I live in Southern California. My son is 16 (sophomore) and reads at about a 6th grade reading level. He has been through several programs since he was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1st grade. Most have been helpful and instrumental in getting his reading level as high as it is, and most importantly in keeping him from getting discouraged. We have gone from him saying he was too dumb to learn to read to being a straight-A student. Although, that is with me reading with him and us discussing most of his texts together. He is extremely reluctant to read textbooks and is now saying he doesn't want to go to college.

My question is: what programs are available for older teens to get them ready for college or even trade school? So far I have been told that students acquire coping skills and tricks to get through college. Really? Isn't there a program to bring the reading level higher? I am not opposed to skills and tools (tricks) to access information, but I think all of it should go together.

I greatly appreciate any information or guidance that you can provide. I will take him for tutoring, a program, workshop, or whatever we can find to fill this void. He has worked so very hard all these years, I don't want to see him be stuck at this wall. He needs to be able to climb over it and reach his full potential.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

This is indeed a challenging question. First of all, here is the list of providers for California.

You will definitely want to try and find someone who has expertise with adolescents. In addition to addressing specific skills that he needs work on (e.g., letter-sound correspondences, spelling rules, grammar work), he also need to learn reading and writing strategies, as well as learn about different tools that might help him (e.g., text-to-speech, speech-to-text apps).

As I am sure you are aware, he needs structured literacy (SL) intervention. And here are some of the reading and spelling programs that are undergirded in SL

I have a lot of software and app options, but again, we need to know what his needs are to determine what to use.

And, importantly, he needs someone to explain his profile of strengths and weaknesses to him and help him learn to advocate for himself.

The older student needs to study roots, prefixes, and suffixes in order to be able to read the many complex words in college texts.

He’ll also need reading comprehension strategies, as well as a solid set of study skills, in order to tackle all of the reading required in college. Additionally, he needs work in writing. Inspiration is a great program to help students get thoughts down, turn them into an outline, and begin writing. I have a lot about writing here and on the subtabs.

I do think working with a professional who has experience with the older learner would be beneficial. This person could help him see his gifts and, hopefully, turn his thinking around about college.

I would have him read Dr. Michael Ryan’s Letters to a Young Dyslexic and Shaun Sanders story.

Last, here is a good resource as you begin to look into colleges and universities.

I wish him the best -- and hope he pursues his dreams!