If your child has dyslexia, chances are he’ll get specialized reading instruction as part of his Individualized Education Program (IEP). That’s very important in helping him learn to read. But it may not be enough to get him 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
Children 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.
As the tutor works with your child, she should set goals for him. She should also provide you with regular updates on his progress.
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 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. His reading specialist, special education 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, the 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. His reading may lag behind his other skill areas.
Don’t wait to see if he improves on his own. 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.
The Recommended Amount of Tutoring
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 your child could benefit from tutoring really depends on his challenges. It also depends on how long it takes him to reach reading fluency. That might take anywhere from six months to three years. If a tutor suggests she has a quicker and easier approach, consider it a red flag.
Be skeptical, too, if a tutor makes specific promises. For example, “I’ll have him reading at a 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 the 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.