Hello, and welcome to my site!
I have been for the last 20 years very interested in developing an on line teaching platform dedicated to methods effective for addressing the needs of learning disabled students. These students are characteristically as bright and able as others, but learn in different ways, and typically need direct instruction mediated by some form of tactile or kinesthetic activity, to facilitate the connection between auditory and visual processing of material. Over the past 15-20 years I have extensively reviewed the available literature, and have come to the conclusion that reading and literacy instruction really is rocket science; especially when psychological and sociological factors are taken into consideration as impacting learning. Lately neurological research has shown that that instructional methods employing tactile and kinesthetic methods in particular actually change brain structure to accommodate and form alternate pathways to learning (Shaywitz). Very exciting and validating! So what does this mean for instruction? I’m a member of the International Dyslexic Association, and have incorporated their findings on physical mediation to learning into my teaching methodology, which is for the most part Orton Gillingham based. There are many brilliant programs out there. Lindamood Lips, Wilson, Barton, Language!, Slingerland which are well known, and some lesser known as S.P.I.R.E , Go Phonics and even some British programs such as Letterland and The Word Wasp. The list could go on, but the heart of it all is the Gillingham Manual, by Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman. But I am going astray.
True dyslexia cannot be cured. True Dyslexia is a pervasive language processing disorder. I have appended here a publication of the International Dyslexia Association outlining the basics of dyslexia:
By: International Dyslexia Association (2007)
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.
What causes dyslexia?
The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a dyslexic person develops and functions. Moreover, most people with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully.
How widespread is dyslexia?
About 13-14% of the school population nationwide has a handicapping condition that qualifies them for special education. Current studies indicate that one-half of all the students who qualify for special education are classified as having a learning disability (LD) (6-7%). About 85% of those LD students have a primary learning disability in reading and language processing. Nevertheless, many more people — perhaps as many as 15-20% of the population as a whole — have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words. Not all of these will qualify for special education, but they are likely to struggle with many aspects of academic learning and are likely to benefit from systematic, explicit, instruction in reading, writing, and language.
Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People who are very bright can be dyslexic. They are often capable or even gifted in areas that do not require strong language skills, such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports.
In addition, dyslexia runs in families; dyslexic parents are very likely to have children who are dyslexic. Some people are identified as dyslexic early in their lives, but for others, their dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.
What are the effects of dyslexia?
The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The core difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some dyslexics manage to learn early reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.
People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to good language models in their homes and good language instruction in school. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak. Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relating to other people. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom.
Dyslexia can also affect a person’s self-image. Students with dyslexia often end up feeling “dumb” and less capable than they actually are. After experiencing a great deal of stress due to academic problems, a student may become discouraged about continuing in school.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
Schools may use a new process called Response to Intervention (RTI) to identify children with learning disabilities. Under an RTI model, schools provide those children not readily progressing with the acquisition of critical early literacy skills with intensive and individualized supplemental reading instruction. If a student’s learning does not accelerate enough with supplemental instruction to reach the established grade-level benchmarks, and other kinds of developmental disorders are ruled out, he or she may be identified as learning disabled in reading. The majority of students thus identified are likely dyslexic and they will probably qualify for special education services. Schools are encouraged to begin screening children in kindergarten to identify any child who exhibits the early signs of potential reading difficulties.
For children and adults who do not go through this RTI process, an evaluation to formally diagnose dyslexia is needed. Such an evaluation traditionally has included intellectual and academic achievement testing, as well as an assessment of the critical underlying language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia. These include receptive (listening) and expressive language skills, phonological skills including phonemic awareness, and also a student’s ability to rapidly name letters and names. A student’s ability to read lists of words in isolation, as well as words in context, should also be assessed. If a profile emerges that is characteristic of dyslexic readers, an individualized intervention plan should be developed, which should include appropriate accommodations, such as extended time. The testing can be conducted by trained school or outside specialists.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and using written language. It is a myth that dyslexic individuals “read backwards,” although spelling can look quite jumbled at times because students have trouble remembering letter symbols for sounds and forming memories for words. Other problems experienced by dyslexics include the following:
- Learning to speak
- Learning letters and their sounds
- Organizing written and spoken language
- Memorizing number facts
- Reading quickly enough to comprehend
- Persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments
My point is that multi-sensory reading/ language instruction is a method proven to be effective by many researchers and practitioners. It will not cure Dyslexia, but is a process by which the brain can be trained to use other pathways to process language, and I have made a deep study of the process. Instructional methods that stay true to Orton Gillingham principles seem to have the greatest effect. Don’t get me wrong, almost all intervention methods will have some positive effect. But if you are investing time and money, you want the most bang for your buck; and currently that is O-G based multi-sensory instruction. I offer it, on-line. I don’t adhere to any one particular program, because I don’t believe that one size fits all. Programs have to be adapted to skill, age levels, and receptiveness to the various multi-sensory approaches. Everything begins with a good assessment. If you’re interested in anything further, contact me (or read on).