Dyslexia and Classical Education


From Cheryl Swope | October 5, 2016 | For Special Needs

As soon as we dip our toes into the realm of “special education,” we encounter the influences of undesirable learning theory and experimental education; so to whom can we turn? Below is a collection of carefully compiled lists to include teaching suggestions, discussions, and warning signs with steps to help.


Does your child have dyslexia? Beginning in early childhood, indicators begin to emerge. See Yale’s good checklist and this list by age.


A privatte evaluation can be requested by parents at any time. Check your insurance to determine which type of assessment is covered. Proceed with a full psychoeducational or neuropsych evaluation through a children’s hospital, dyslexia centerr (check references), or research hospital.

Public schools must provide evaluations. Read a good, balanced article on this processs.


Five Tips
1. Explore Orton-Gillinghamthe gold-standard approach which we employ within Simply Classical Reading in both Level 1 and Level 2. Phonemic readiness instruction occurs in A, B, and C. (To teach only reading from these full-year curriculum packages, contact me, cherylswope@memoriapress.com, for purchasing information.)

2. Use Multi-sensory Techniques

Why do so many programs for children with special needs, including our own Simply Classical Curriculum, include systematic, incremental, kinesthetic, and multi-sensory techniques? Consider the research for children with dyslexia (and more):

Multi-sensory/O-G with dyslexia in inner city
Efficacy of systematic phonics instruction for reading
Multi-sensory principles & more research

3. Include Ancillary Therapies
Dyslexia embodies more than differences in learning to read, and dyslexia does not occur in a vacuum. See these suggested therapies to address the child’s needs in more comprehensive ways.

4. Seek information and support from reputable organization and therapists
The Orton Academy provides a list of trained O-G instructors AND provides training sessions, if you want to become your child’s own O-G tutor.

5. Select your curriculum carefully

We have been thrilled to hear that our new full Simply Classical Curriculum has brought about both reading AND writing success with children diagnosed with dyslexia – and with those not yet formally diagnosed. With emphases on explicit phonics instruction, multi-sensory techniques, AND reading comprehension, we invite you to include the SC Curriculum from Memoria Press in your considerations.

6. Know Your Options

If your current reading program is not helping your child learn to read, or you cannot obtain help from a tutor or special school, consider these popular programs for homeschoolers, such as All About Reading or Barton. Many parents of children with dyslexia have found success with the inexpensive program, AlphaPhonics, by Samuel Blumenfeld, and excellent help from Lindamood-Bell. For children, especially boys, who struggle with writing, consider IEW. We now offer Simply Classical Step-by-Step Writing and an aural, multisensory Step-by-Step Spelling program through Memoria Press.

7. Maintain the Classical Framework
Read this article to become classically discerning in your selection: How to Teach Phonics (and How Not to). See these other good articles on teaching reading. Read Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, especially the Preface and first four chapters and the chapters on modifications.

WHAT SHOULD I AVOID? Dyslexia Symptoms Caused by Faulty Teaching

In February 1929, neurologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton published an article appearing in the Journal of Educational Psychology an article entitled The ‘Sight Reading’ Method of Teaching Reading as a Source of Reading Disability. Dr. Orton, the brain specialist who dealt with children’s language disorders, had been seeing a lot of children with reading problems at his clinic. Orton wrote, “faulty teaching methods may not only prevent the
acquisition of academic education by children of average capacity but may also give rise to far reaching damage to their emotional life.”

Decades later, education visionary Samuel Blumenfeld, with whom I had the pleasure of speaking in the early 1990s, wrote a similar assessment of the dyslexia explosion, Dyslexia: The Disease You Get from School.

With the Simply Classical Curriculum, we seek to prevent, accommodate, and remediate with effective teaching within the context of truth, goodness, and beauty.



Listen to these benefits from “Reading With Your Ears,” by Christie Berry, Ed.D., accessed September 28, 2016. She explains that good, unabridged audio books are excellent support for students with special needs, because they:

  • Introduce students to books above their reading level
  • Model good interpretive reading to improve thinking skills
  • Teach critical listening skills
  • Bring new genres that students might not otherwise consider
  • Make new vocabulary, proper names, and locales familiar
  • Expose students to unfamiliar dialects, accents, Old English, and old fashioned literary styles
  • Provide a read-aloud model of good inflection and expression

Audio books provide you with an additional, cutting-edge language arts tool to stimulate improved comprehension regardless of different learning styles and individual needs or abilities.

Research shows that students with specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, show greater improvement when using unabridged audio recordings while reading printed texts. Torgesen, et al.,4 compared the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities reading printed texts with or without unabridged audio recordings. Reading comprehension was greater for students using the audio recordings.

Reading With Your Ears, accessed September 28, 2016, from audio book reader, Jim Hodges. See his classic offeringsbooks on WWII, and more.

Find audiobooks through Learning Ally for students with dyslexia, through Audible, or LibriVox.


1. Be systematic & cumulative

Begin with skills and basic concepts and progress slowly-and-steadily to more difficult material.

2. Teach, do not merely assign

Teacher-student interaction is necessary.

3. Be comprehensive

All levels of language must be addressed, often in parallel, including sounds (phonemes), symbols (graphemes), meaningful word parts (morphemes), word and phrase meanings (semantics), sentences (syntax), longer passages (discourse), and the social uses of language (pragmatics).

4. Have Him Read Daily

Just 15-20 minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning. The daily discipline of 15-20 minutes practice reading will help him much more than intermittent long sessions, even if he is practicing with slightly easier readers during those 15-20 minutes.

5. Be Bite-Sized

  • Break down sessions into bite-size pieces.

6. Be Dad-friendly “You read this story really well. Let’s bookmark here, so we can save this story for you to read to Dad on Friday.”

  • Set aside time for Dad to listen to reading or read aloud, whichever Dad enjoys more!

7. Let The Student Become Physically Strong and Purposefully Active!

Include plenty of daily, purposeful outdoor exercise. This is classical!

Good physical training assists with bodily self-control, confidence, coordination, and stamina for both boys and girls.
“The curriculum studied by Athenian boys was guided by the belief that education should train all aspects of a child’s nature…. In Athens the curriculum was designed to develop both the body and the mind….Solon placed physical and intellectual training on the same footing and argued that above all else children should learn to ‘swim and read.’” (Compayre, Gabriel, The History of Pedagogy, 1899; quoted in Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator, CAP, 2015.)

8. Find Support for Yourself

Join our community, SimplyClassical.com or find support through one of the organizations mentioned in this article.

9. Engage and Delight

The Memoria Press motto is docere, delectare, movere. A very classical way of thinking, this triad comes from men like Cicero and later Augustine: to teach, to delight, to move.

The child with dyslexia is often creative, innovative, and delighted by his own interests. Encourage this! Introduce your child to creative adults with dyslexiaNurture your own child’s talents, passions, and abilities in his reading selections, pasttimes, and opportunities for service to others.

If you want assistance for your child, we would be happy to try to help. Contact cherylswope@memoriapress.com. If you have purchasing questions, contactsales@memoriapress.com.


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