Monday, July 1, 2019

Improving Children's Reading via Online Programs: A Review of Dyslexia Gold

Our three children have been using the various programs available through Dyslexia Gold for the past several weeks. Dyslexia Gold offers several different options for schools and families. We were provided with a family license and a lifetime subscription to Dyslexia Gold Full Bundle for this review so all three of our children have been able to work on specific areas to improve their reading.

What is Dyslexia Gold? 

Dyslexia Gold helps children who are struggling with reading—whether or not they have Dyslexia. There are several programs that are designed to improve your child's reading. According to Dyslexia Gold there are four skills needed for reading:

  1. Eye control
  2. Phonological awareness
  3. Phonics
  4. Spelling
Two of the programs focus upon building these skills. Because children who are poor readers and/or are dyslexic often have trouble focusing both eyes on the same point and tracking across the page, Engaging Eyes was designed with 8 easy games. Tracking is not something that is tested at a regular vision test so it can often be missed. By regularly playing vision games, children can build their eye muscles and work on not skipping letters, words, or lines and more. 

In order to work on phonological awareness, Dyslexia Gold offers Fluency Builder which helps recognize that words have more than one sound. The example provided on the Dyslexia Gold site is that of the word 'goat.' It has three sounds 'g-oa-t' but often struggling readers do not recognize this fact. So in Fluency Builder, children practice sounding out words in numerous ways to build these skills. (Please see the screenshots below.) 

In spelling the words, each sound is on its own card. After the correct cards are placed, the sound is repeated out loud
by the program. When the whole word is spelled correctly, the word is said out loud.

The third online program is Spelling Tutor which improves spelling of 1,000 of the most common words. Spelling Tutor requires students to have a pencil and paper to write down sentences dictated to them. They then work on writing and rewriting the words they have spelled wrong. It is completely tailored to your child as they correct the words they have spelled wrong. For example, our six-year-old has used Spelling Tutor and has had trouble spelling 'phone,' 'called,' and other words. He has written them on numerous days and the spelling of the words are repeated on a set schedule. Once he has correctly spelled the word 7 times in a row over 21 days, he is deemed to be able to spell it correctly. 

Here our son is asked to write the word "would" as this is one of the words he previously spelled incorrectly.

The fourth program is Times Table Tutor. It teaches up to 12 x 12 at your child's own pace without timing or competition. The multiplication table is taught in three ways: concrete, pictorial, and abstract. Each session is rather long as it reviews the entire times table multiple times requesting that the child work faster and faster.

Note: Dyslexia Gold is a British-based company, so be aware that there are different spelling versions available (UK and American) as well as different pronunciations (English, American, Scottish, and Australian). 

How Did We Use Dyslexia Gold? 

Our three children were each instructed to work on different parts based upon their needs and age. Our teen primarily worked on Engaging Eyes, our four-year-old (the program is recommended ages 5+) worked on Fluency Builder, and our six-year-old primarily focused upon Fluency Builder but has also spent time working on Spelling Tutor and Times Table Tutor. Both of our younger children have spent time using Engaging Eyes.

Our Teen 

Our teen suffered a concussion in November 2017 during an ice hockey game and as part of clearing him to rejoin his hockey team, we needed to see a  vision therapist/optometrist for a special vision test. Through some of the vision tests, we were told he was having trouble tracking while reading. The doctor recommended more reading (30 minute sustained reading) or additional (and very expensive) visits. I saw the opportunity to review Dyslexia Gold, specifically Engaging Eyes, as a perfect way for our teen to work on tracking.

When our teen first started using Engaging Eyes, I frequently checked in with him to make sure Engaging Eyes was not causing headaches or vision problems. He never seemed to have any headaches from doing the vision training. The only problem he has run across is that sometimes when looking away from the screen during Target Practice, he finds his eyes would lose focus and he had trouble being able to hit the targets. This has happened less and less as time as progressed.

I also asked him if he felt there was any improvement in his vision. Without a trip to a vision therapist we can't know for sure but he does feel that there is an improvement. It is hard to quantify but things are a bit easier for him than before starting Engaging Eyes. He finds reading to be an easier task.

This is the Engaging Eyes report children see at the end of the day's activity. 

Our Six-Year-Old 

In reviewing Dyslexia Gold, I wished our six-year-old son to work on improving his reading as well introduce him to spelling and multiplication (mostly because he wanted to see what the Times Table Tutor was like after his older brother checked it out). He did spend the majority of the review period working on the lessons in Fluency Builder with several spelling lessons and multiplication lessons spread throughout the time. 

I find that Fluency Builder has greatly helped our younger son read more fluently out loud. Part of the lessons for him have been reading a non-fiction story aloud twice for fluency and timing for words per minute. I have noticed, sitting with him, that he is reading more clearly. 

We focused upon Fluency Builder with our younger son because the first spelling lesson with Spelling Tutor left him frustrated and in tears, so we took a break from it. I had no problems taking a break since this was his first experience with trying to spell words all by himself. We have now worked through several more lessons and he understands what is expected of him and can work pretty much independently. 

In addition to writing the sentences and words on paper, our son also typed the words on the computer.

I am really happy that what he is learning is being retained. The information our son read during Fluency Builder also stuck with him. For example, while we were talking about galaxies and space during lunch, he shared what he learned about reading about Astronauts on Fluency Builder.

At the end of reading the passage twice, our son answered three multiple choice questions.

There has been an improvement in reading speed for our younger son. He went from 110 words per minute in mid-April to 174 words per minute in late May. He will be tested again in mid-July.

Our six-year-old has had trouble completing the Target Practice with Engaging Eyes. He has trouble focusing upon the targets and has seemed to stall and not made much more progress. He has worked on using Whack an Alien just like his sister. We will revisit Engaging Eyes again in the near future with both of them.

Using the 3D glasses for the Target Practice in Engaging Eyes.

Our Daughter 

Even though our four-year-old is just one year shy of the recommended age, I saw her using Fluency Builder as the perfect opportunity to teach her reading. She has been wanting to learn how to read for almost a year but as her style of learning is very different than her brother's, I thought perhaps this program would help her build strong skills. 

During Fluency Builder she works through several different types of activities: 
  • Hearing sounds
  • Building words
  • Sorting by sound

Sometimes words would be sorted by sound and sometimes by spelling.

  • Finding words
  • Swapping letters
  • Reading speed (as our daughter only knows letters, she is not tested on this each lesson) 

Our daughter is reading words and sentences now. Even before we moved beyond some of the early lessons on Fluency Builder, she was recognizing and reading words. She is currently on level 37 of 50 of the easy level. As she completes more and more of the recaps, she seems to have an even better grasp of the words and sounds. 

My Thoughts 

Overall, I have been very happy with how the programs offered by Dyslexia Gold have fit into our homeschool. I feel that all three of our children will be stronger readers for having used the online programs. However I do have a few thoughts based upon some things that we have come across since April.

As Dyslexia Gold is an online program from the United Kingdom, we did have some problems with pronunciation of words and images used that confused our children (chips aka French fries, football aka soccer ball, torch aka flashlight, rugby player). Even with changing the pronunciation to American there were times that things were hard to understand based upon it being a computer program reading the words and saying sounds aloud.

We also had trouble with one of the Fluency Builder activities because we could not always understand the two words being said. In this activity, two words would be said (such as dad and did) and you would be asked which sound (first, second, or third) changed. In some of instances, the words said were difficult to hear (to make out the distinct differences). Fortunately, this activity was not part of every lesson.

Our younger children do not always like repeating exercises a second time during Fluency Builder. For example, when completing finding words, they are asked to complete each set twice. While I understand the importance of repeating the exercise, this often elicited groans from them.

Finding the words was one of the activities that was often repeated twice.

Sometimes during this activity, words would not disappear even if they had already been found and clicked.
This led to confusion for both of our younger children at times.

I do wish there was a bit more information in the reports and that I could find all of my children's information together rather than having to log in for each one separately. I could also see the reports presented at the end of each lesson as being discouraging for some children.

There were some days when our son or daughter would finish with very low percentages.
For some children, I could see them reacting negatively to this information.

Even though we have had few hiccups and difficulties with Dyslexia Gold, our family will continue to use the programs for each child that work best for them. We will probably hold off on using Times Table Tutor for a while for our two younger children but we will continue to work with Fluency Builder with both younger children. And our teen will continue to use the Engaging Eyes program as part of his regular homeschooling regime.

I would recommend you check out Dyslexia Gold if you have a struggling reader in your home. 

Want to Learn More about Dyslexia Gold? 

Would you like to see how other members of the Crew used Dyslexia Gold in their homeschool? Please be sure to visit to read their reviews

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