Synthetic Phonics program for parents to do at home with struggling speller.... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 10-20-2012, 05:46 AM - Thread Starter
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My DC was a struggling reader for the past few years. She seems to need a very explicit explanation about language and also seems to struggle with fluency. She got a lot of support for reading (private tutor, work at home and extra attention at school) and is now reading at grade level, well currently her school doesn't think so but she's being reevaluated because I disagree with the assessment. (Basically they think her decoding skills are at grade level but her comprehension isn't there for her decoding...I find this conclusion VERY doubtful because the opposite has been true for YEARS. She is also reading and loving books well above R level. We also have some concerns about her general performance during testing. Another teacher is going to evaluate her. Feel free to comment on this issue  but it isn't the focus of the thread) 


The pressing issue is that everyone thought her spelling would catch up as her reading improved but that hasn't been the case. It has been decided that DC needs some explicit instruction, now, with spelling. Her teacher and the reading specialist think that she would benefit most from a method called "Synthetic Phonics". We know of a great tutor but she is expensive. Additionally, DC's school is going to see if they can give her some in-school support along with some guided homework. I'm feeling like I'd love to be able to give her the support at home rather than invest in a tutor. 


Does anyone know a good synthetic phonics program or book that I could look into? Any advice on helping a struggling speller who really needs someone to explain spelling in this specific way? 


Any help and advice would be appreciated. 




  • DC is 11 and in the 5th grade
  • She is instructional at Guided Reading Levle R (according to school) / decoding at a much higher level (mom and dad think her comprehension is much higher than the school thinks - new teacher doing the evaluation) 
  • DC struggles with decoding words out of context 
  • DC's spelling is just terrible - really 
  • We used Reading Reflex a few years back and that seemed to help DC but when we got to the more complex letter combinations it became difficult for me to stick with. 

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#2 of 6 Old 10-20-2012, 07:06 AM
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Everything you describe is of a dyslexic child. Has she ever been evaluated?

If this is a public school, put in writing ALL the struggles your daughter has, and request that the school evaluate your child on these issues. State in your letter that the letter serves as your consent for them to evaluate.

I'm surprised the school is sending you for outside tutoring.

My daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia (schools use "reading disorder" and "disorder of written expression" under the heading of "specific learning disability") through a complete neuropsych exam while she was in 4th grade. We'd been paddling hard upstream just to stay at grade level in spelling. She also could read anything, yet be unable to sound out unfamiliar words. Through this process, we discovered that her comprehension scores were all over the map, from grade level to 4-5 grade levels above. It was explained to us that this was a factor of the format of the comprehension assessment and whether or not she gives a hoot about the passage.

Further, if she's being evaluated on guided reading levels, I suspect her reading comprehension at this point is determined through a written response to the tested passage. If her writing is so affected, then she cannot prove she understood the passage. She needs a more detailed and individual look at which skills are really the problem.

I don't know what synthetic phonics is. We've had excellent luck with the Wilson program through DD's IEP so far. But it's just been 8 weeks so far. We got a small amount of progress using Sequential Spelling at home, but not enough to put up with in the long term.

If she's at a public school, the "guided homework" and "some in school support" sounds like RTI as a means to avoid putting your daughter on an IEP. IEPs require data to establish the existence of a learning disability as well as establishing her present levels of performance more clearly.
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#3 of 6 Old 10-20-2012, 04:53 PM
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My ds is also dyslexic/dysgraphia and has high comprehension, but struggles with phonics, spelling, and reading aloud.  

I am not sure which system his elementary school used for reading, but he worked with a special ed pull out for 2 years and is now at grade level for reading.  Some of the accommodations he has that have helped:

have a word list at his desk (this has been switched to a dictionary now that he is using more complex language in his writing).  

For long writing activities, he gets he can dictate.  

He is going to be tested on the computer, to see if he can use it instead of writing either by typing or dictation.  


I did go to a lecture one time by a Gillingham- Orton.  As a system for reading, it looked like it could be very successful, but unfortunately nobody at ds's school was familiar with it.  I also liked the looks of the Davis method, but we did not have any tutors with in an hour drive and they required kids be drug free and ds has to take an antiseizure med that could cause problems.  

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#4 of 6 Old 10-21-2012, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you both for you recommendations. The tutor we have available to us is an Orton-Gillingham tutor and I have no doubt that she is wonderful. She is just expensive and I about 20 minutes away by car so that's 1 hour 40 minutes of my time for an hour of tutoring once/week. I feel like I'd like to try to use that time and tutor DC at home. 


As far as what's going on with her and why we're looking for outside help -- I do believe DC has a very minor learning disability. But she received tutoring from a teacher I greatly admire and that teacher told me that she doesn't think I should get DC evaluated.  DC started to rapidly improve after getting tutoring and steadily through 4th grade. Now in 5th grade, her spelling is really standing out and it's what we want to work on.  We love DC's current school but it's very small and I don't think that DC getting an IEP will do much by way of her getting more support in school. But, no, they are not discouraging an evaluation - quite the opposite. We have not ruled an evaluation out at all but don't feel like it's a good choice for DC right now. 


The problem is that I'm not at all trained in synthetic phonics and when I look at some programs I have serious questions about how to approach language with DC. I liked how Reading Reflex gave a parent guide along with the student material. We also did Quick Reads, again, which I loved. 


I wish I could find something along those lines for an older kid...and something with more info on the dipthongs and etc. 


DC and I started talking about 'ou' words and it's been interesting. I'd love to know if I should mix 'ow' words with the same 'o' sound or if I should keep those two separate. 

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#5 of 6 Old 10-21-2012, 05:12 PM
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I Googled and came up with the Wilson Just Words® program. It looks like it's along the same pedagogical lines as Reading Reflex / Lindamood-Bell / etc. It's intended for students in Grades 4+ who have mild to moderate gaps in decoding and/or spelling. 





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#6 of 6 Old 10-26-2012, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, everyone. I wanted to give an update. DC is still being re-evaluated but the teacher gave me an update that she thinks we may be able to help DC without the need for a professionally trained reading tutor. I've done a little research on what synthetic phonics is. I also got the book "Phonics for Dummies" orngbiggrin.gif.  DC's teacher would also like her to memorize her multiplication tables so we're doing one table and one dipthong family/week. We've decided to do the lessons in our spare time: on the way to school, walking on the grocery store, when we have a free moment at home and etc. So far, it's going well. Thanks again for your input! 

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