Poor guy, I know what he's going through. Beating that 'mind block' is the hardest part of being dyslexic, because we KNOW so much, but we just can't build the bridge between writing and thinking.
I wish I knew you and your son in person. Its very hard for me to unravel my mind enough to lay it out onto paper for someone else to understand, and its hard to know what kind of extra 'sense' he might have for English that might be usable. Does color help him at all? For me, don't ask me why, color is the difference between literacy and illiteracy. I do not write with pencils, I don't even own one. I write in neon colors...blue, green, and pink the most. My computer screen changes letters to colors for me. And it helps. Its almost my safety blanket I guess. But then again, I believe I'm synesthetic (many dyslexics/dyscalculates are) and so my use of color may have nothing to do with dyslexia.
Still, try it. Can he read at all? Go to Office Max, and ask them to make you a yellow, green, red, and blue transparent sheet. This may not help him right now with the essay he must write, but maybe it will help him in the long run. Have him pick the one that he is drawn to the most (as a junior, he might think you're insane. Tell him a senior girl told him to do it, and if he doesn't I'll come hunt him down!
) and put it over something he needs to read. I even put transparencies (my chosen color is blue) over my OWN handwriting when I'm trying to re-translate, and it helps me. Let him write with bright colors if he wants to try that as well. Sometimes even the TYPE of pen makes a difference for me. For example, I love gel and fountain ink. I can't stand needlepoint pens and ballpoint, and its just another aggravation to deal with.
That 'weirdness' out of the way, here is what I
do when I write a paper, and maybe it will help you guys.
1. Listen to or read the instructions (type of paper, how long, etc., I suggest having him try to read it first, and only if he gets too frustrated should you read it to him.)
2. Verbally tell someone what the instructions are in your own words.
3. Come up with one strong word that has to do with the subject. This word should be fairly broad. For example if I was asked to write a paper on what America means to me, the first strong, broad word that comes to my mind is "Freedom." That is going to be my 'main topic' and it is what I will base my paper on. It is also the word my thesis will be based on.
4. Think of two or three words that have to do with the first word. They can be narrower, but should leave room for explanation. Using my example of freedom, I might think to myself..."Ok. What do I think about American Freedom?" and my mind will answer me that the freedom is 'privilege', 'hard-earned' and 'important.'
So by this point, you will have an outline of sorts...but it will only be four words long. Why? Because for us, less is more. Our mind needs 'room' to process things, and using long sentences and big words restricts that room, because thinking about those sentences uses up space in our mind that we need to have in order to be creative. Sounds silly, but its true. At least for me, anyways.
And I'm left with this. Q:What does America mean to you? 1. Freedom. a. Privilege b. Hard earned c. Important.
It seems so small that it couldn't possibly be a paper, but it is. It answers the question and gives three reasons why American makes me think of 'freedom.' This is a VERY simple thing that keeps me on track when I try to actually write the paper.
Again, color comes in to play for me here.
Assign a color for each point. For me, 'privileges' is green, 'hard work' is purple and important is orange.
5. Write the thesis statement with each point in its designated color. It can be simple. For my America paper, I might write 'To me, America means freedom because freedom brings privileges, takes hard work, and is important.'
Now let his mind roam 'free.' (haha...and my subject is freedom...I see what I did there!!!)
Let him talk about freedom, and about America, but as he makes points, make HIM sit there and go "so which of my main topics would this point go under?" and write it in the color of that main point. You are the one writing it right now most likely, but hopefully maybe he will feel brave enough to do some of it on his own. Spelling doesn't matter yet as long as he recognizes it.
Once he has 10 or so points, rearrange them into the outline under the points. So you now have what a normal student would have in an outline.
And...if he's anything like me, the color will have let him think of all of these ides himself, connect them to each other, and plan them out. All that has to be done now is filling in the 'fluff' of the essay that makes it sound good together. That, for now, you will probably have to help him with.
I don't know if that will help at all, or if I just wasted your time, but tell him not to give up! There IS a technique out there that will help him, but only if he will allow it to. I've heard of dyslexics who learned to write upside down, on computers, from right to left...there are so many techniques out there to try. He'll find his, and the bridge will be built. Its an amazing thing when language suddenly 'clicks' for you. For me it was like an entire world has just been unlocked.
That being said, have you ever read any of the 'theological' books on dyslexia NM? My mom did and she said they helped her at least partially understand where I came from. No two dyslexics are the same, so she couldn't just pick up a "how to" book from the book store and know how to teach me. In a way she had to be a scientist and an engineer...crafting a mechanism for me to deal with and use my dyslexia based on what she found out FROM me about how I learned. It is no easy feat and I admire her SO much for doing it.
So before I end this lengthy post (don't be mistaken, I'm no perfect writer. I 'hide' behind my proofreaders and spell checks. When I'm tired, my screen has so much red underlining under it that it looks like a massacre has taken place! LOL.) I just want to give you a pat on the back. Being the parent of a dyslexic is no easier than being a dyslexic. It takes guts, patience, and ingenuity. I'm not even sure I
could teach me! Haha.