Dyslexia Gold is a reading program that helps struggling readers improve their reading abilities by tackling the potential route of the problem–vision. We all know about dyslexia and understand that people with dyslexia have trouble with the visual aspect of reading. Not quite as well known, however, are other eye issues that cause reading difficulty.
It includes four different programs:
- Engaging Eyes–helps with eye tracking and other visual reading difficulties
- Fluency Builder–increases reading speed and ability
- Spelling Tutor–multi-sensory spelling program
- Times Table Tutor–increases mental multiplication speed and recall
Before I go into the details, I want to offer an opinion based on our personal experience. Reading comfortably is a vital skill in today’s world. Struggling in this area is tough. Not everyone is going to read War and Peace just for fun, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone should, however, be able to comfortably decipher the Bible, read to their children, do research for their and their family’s health, etc. This almost invariably requires the ability to read, and reading well makes life run that much more smoothly.
We don’t have serious problems in our roadschool with dyslexia or reading. I’m not super concerned that our Eliana is not yet reading at grade level when most of her siblings were well ahead of grade level. It is very possible that all she needs is time and exposure, which is what her sister Marissa (our other late reader) needed. (By the way, Marissa graduated from college at 19 and is running her own art business, so no harm done.) That said, if her struggles are due to an inability to differentiate between sounds or a difficulty with her eyes, I want to head that off now.
The first two programs I discuss below are the two programs that address phonetics awareness and visual strength. I believe Eliana’s struggles are not visual, but she is “playing” the games just in case. (My problem is visual, so I’m playing, too.) Her struggles are addressed by the second game set below, Fluency Builder. How wonderful it was this week to hear her read a book, toss it aside, and say in a bored voice, “Way too easy!”
Could it have been time and continued exposure to books that were all she needed? Quite possibly. However, I see a trend in part of the extended family where people are unable to decipher vowel differences. I don’t want that for her, so we’re sticking with the program and giving her that extra support, just in case. For those of you with real difficulties and for my traveling friends who don’t have the convenience of help close by, take a solid look at Dyslexia Gold, contact their people, order the dyslexia test, give it a try.
The Engaging Eyes component is, as the name suggests, the aspect of the program that trains the eye. Through brief, incremental games, it helps the eyes to focus on the same letter at the same time and then move together across a line of words.
Engaging Eyes requires a special pair of glasses that to me seem similar to 3D glasses, except they’re not cardboard. We have a pair to fit larger heads and a pair to fit smaller heads–I guess you could call them adult- and child-sized. They’re “fashional.”
Oops. wrong glasses.
The program uses games that the child plays for 5-10 minutes at a time, no more! The games include the following:
- Whack an Alien–hit the key when an alien pops up on various parts of the screen
- Target Practice–use the arrows to line up the depth of the “cannon” with the targets and then fire away
- Speed Fix–follow the animals with your eyes and then see if you can identify a letter that flashes by
- Eye Tracking–tap the button when or if letter appears alone or at the beginning or end of a word
Some of the exercises are easier if the child can quickly recognize letters. Others don’t require reading or letter recognition at all! A child who doesn’t know her letters can still work on Engaging Eyes for months without tapping the letter-reading exercises. Eliana is not a fast reader yet; her practices are currently sticking with Whack and Alien and Target Practice. Both are exercising her eyes and improving tracking and teamwork without frustrating her because her reading isn’t fast yet.
Our experience with Engaging Eyes activities is that they are exhausting! I mean seriously, it’s exercise for your eye muscles, so you can feel it working. I know personally that I have an eye tracking issue. My muscles do not work together when they are at all tired or I have been using a screen. I also noticed that my eyes exhaust on these exercises much sooner than Eliana’s (age 7) and Rebecca’s (age 10). Some of my older children said their eyes exhausted pretty fast also, but none as quickly as mine. If I do it too long I will even feel ill. Fortunately, it limits you to a few minutes a day, which is a workout for the eyes, but doesn’t bring on the negative symptoms like when I “play” too long. (Just FYI, I “play” too long to get an understanding of all the programs so I can tell you good people about it, so send me cookies!)
Ultimately, using this program as it is intended–sequentially and consistently for small amounts of time (5 minutes works for us) helps strengthen and coordinate the eye muscles. I am very excited to have a lifetime membership to this program; I will continue to use this myself as well as with my children.
I thought this was going to be just another online phonics program, but it isn’t. Through a variety of games, the student is building words, matching sounds, finding letters, and the like. The lessons focus on hearing, deciphering, and reading individual sounds, strengthening phonetic awareness. It is not a complete phonics course. Your child will still need a basic phonics program.
Each game is generally short, unless the student struggles with the concept, which slows it down and makes it seem like it isn’t so short.
If the student is having trouble sounding out the word, the computer can read it for her. Eliana tries first, but if she just can’t figure it out, she clicks the speaker and the pleasant computer lady reads it to her.
It seems that in the earlier levels special emphasis is placed on deciphering the small differences between vowel sounds, which is something Eliana struggles with. That skill is foundational to reading–both the fluency and enjoyment of it. I’m extremely pleased that extra effort is taken to emphasize vowel sounds, particularly since I have often had communication issues with people who ask me for a pen when indeed they want a pin. I have a rather humorous story about someone explaining to my kids that he keeps a “wench” in the back of his airplane for winding in a drag line. It’s a winch, kids. A winch.
The quickness with which Eliana matches her letter sounds in the games has improved. Plus she doesn’t grumble when it’s time to do her lessons. In fact, I set a 10-minute timer so that she remembers to stop. We will be continuing with this program.
There are numerous games on this program at many levels. Here is just a sampling.
The spelling program uses a combination of online and paper and pencil work to teach (or test) the top 1000 most commonly used words, which make up about 90% of the spoken word. Now bear in mind that, while this is a British program, there are concessions made for American spelling. Still, ironically, the progress report lists words “learnt,” and if my child said “These are the words I learnt” in an American accent, I would need therapy. All kidding aside, don’t worry about the American English versus British English variations. They have not been a problem to us so far.
Throughout the program, the student learns grammar rules, spelling rules, homophones, contractions, and other useful skills that will serve her far better than memorizing lists of words. She also practices with them in a variety of formats both on and off the computer.
I like that the child is “pre-tested” throughout the games, so that she doesn’t have to study words she already has mastered.
Rebecca (age 10) used the spelling program almost exclusively independent of me. I can’t grab a screenshot of the lessons for you right now, because she has a paper and pencil test next, and she’s not here to take it. I don’t want to progress without her, since my spelling is already stellar. Ahem. But below are some images of the paper testing process, including how she self-corrects, which means Mom can keep her feet up…I mean hit the grocery store.
Because Rebecca is an excellent speller, I am still up in the air about whether or not to continue the program. She loves a little screen time, though, and enjoys the program, so no harm done if I give her 10-15 minutes of Spelling Tutor a few times a week while she’s doing her limited online schoolwork. I’m hoping it fills in a few gaps and gives her a little of the “why” behind the spelling that comes so naturally to her that she rarely thinks about it.
Times Table Tutor
Times Table Tutor helps the student understand the concept of “groups of” and then progresses to helping them rapidly know how much that is. For example, three groups of four is twelve, or 3 x 4 = 12. The British term they use is “lots,” which eBay has universalized, so it’s all good.
The child is assessed through a placement test. Then the program begins with the virtual placement of building bricks (think Lego). The child answers some math questions based on those lots. Rebecca hasn’t studied much multiplication yet, but she is grasping this easily and quickly. In fact, she finds the brick laying a little tedious, and has turned it into a design project with the color patterns she chooses. Tedious or not, she has been practicing multiplication facts in the real world as well, so that’s a job well done. I’ll throw in a few minutes of this daily for her screen time if there is time, but I won’t be prioritizing it at this point. If she shows a future weakness in this area, I will definitely come back to it.
The reports are an interesting aspect of the program. I generally don’t use reports much from online programs, but this one I appreciate. It shows the following:
- Reading age or speed and improvement by month
- Reading speed and a line graph of improvement by month
- Engaging Eyes level
- Fluency Builder level and lesson
- Spelling Tutor lesson and level
- Times Table table and test
It’s encouraging to see their progress, not so much for me in the program, but in their skill level. As a homeschooler whose state doesn’t require formal testing, it is interesting to know where the child is on the age level of readers. Finally, since my older student is working independently, seeing evidence of her progress is a nice teacher’s aid.
One frustration my girls had is that they had to finish an activity before they could move on to something else, and some of the activities take a long time. That means when they log back on to work on it another day, they continue with the same activity. Because I limit their screen time to a few minutes per session, this hasn’t been that big of an issue. Also, Engaging Eyes self-limits, only allowing a few minutes a day of work before announcing that the child is finished.
You might be interested to know that Dyslexia Gold has an online dyslexia screener you can give your child to determine if their reading struggles are vision-based. (Apparently, 98% of struggles are because of eye trouble.)
Check out the company on Facebook.
Other families have also reviewed Dyslexia Gold. Some of them have children with diagnosed reading difficulties. Please go see what they thought, especially if you can find someone whose children struggle in the same way as yours.
Hey, I wrote an entire blog post with almost no cheesy humor. I’m as shocked as you are.