordinate with the school. The tutor may be able to fill in parts of the program that the school doesn’t use or doesn’t have time to cover.

What an MSLE tutor might do

The details of different MSLE and OG programs vary. Some instructors might use letter tiles or sandpaper letters to help kids build words and feel the shape of the letters. Some programs also focus on teaching kids to use different arm movements to make commonly confused letters like p, b, and d.

When working together, the tutor should set goals for your child. The tutor should also provide you with regular progress updates.

Who can provide tutoring

It takes specific skills to teach kids with dyslexia to read. Tutors with these skills often call themselves reading specialists or educational therapists. But there are no regulations about who can or can’t use these titles.

Tutors can get certain qualifications, however. They can be trained and certified in the MSLE reading programs they use. The programs themselves may offer this.

Some organizations also certify instructors. These include the Academy of Orton–Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE) and training programs accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC).

It’s a good idea to look for a tutor who’s certified. But even more important is finding one with experience using an MSLE or OG program. You may find a teacher who isn’t certified but who has taught kids with dyslexia using an MSLE program at school.

Where to find the right help

Your child’s school is the best place to start. The reading specialist, teacher, or case manager may even have a list of qualified private tutors. Other parents who have kids with dyslexia are another good resource. You could also ask your child’s pediatrician.

There are two groups that keep lists of certified educational therapists, as well. They are the Association of Educational Therapists and the National Institute for Learning Development.

Plus, MSLE programs usually have lists of instructors certified in their methods on their websites. Local hospitals and colleges can also be resources.

Most commercial tutoring centers don’t offer MSLE instruction. One exception is the Lindamood–Bell program. It has a number of centers throughout the United States.

Even there, it’s important to know the tutor who will work directly with your child. Be sure to ask about the tutor’s qualifications.

MSLE instruction is physical in nature. Because of that, online tutoring isn’t typically a good option for kids with dyslexia.

When to look for a tutor

By second or third grade, it’s usually clear when kids need additional support in reading. You may notice that your child is falling further and further behind his classmates. Reading skills may lag behind other skill areas.

Don’t wait to see if your child improves. The earlier you act, the better off your child will be.

Some students aren’t diagnosed with dyslexia until they’re further along in school. Of course, it’s never too late for them to benefit from private instruction. But their needs may be different from those of younger children. So it’s best to try to find a tutor who has experience working with older students.

For individual tutoring, most programs recommend one-hour sessions, two or three times per week. (For small-group instruction, they recommend 45 minutes per day. That includes what kids are getting in school.)

How long to continue with tutoring really depends on your child’s challenges. It also depends on how long it takes to reach reading fluency. It might take anywhere from six months to three years. If a tutor suggests a “quicker and easier” approach, consider it a red flag.

Be skeptical, too, if a tutor makes specific promises. For example, “I’ll have your child reading at third-grade level by this time next year.” There’s no way to guarantee a time frame.

Paying for tutoring

In general, you have to pay for private tutoring. Educational therapists and reading specialists tend to charge more than traditional tutors. Rates can range from $25 to $80 an hour. They may be much higher in major cities.

Depending on where you live, another option might be Children’s Dyslexia Centers. There are nearly 50 centers in 13 states. They provide free OG-based tutoring for students who have been formally identified with dyslexia.

Private tutoring is a big commitment for any family. But evidence shows that it can have tremendous benefits for kids with dyslexia. Learn what to ask a potential tutor. Discover steps you can take to offset tutoring expenses. Also, learn about how school reading specialists help kids with dyslexia.

Key takeaways

  • It’s important to find a tutor with experience using an MSLE- or OG-based reading program with kids who have dyslexia.

  • Kids with dyslexia might need from six months to three years of tutoring to be able to read fluently.

  • Getting private reading instruction early is ideal. But it’s never too late for a child to benefit.


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