I love when my students quit tutoring!

The most exciting part of my job as a reading and writing tutor is when I start working with a new student. Once we’re past all the paperwork and we can get to work. I love that part because I know we are about to start an exciting season of reading, writing, researching and talking about language and writing and stories. My job is great, y’all!

But my second favorite part comes later. It sometimes starts with a question, from either me or the parents, “What do you think about…” cutting back our schedule, taking the summer off, or shifting our focus to something else. And soon, I’m reciting my last minute reminders for the writers as I send them off to their next challenges.

Why it’s great

I know that the “self-regulated” part of SRSD is working when I see a student start to take more ownership over the writing process. In the first stage of practicing, I sort of interview them about their topic to fill in each part of the plan. “Hmm, you think agriculture was the most important development. Why do you think that? Ah, that sounds like an important detail. I’m going to put it here.”

After some practice, I can say, “And what are the supporting details?” or “What do those ideas have in common?” and they know how to use the information in their paragraph.

By the end of writing tutoring with a student, I can serve more of an editing role. I might read a paragraph and say, “This part confused me,” or “Can you explain more about why you said this?” They might be able to independently plan an essay and write a whole draft before meeting with me. In those drafts, I can see the planning that lies under their writing. They have started with the basic framework they learned with me and they And we can spend that bonus learning time refining ideas, finding synonyms, and studying the picky details of a formal writing style.

But in the end, they just plain don’t need writing help anymore! That’s the beauty of teaching flexible writing strategies that work for different years, different teachers, and different kinds of writing. Students learn not just the “how” but the “why” of writing techniques, knowledge which helps them to customize their writing approach for new assignments.

Maybe I’m weird. I mean, how many other professionals brag, “my clients keep leaving me!” But it really is my favorite to see students move on. They have reclaimed their evenings from homework frustration. They have set and achieved goals that demand strong writing skills. And they have done it with confidence because they know how to make a plan and get their ideas on paper.

If you want your child to have access to these tools and leave writing homework anxiety behind, I recommend you check out my mini-course, the Academic Writing Lifeline for Parents I wrote it for parents instead of their kids because I think young writers really do need to bounce their ideas off of someone else while they learn to organize them for writing. And these are the tools a parent needs to confidently support their children through any writing assignment that comes home.

Check it out here.

Private Tutor vs. Tutoring Center

Hiring a tutor for your child is not a decision most parents take lightly. Often, the family has tried having a parent help with homework, encouraging the child to stay after school to meet with the teacher, and extra practice in workbooks or on websites like Khan Academy. Sometimes, in spite of all these efforts, the child needs extra support to master the skills he is missing and meet his goals at school. There are many ways to find a tutor, and in this post I will outline some pros and cons of finding a private tutor and attending a commercial tutoring center. And I’ll try to answer the question, “how much does tutoring cost?” and give you some tips on finding affordable tutors near you.

Getting Connected

Unless you live in a very rural area, tutoring centers like Sylvan and Kumon are heavily advertised and widely available. You might drive by them in your errands or see their advertisements in your local paper or on Facebook. A tutor is just a click or call away. These big companies have a staff of people ready to talk with you about your request and match you to an available tutor. Other companies, often local franchises, use the same basic model as the big companies, so there are almost always lots of tutoring companies to choose from.

On the other hand, finding the right private tutor can take a little more effort. Local teachers often tutor students in their school community. Other parents hire high school or college students to tutor their children. For some students, this is enough. For students with greater needs, like kids with dyslexia or dysgraphia, or students who need help with executive functioning skills, it is important to find an expert who can offer your child the best strategies for learning. To find a tutor that is a good match for your child, you may need to email, call and interview more than one person to find the best fit. It is easy to use an internet search to find tutors in your subject in your area. Online tutoring is another awesome way to work with the best tutor you can find without having to worry about travel or geographical limitations. Meeting with a tutor through video conferencing opens up your search to the best available tutor in the world, not just the best tutor in your town.

Scheduling

Tutoring centers are flexible and convenient. They are often open all afternoon and evening and they usually have many tutors they can assign you to. You will be able to set up a tutoring schedule that can fit in with your busy life and your child’s schedule of sports and activities.

Independent tutors are individual human beings, so they may or may not be able to meet your exact scheduling needs. But while they may not have unlimited hours to offer you, independent tutors are often willing to be flexible to best meet your needs. Offering flexible arrangements like every other week tutoring, or changing your time slot if needed are benefits that you can get with an independent tutor. Instead of working with an employee of a tutoring company, who may have fixed work hours, you can choose an independent tutor who sets his own hours.

Curriculum

In my experience, curriculum varies widely for all kinds of tutoring. Some use off the shelf workbooks, while other large tutoring companies have developed their own proprietary curriculum. Something that may or may not be a good fit for your child’s needs. Before you commit to a tutoring center, be sure you know what type of curriculum they use, and also what kind of assessments they offer to make sure your child is learning what they came in to learn.

The same is true for individual tutors. While they often have more flexibility than tutors at a tutoring center, they may not have as many resources available as a tutor from a larger company. On the other hand, independent tutors can often work more flexibly, using the student’s homework or interests to work on skills.

The Personal Touch

Finding a tutor at a tutoring center can be a bit of a gamble. Maybe an attentive staff member will notice important details and assign the perfect match. Or maybe your child will meet with the next tutor who has an opening. While tutoring centers want you to stay with them, and for your child to be successful, they don’t all make it easy to find a tutor who is a good fit.

Private tutors see fewer students at a time than a large tutoring center, so they tend to know their students, and their parents, better than the staff of a large tutoring center would. One of my favorite things about the job is the connections I get to build with students and families over many years.

Cost

I saved this for last, because the cost of tutoring varies widely depending on what services you are looking for and where you live. Tutoring centers often offer group tutoring, which can keep costs lower. They may offer pricing deals if you buy a block of tutoring hours, enroll more than one child, or commit to a long-term contract. When you buy tutoring from a tutoring center, keep in mind that your fee pays for the physical surroundings as well as the support staff and administrative staff running the center. The tutor who works directly with your child probably will not be highly paid. As a result, these jobs don’t attract the most highly-qualified and experienced tutors.

The cost for private tutoring varies, too. You can hire a high school or college student for not much more than you might pay a babysitter. Hiring a professional tutor, someone with an education degree and teaching experience, or someone with a specialty like learning disabilities tutoring or test preparation tutoring costs more. And a cheap tutor isn’t always a good deal. An experienced professional tutor can assess your child and pinpoint the problem your child is having. She may be able to correct the problem in just a couple of well-planned lessons. An inexpensive, inexperienced tutor might put in many hours with your child without dramatic results.

The Final Decision

There is no one “best” or “right” kind of tutoring. Students and families can find almost any tutoring solution to meet their needs, from meeting with a local college student at the library after school to having a private tutor come to your home, to taking your child to a small group class at a large tutoring center. As you shop for a tutoring solution for your child, think about your child’s personality and academic needs. Consider your family’s schedule and other family members’ needs.

The bottom line is, tutoring can be a significant investment of money and time. Like with any big purchase, ask many questions and try out some options to see what works best. The right tutor for your family gives you the answers you are looking for. They were able to clearly explain what they will do with your child in lessons and why. They also ask you questions about your child as a learner, and as a person. In the end, that connection between a tutor and a student is one of the things that makes tutoring different from classroom learning.

Unless you live in a very rural area, tutoring centers like Sylvan and Kumon are heavily advertised and widely available. You might drive by them on your errands or see their ads on Facebook. A tutor is just a click or call away. These big companies have a staff of people ready to talk with you about your request and match you to an available tutor.

Finding the right private tutor can take a little more effort. Local teachers often tutor students in their school community. Other parents hire high school or college students to tutor their children. For some students, this is enough. For students with greater needs, like those who need tutoring for dyslexia or dysgraphia, or students who need help with executive function, it is important to find an expert who can offer your child the best strategies for learning. To find a tutor that is a good match for your child, you may need to email, call and interview more than one person to find the best fit. It is easy to use an internet search to find tutors in your subject in your area.

Online tutoring is another awesome way to work with the best tutor you can find without having to worry about travel or geographical limitations. Meeting with a tutor through video conferencing opens up your search to the best available tutor in the world, not just the best tutor in your town.

If you are looking for a tutor to support your child’s writing or reading, please contact us today for a no-cost demo lesson. See how online tutoring can help your child!

Do Kids Outgrow Dyslexia?

I was explaining to a student how our brains process language when we read and how some brains don’t do it as efficiently, which can lead to slow reading. I named dyslexia as an example of what can cause reading difficulty. My student nodded knowingly and said, “I had dyslexia when I was little, but I outgrew it.” I mentioned that there are lots of different types of reading difficulties, but that dyslexia isn’t something a person outgrows. But it’s a common perception about dyslexia that it only affects children.

Why can’t you outgrow dyslexia?

What is dyslexia?

The International Dyslexia Association has developed this definition of dyslexia:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

For young children, it often looks like poor reading and spelling, difficulty remembering or pronouncing words, trouble rhyming, and resistance to reading. At this stage, teachers often say that kids are learning “at their own pace” or that we should “wait and see” if they catch up. But research has shown us that kids don’t outgrow dyslexia! They need systematic, explicit, literacy instruction to get the skills they are missing.

Often, older children with dyslexia have learned some reading and spelling skills but their reading remains slow, or they have poor comprehension. They sometimes avoid reading or writing, and might demonstrate behaviors (like arguing or goofing around) that take the focus off their difficulties and make it easier for them to avoid what they struggle with. But even if a child with dyslexia can learn to read, that doesn’t mean they outgrow dyslexia.

If you learn to read, is dyslexia cured?

Unfortunately, learning to read and spell isn’t the end of the journey for a person with dyslexia. Through the IEP process, schools will complete formal testing and sometimes, if instruction has been effective, they will determine that a child no longer qualifies for an IEP because their scores are average now. Unfortunately, that isn’t the same as outgrowing dyslexia. 

While reading and spelling skill gaps can be remediated – meaning students get the skills they were missing – the brain of a person with dyslexia can still process information differently. They may need explicit instruction in vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, or writing. Older students and adults with dyslexia may also use assistive technology to help them do reading and writing tasks.


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What happens to adults with dyslexia?

Adults with dyslexia continue to exist! They become scientists, teachers, athletes, writers, lawyers, parents, and many other things. With skills, accommodations, advocacy and support, people with dyslexia can grow up to be successful, powerful members of our communities.

Unfortunately, without the right teaching and support, people with dyslexia have outcomes that aren’t as good. According to ProLiteracy.org, there are over 43 million adults in the US who struggle with math, reading and writing tasks above a third grade level. Many of those adults may have dyslexia and not even know it. Poor reading skills can lead to a lack of job opportunities, as well as making people more likely to end up incarcerated. 

If you can’t outgrow dyslexia, what should we do?

A dyslexia diagnosis is something that will be with a person for the rest of their life. It will affect the way they learn, the way they communicate, the jobs they choose, and the tools and supports they use every day. Many adults with dyslexia are proud of their identity as dyslexic and say it also includes strengths like creative thinking that help them succeed! 

But embracing dyslexia is not the same as ignoring it. For a person with dyslexia to succeed and thrive, they need high quality, explicit instruction in reading and writing and consistent support from teachers and family who understand dyslexia and advocate for the student’s needs. 

If you suspect that you or your child has dyslexia, learn more from the International Dyslexia Association. If you are looking for systematic, explicit, literacy instruction, contact us for a consultation to find out if online Orton-Gillingham tutoring is right for you! 

An Orton-Gillingham Tutor Near Me

As the school year comes to a close, many parents are thinking about using the summer to help their children catch up on skills with the help of a tutor. But if you are looking for something specific, like an Orton-Gillingham certified tutor, you might have to do a bit of digging. Often, searching for “Orton-Gillingham Tutor Near Me” gets you search results for large tutoring organizations or referral services. Sometimes you even end up in the weeds, with information about how to get OG certified instead of how to find a tutor that is already trained! Here are my top tips for finding an Orton-Gillingham tutor near you!

Finding an Orton-Gillingham tutor near me

Some of the best local Orton-Gillingham tutors I know are totally invisible online. They built their businesses on referrals from parents and schools and so they don’t come up in a search when you look for “tutor near me” online. The best way to find these hidden gems is to ask around. Your local Decoding Dyslexia branch, Facebook parent groups and local teachers are three great sources of information about local OG tutors near you. 

If you’re not ready to ask about your child’s needs in a public forum, you can also search any Facebook groups you are in for older discussions about tutors in your area. 

Finding dyslexia therapy near me

The term “dyslexia therapy” is used to describe structured literacy instruction done by a highly-trained expert who has passed an exam through the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA) and completed their certification requirements. Some states also license dyslexia therapists, such as the state of Texas. In other states, certified dyslexia therapists are difficult to find. If your “dyslexia therapy near me” search leaves you empty-handed, there are other trainings and qualifications that can help you find a highly skilled dyslexia tutor for your child. 

How do I find tutoring for dyslexia

I’ll tell you how to find tutoring for dyslexia, but a word of caution, first: Many teachers and principals, and some whole schools, are completely uninformed about dyslexia. If a teacher that hasn’t helped your child grow significantly in reading this year is recommending something like, “Just go to the library and read to her plenty! She’ll catch up!” smile and nod and find a more knowledgeable source of information.

Tutoring for dyslexia should be done by a person with training (certification is even better!) in Orton-Gillingham or another structured literacy approach to teaching reading. Orton-Gillingham is a systematic, sequential, diagnostic, multisensory approach to teaching language skills. While some large, national tutoring companies offer tutoring for dyslexia, make sure the staff is certified in OG or another approach before signing up. There are a few people qualified to offer tutoring for dyslexia on any large directory of tutors. An exception is the Literacy Nest’s Tutor Finder directory. These tutors are not all OG-certified but there is a good concentration of them.

What is Orton-Gillingham training?

Orton-Gillingham training is an intensive combination of both classwork and a practicum supervised by an Orton-Gillingham trainer. Certified OG tutors study the structure of the English language, learn about dyslexia, and practice assessing and teaching children with dyslexia and measuring their progress. My program ran from January to December and offered the equivalent of 6 graduate credits of instruction, and a 100-hour practicum. That means I submitted my first 100 lessons to my trainer for feedback, and she also observed some of my lessons and gave live feedback.

What are certified tutors?

While there are options for shorter OG tutor training programs, such as a 30-hour training, these do not give tutors the depth of knowledge and experience needed to effectively help dyslexic students. Certified tutors have completed a supervised practicum. During that practicum, certified tutors have had their lessons critiqued by a trainer. They have also assessed students and planned and taught lessons that moved them along the sequence of skills. While OG training is an excellent option for many, especially classroom teachers, certification makes a difference. Certified tutors, in my opinion, are the best choice for students who are dyslexic or struggling greatly to learn to read.

At Deep Roots Learning Solutions, we choose tutors who are certified, or who are in the process of completing their practicum for certification, to work with our students. An OG tutor that has completed a rigorous training and practicum program for OG certification is qualified to assess a student’s changing literacy needs, bring in additional teaching resources as needed, and recognize needs that may best be referred to other professionals. 

Are all OG tutors the same?

Find a certified OG tutor: check. Should be pretty easy, right? You know they need to complete a practicum, and that certified is better than trained. But there are several different organizations that provide OG tutor training, and they all use slightly different terminology. And Google does not know the difference, so when you search for “Orton-Gillingham tutor near me” you’re going to get a mixed bag of different training backgrounds. Here are some of the big ones:

Orton Academy

The Orton-Gillingham Academy (OGA), formerly known as AOGPE, is one of the largest and most well-known of the organizations training OG tutors. They train individuals at four levels: Classroom Educator, Associate Level, Certified Level and Fellow Level. An Associate Level OG tutor works under the supervision of their training fellow, and a Certified Level OG tutor is able to teach and tutor independently of their fellow. So if a tutor you are considering is OGA Certified, they have cleared a pretty high bar of training and supervision! The Academy offers a directory of tutors it has trained.

International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association also certifies OG tutors through an affiliated program, The Center for Effective Reading Instruction (CERI). Tutors can complete an IDA Accredited Program and become Dyslexia Interventionists (formerly known as Dyslexia Practitioners) or Dyslexia Specialists (formerly known as Dyslexia Therapists). These OG tutors have also passed an exam and completed a supervised practicum. CERI also certifies people at the classroom teacher level.

OG reading programs

Orton-Gillingham is an approach to teaching, rather than a specific curriculum. OG tutors often follow a specific sequence of reading skills introduced in their training, but compose their own lists of practice words and decide when to practice a skill more and when to move on. They may use materials from many different sources, with a focus on teaching the next skills a child needs, rather than getting to the next chapter or unit of a program.

In addition to these “pure” OG tutors, there are many different programs that are based on the principles of Orton-Gillingham or structured literacy. Some are taught by teachers who receive live training in using the materials. Others are designed to be used without explicit training because the instructions are in the lessons.

Barton tutoring

One popular program for dyslexia tutoring is the Barton System. Barton is an “Orton-Gillingham influenced” program that consists of 10 levels. It is designed for parents, or other individuals without teacher training, to study and teach on their own. Each level includes training DVDs for the tutor and lessons and materials for the students. The upside of choosing Barton tutoring is that everything is laid out and the lessons are explicit and systematic. The downside of choosing Barton tutoring is that it’s not as flexible as OG because students need to begin at Level 1 and progress through all the levels, regardless of their starting skill level.

Wilson Reading

Wilson Reading (WRS) is another Orton-Gillingham based program that is commonly used in some parts of the country. In Massachusetts, where I live, it is commonly offered both in schools (usually in special education) and by private Wilson tutors. Wilson certifies teachers in its program, so make sure if you are selecting a Wilson tutor they are certified at the appropriate level. The Wilson Reading website also provides a directory of certified providers. 

Final thoughts

Children with dyslexia, or with characteristics of dyslexia, need specialized literacy instruction to gain skills and become successful readers and writers. Finding a tutor can be quite challenging in a world where dyslexia is often misunderstood, even by those in the education field. If your family is investing time and money into tutoring for your child, it’s important to find a person who is the right fit, someone with the skills and training to help your child succeed. 

If you are looking for a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor to work with your child online, contact us today! We have spots open. We would love to give you a demonstration of what our online lessons look and feel like and help you decide if working with an online OG tutor is a good fit for your child.

Can kids with dyslexia learn to read faster?

Even with lots of good reading instruction, some readers with dyslexia still read very slowly. While the Science of Reading is pretty clear about the best ways to teach students to decode words, improving reading fluency for dyslexic students is another challenge, and one that can be harder to overcome. Here’s what it takes to help students with dyslexia read faster.

It takes knowledge and patience

Do all dyslexics have trouble reading?

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Many students with dyslexia struggle to read from the very beginning of their schooling. They may be slow to learn letter names and sounds, and even have early difficulties with conversational language, like recalling specific words or pronouncing multi-syllabic words. 

For other students, strong visual memory capabilities and lots of practice can memorize an impressive number of words. They may read slowly, or mix up similar words (saw/was, though/through/thorough/tough) but can often read well enough with these so-called compensatory strategies to read “at grade level” through second or third grade. Students with this profile are sometimes diagnosed with “stealth dyslexia,” meaning they have dyslexia but it is very difficult to detect. These readers may find reading exhausting or unpleasant, or be known for their poor spelling, but don’t get any specialized instruction because their needs aren’t recognized. 

In one example that really changed my thinking, I assessed a fifth grader who was pretty successful in class, but his parents had long-standing concerns about his reading and spelling. I found that, while he was passing grade-level reading assessments, he did not know the sounds of the short vowels! When he encountered unknown words or nonsense words, he did not have the skills to decode them. That severely limits a person’s ability to gather information about an unfamiliar topic through reading. 

So do all dyslexics have trouble reading? I’d say: eventually, without support, most will.

What is the best reading program for dyslexia?

The recommended reading approach for students with dyslexia is structured literacy. This can include lots of different programs, including Orton-Gillingham and OG-based curricula, like Wilson Reading or Barton. But structured literacy describes any program that teaches literacy skills in a comprehensive, explicit, sequential manner. It includes instruction in phonemes (sounds in spoken language), sound-symbol correspondence (phonics/”sounding out” words), orthography (spelling patterns), morphology (including prefixes and suffixes), semantics (vocabulary and comprehension) and syntax (grammar).

If your child is struggling with decoding and reading fluency, we can help! Our Orton-Gillingham tutors are available to plan and carry out a customized tutoring plan for your child. Contact us today!

Improving reading fluency dyslexic students

While the core problem for most readers with dyslexia is in the phonological (sound) part of reading, some students also have trouble quickly identifying letters (and/or numbers, colors or objects). Students who don’t perform well on this rapid naming task, in addition to having phonological awareness deficits, are sometimes described as having a double deficit. When readers have low scores in both areas, they take longer to develop reading fluency and may always be slower than average readers.

For these students, I often use a fluency-focused program in addition to Orton-Gillingham to help them develop these skills. There are many different possibilities for improving fluency, but the basic principle is that students benefit from repeated reading with feedback, and from hearing a model of a more fluent reader. 

While we often think of reading fluency as “reading fast enough,” there are actually three components of fluency and they are all important. Fluent reading is reading that is accurate, expressive, and fast enough to allow for good comprehension.

  • Accuracy – it should go without saying that for reading to be considered fluent, the words have to be read accurately to understand the text.
  • Speed – reading fluency assessment too often focuses on fluency, getting kids to read faster. Kids become aware of these speed goals and focus on zooming through the text, at the expense of accuracy or understanding.
  • Prosody – prosody is the most challenging component of fluency to explain, but you know it when you hear it. I tell students it’s reading “like a storyteller,” using phrasing and intonation to express the emotions of the story. Lots of the feedback we give students – stop at the periods, notice the quotation marks, act out what the characters are saying with your voice – promote prosody. 

It’s not glamorous

Teaching the early stages of reading can be really exciting. Students go from non-readers, struggling to remember individual letter names and sound, to slowly joining together sounds and then having that a-ha! moment when they recognize the word they’ve just read. My son used to giggle uncontrollably every time he sounded out a word successfully. This stage is lots of work, but rewarding!

Building fluency can be a slower, less glamorous process. Even with the best types of instruction, improving reading fluency for dyslexic students can take years. Take data, like counting how many words per minute a student is reading, or take a short audio recording of them reading now, and again in a few months, so you can celebrate that growth, even when it takes a long time!

If your child is struggling with decoding and reading fluency, we can help! Our Orton-Gillingham tutors are available to plan and carry out a customized tutoring plan for your child. Contact us today!