Darlene Larson has taken our profoundly dyslexic son from hopelessness to a grade level pleasure reader. Mrs. Larson has not only guided him to read, but she has become a special and influential role model in his life. She continues to work wonders with our second son as well, also severely dyslexic, and will soon be tutoring our daughter. Mrs. Larson has extended her giftedness to our family; she has given us all renewed hope.


Tell me more about one-on-one tutoring for a dyslexic student…

  • Before specialized tutoring sessions begin, a group of assessments are used to gather information about the student’s current reading and spelling skills, as well as their underlying understanding of letters and sounds and how they relate to each other.
  • Recognizing that each student is a unique and individual learner, I seek to quickly establish rapport and work at building a strong relationship and positive learning environment.
  • Individualized lessons are planned so that the student learns each new concept in a systematic and sequential order, with hands-on learning that includes review and practice of previously learned skills.
  • One-on-one customized tutoring sessions are paced to move as quickly as the student is ready for new concepts or as slowly as needed to develop confidence and competence with each new skill before moving on.
  • Tutoring sessions are 50 minutes in length and scheduled 2 – 4 times per week.
  • Tutoring can be completed either in person, in Wausau, Wisconsin or online through a computer based video call.
My Teaching Methods

I am a certified Barton Reading and Spelling System tutor with over 10 years of experience working with dyslexic students. I use the Barton System as the basis of my tutoring for most students. As a certified reading teacher with classroom experience, however, I bring a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and a trunk-load of games and activities to further help each individual student achieve success at their own skill level and pace.

As a teacher, I have seen first-hand that the reading process doesn’t come naturally for all students and that all students do not learn at the same pace. Some students need a different approach and very specific instruction from the most basic level in learning how to break apart the sounds in words (segmenting) to spell and to put the sounds together (blending) to read words. Other students are fortunate to have a good visual memory and have learned to read to a point because they have memorized many words. Their reading growth suffers or stops, however, because they haven’t learned the strategies and decoding skills necessary to break apart and read words that they haven’t seen before.

The multi-sensory approach that I use to teaching reading and spelling is especially beneficial for students with dyslexia or other learning differences but this approach is helpful for all students. The one-on-one approach offers the student just the right amount of instruction and practice before moving on to another concept. My individualized tutoring services go far beyond what the classroom, small group instruction, or a homework helper is able to offer.

The Barton Reading and Spelling System and Orton Gillingham

The Barton System is one of several Orton Gillingham (OG) based systems. OG based systems are the most widely used approach and employ research-proven method used to effectively teach dyslexic students to read and spell. OG methodology is also known as structured literacy. Each lesson includes explicit instruction that is systematically and sequentially designed to gradually move a student from a basic understanding of letters and sounds to reading and spelling increasingly more complex multi-syllable words in a variety of texts.

The Barton System, as well as other OG programs includes all the elements of effective reading instruction including:

  • Phonological and phonemic awareness which includes rhyming, clapping syllables, and the ability to break apart words into their individual phonemes (or sounds within the word)
  • Sound and letter association (or phonics) for reading (blending the letter sounds together) and spelling (segmenting the whole word into individual sounds)
  • Syllable instruction that focuses on the six basic types of syllables in the English language
  • Morphology which includes the study of base words, roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
  • Basic grammar and punctuation
  • Vocabulary and Comprehension
A Typical Barton Lesson

Within each Barton lesson, the student is immersed in visual, auditory, and tactile interaction with words and their sounds. The lessons are structured and logically designed to purposely connect reading and spelling instruction. Each lesson begins by teaching a new concept or skill at the word level – first with color-coded letter tiles and then in traditional print on paper, a whiteboard, or chalkboard. In the online tutoring platform, a variety of computer enabled tools are used to accomplish the same involvement with words. The lesson continues at a phrase level, moves onto a sentence level, and finally the lesson’s focus concept and word structure is presented within the context of a story. Ongoing review of previously learned skills is incorporated along the way. The student is practicing accuracy and fluency with each step along the way.

High frequency sight words are also taught – both for reading and spelling – in a logical sequence that matches their frequency of use in the English language. A variety of multi-sensory techniques are used to help each student attain mastery with these “word tricksters.

Assessments are used periodically to ensure mastery of concepts and materials and when needed, specific concepts are reviewed or re-taught before moving on to more advanced concepts.

Educational reading and spelling games are added into the lessons at times to offer a fun and motivation way to review and reinforce the new concepts being learned.

Other Subject Areas

While I tutor most of my students in the areas of reading and spelling, I do have experience and will do tutoring in a few other subjects as well.

Handwriting – Using the Handwriting Without Tears method, and others I have gathered over the years, I can work with students to master either printing or cursive handwriting skills.

Math – Using a variety of tools and manipulative materials and programs, I can help students who struggle in Math at the elementary level. Some of the specific programs I have found successful are:

  • A modified version of TouchMath to assist students in mastering addition and subtraction without needed to use their fingers
  • Times Tales to assist students in mastering multiplication and division facts
  • Hands-On-Equations to help students learn basic elementary algebra concepts

Written Expression – After I have worked with a student to help them gain a basic level of reading and spelling skills, some parents ask me to also work with their child on writing skills. I have found the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style curriculum to be very successful.

Time and Financial Commitment for Student Success

Students, who have already met with frustration at the learning to read process, need continuous year-round tutoring so that their learning gap can be closed as quickly as possible. Depending on the severity of the students difficulties and their current level of skills, tutoring can take from 2-4 years or even longer in some cases before the student has caught up to their grade level.

Tutoring sessions are scheduled a minimum of twice each week in 50 minute sessions. Because most of my students are in school during the day between September and May, many families find that the summer season is a good time to take advantage of a more intensive schedule of 3 or 4 times per week.

Parents are expected to sign a contract that details the student’s specific tutoring times each week and outlines the commitments we make to each other. Contracts are signed for a 3-9 month commitment and then renewed as needed.

My tutoring rate is $50 per 50 minute session and billed on a monthly basis. Payment can be made with cash, check, or via a PayPal payment.

The Online Tutoring Option

Advances in technology allow for an online tutoring option that replicates face-to-face tutoring very closely. Students who live out of the Wausau, Wisconsin area can now receive a very similar tutoring experience via online sessions. I use Zoom.US as my tutoring platform which allows me to see my student, interact with them, and also share my computer screen, including giving them joint control over the mouse. A combination of tools and software programs are used to create an experience that involves the student as if they were sitting across the table from me.

Minimum technology requirements:

  • An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers and a microphone – built in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
  • A webcam or HD webcam – built-in or USB plug-in
  • Earbuds of Headphones (to eliminate possible feedback)

Supported Operating System

  • Mac OS X MacOS 10.6.8 / (Snow Leopard) or later
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 8 or 8.1
  • Windows 7

Bandwidth requirements:

The bandwidth used by Zoom will be optimized for the best experience based on the participants’ network.  It will automatically adjust for 3G, WiFi or Wired environments.  Recommended bandwidth:

  • 1.2 Mbps (up/down) for HD video
  • You can run a speed test at www.speedtest.net
  • Lower bandwidth may work but may negatively affect the student environment.

An initial tutoring conference call may identify if there are issues with the technical environment.  Contact me for a FREE 30 minute tutoring demonstration to help you decide if online tutoring will work for you.

Having to go to tutoring sessions…who knew it could be fun?

I am a nurse, and I accompany my client to tutoring sessions with Darlene Larson at The Reading Spelling Connection. My client has dyslexia as well speech issues which can make her hard to hear or understand. Reading was not on her list of favorite things to do.

Darlene has an awesome ability to keep this child on task, which is no small accomplishment. She does not allow my client to wander too far off topic during lessons, but shows interest in what the client has to say at the appropriate times. Mrs. Larson finds incentives for the student that will encourage her to work hard and do her best.

Scheduling can be an issue at times due to weather, illness, or appointments. I really appreciate that Darlene can be flexible, modifying times and dates as needed to continue my client’s growth.

Darlene is an excellent tutor, using Barton’s system in a most animated and entertaining (for me also) way. It is hard to not get excited about learning spelling rules, like the” Catch Lunch” rule, or words that are “Weirdos”. I wish I could videotape a session to share with others that are looking for a tutor- to watch her in action would show the teacher/student interaction better than I could explain it.  “Connection” is in more than the Reading and Spelling. My client is quite engaged during most of her sessions.

My client has grown by leaps and bounds in her reading and spelling ability in the few months she’s been tutored. My client is in third grade with a reading level in the first grade level at the beginning of the year. Now, 3/4 of the school year in, I see her reading material at the late second grade to early third grade level and understanding it!

I would recommend Darlene Larson to anyone looking for a tutor!

Connie, RN