I am a university professor, and I occasionally have students with various reading difficulties ask me about possible avenues of support. For instance, after hearing a comment I made during a recent course lecture about some of my own child’s learning challenges, a student mentioned his struggle with reading, asking whether I had any suggestions.

DyslexiaHelp lists a number of reading, spelling and writing programs for help with dyslexia. Are there any particular programs that you recommend over others? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

You'd think your question would be easily answered, but many of the reading and spelling programs mentioned are meant to be used in tutoring or therapy and require direct teaching. But, many of the apps and software programs could be used by the student, although I find that many students need a period of 'teaching' relative to using the programs.

For a student at the college level, most who have 'functional' reading skills, text-to-speech support can be particularly helpful and doesn’t require direct teaching.

I work a lot on reading comprehension strategies with my older students. Many students have not learned how to effectively (and efficiently) use various strategies to read. Many poor readers think that good readers just read well, when, in fact, good readers employ active strategy use (e.g., know your purpose, preview text, ask yourself questions while you read). These strategies need to be directly taught. Additionally, text is not read aloud as fast as most of us read, so the issue of time and time management can be a challenge for these kids, which is why the reading strategies are key.

The same goes for writing. Dictation software is excellent, but you need to know HOW to write for different purposes, how to edit, how to form a sentence -- the list goes on. Therefore, many students will require some direct teaching. Dictation software is listed on the link above. Grammarly (also above) is an excellent program for spelling and grammar checking.

You've asked a great question, and I've only touched the tip of the iceberg. Ideally, having an assessment that pinpoints the student's learning profile of strengths and weaknesses and then working with someone to hone skills and strategy use would be the best route to go.

I DO appreciate that you are thinking of the accommodations that your students with learning disorders may need.