Teaching Methods That Work
No Quick Fix
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IMPORTANT: There is no quick fix or silver bullet for dyslexia.
It can take from 1 to 3 years to get a dyslexic child reading
and spelling at grade level, depending upon their level of severity,
the frequency of their remediation, and other issues.
Get Help Now
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DON'T WAIT -- GET HELP
Here's what three experts say:
Susan Hall, coauthor of Straight
Talk About Reading
How do parents know if their child's reading delay is a real
problem or simply a "developmental lag?"
How long should parents wait before seeking help in their child
is struggling with reading?
Beware of the developmental lag excuse for several reasons.
First, I have listened to parent after parent tell me about feeling
there was a problem early on, yet being persuaded to discount
their intuition and wait to seek help for their child. Later,
when they learned time is of the essence in developing reading
skills, the parents regretted the lost months or years.
Second, research shows that the crucial window
of opportunity to deliver help is during the first couple of
years of school. So if your child is having trouble learning
to read, the best approach is to take immediate action. Knowing
how soon to act is easy if you know the conclusions of recent
Reading researchers say the ideal window of
opportunity for addressing reading difficulties is during kindergarten
and first grade. The National Institutes of Health state that
95 percent of poor readers can be brought up to grade level if
they receive effective help early.
While it is still possible to help an older
child with reading, those beyond third grade require much more
The longer you wait to get help for a child with reading difficulties,
the harder it will be for that child to catch up. If help is
given in fourth grade (rather than in late kindergarten), it
takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same
To see what else Susan Hall has to say, go
Patricia Vail, author of 9
books on Learning Disabilities
If your child has trouble in the early levels
of school, get help immediately! Do not wait to see if the child
will grow out of it.
Prevention is always easier than remediation.
Learning differences don't disappear spontaneously.
If you worry that receiving extra help will
make your child feel different, forget it. Your child already
feels different by virtue of what he can and cannot do.
Dr. G. Reid Lyon
Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National
Institutes of Health
This is a summary of Dr. Lyon's recent statement
to the Subcommittee on Education Reform.
Can Children With Reading Problems Overcome
Yes, but only if they are identified early
and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction
in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary,
and reading comprehension strategies.
Early identification, coupled with comprehensive
early reading interventions, can reduce the percentage of children
reading below the basic level in fourth grade from the current
national average of 38% to less than 6%.
Are Certain Early Intervention Approaches
More Effective Than Others?
Yes. The National Reading Panel found that
intervention programs that provided systematic and explicit instruction
in phonemic awareness, phonics, repeated reading to improve fluency,
and direct instruction in vocabulary and reading comprehension
strategies were significantly more effective than approaches
that were less explicit.
Will Proper Reading Instruction Reduce the
Need for Special Education?
At least 20 million school-age children suffer
from reading failure, but only a small fraction of these children
receive special education services.
By putting in place well designed, evidence-based
early identification screenings and early intervention programs,
the number of children suffering from reading failure would be
reduced by at least two-thirds.
To read Dr. Lyon's complete answers to these questions,
go to http://www.dys-add.com/ReidLyon-WhySomeChildrenCantRead.pdf
The Orton Gillingham Multisensory Method
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The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method was
developed in the early 1930's by Anna Gillingham and a group
of master teachers. Dr. Samuel Orton assigned Anna's group the
task of designing a whole new way of teaching the phonemic structure
of our written language to people with dyslexia. The goal was
to create a sequential system that builds on itself in an almost
3-dimensional way. It must show how sounds and letters are related
and how they act in words; it must also show how to attack a
word and break it into smaller pieces. And it must be a multi-sensory
approach, as dyslexic people learn best by involving all of their
senses: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.
The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method is
different from other reading methods in two ways: what
is taught, and how it is taught.
What is taught:
- Phonemic Awareness
is the first step. You must teach someone how to listen to a
single word or syllable and break it into individual phonemes.
They also have to be able to take individual sounds and blend
them into a word, change sounds, delete sounds, and compare sounds
-- all in their head. These skills are easiest to learn before
someone brings in printed letters.
- Phoneme/Grapheme Correspondence is the next step. Here you teach which sounds are
represented by which letter(s), and how to blend those letters
into single-syllable words.
- The Six Types of Syllables that compose
English words are taught next. If students know what type of
syllable they're looking at, they'll know what sound the vowel
will make. Conversely, when they hear a vowel sound, they'll
know how the syllable must be spelled to make that sound.
- Probabilities and Rules are then taught. The English language provides several
ways to spell the same sounds. For example, the sound /SHUN/
can be spelled either TION, SION, or CION. The sound of /J/ at
the end of a word can be spelled GE or DGE. Dyslexic students
need to be taught these rules and probabilities.
- Roots and Affixes, as well as Morphology are then taught to expand a student's vocabulary
and ability to comprehend (and spell) unfamiliar words. For instance,
once a student has been taught that the Latin root TRACT means
pull, and a student knows the various Latin affixes, the student
can figure out that retract means pull again, contract means
pull together, subtract means pull away (or pull under), while
tractor means a machine that pulls.
How it is taught
- Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction: research has shown that dyslexic people who use
all of their senses when they learn (visual, auditory, tactile,
and kinesthetic) are better able to store and retrieve the information.
So a beginning dyslexic student might see the letter A, say its
name and sound, and write it in the air -- all at the same time.
- Intense Instruction with Ample Practice: instruction for dyslexic students must be much more
intense, and offer much more practice, than for regular readers.
- Direct, Explicit Instruction: dyslexic students do not intuit anything about written
language. So, you must teach them, directly and explicitly, each
and every rule that governs our written words. And you must teach
one rule at a time, and practice it until it is stable in both
reading and spelling, before introducing a new rule.
- Systematic and Cumulative: by the time most dyslexic students are identified,
they are usually quite confused about our written language. So
you must go back to the very beginning and create a solid foundation
with no holes. You must teach the logic behind our language by
presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student
can automatically and fluently apply that rule both when reading
and spelling. You must continue to weave previously learned rules
into current lessons to keep them fresh and solid. The system
must make logical sense to our students, from the first lesson
through the last one.
- Synthetic and Analytic: dyslexic students must be taught both how to take
the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form
a word (synthetic), as well as how to look at a long word and
break it into smaller pieces (analytic). Both synthetic and analytic
phonics must be taught all the time.
- Diagnostic Teaching:
the teacher must continuously assess their student's understanding
of, and ability to apply, the rules. The teacher must ensure
the student isn't simply recognizing a pattern and blindly applying
it. And when confusion of a previously-taught rule is discovered,
it must be retaught.
To watch a 20-minute demo of this approach,
Research supports the Orton-Gillingham approach
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If your child has an I.E.P., this description
of a reading program should be on the I.E.P.:
- "Independent scientific, replicated
research supports the use of a reading and spelling system that
is simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative with
direct and explicit instruction in both synthetic and analytic
phonics with intense practice."
Yes, you can get methodology onto an I.E.P.
here to learn how.
Here are links to some of that research:
Preventing Reading Difficulties
in Young Children
National Reading Panel
Summary of NIH Reading
Research by G. Reid Lyon
Director of Research Programs in Reading Development and Disorders,
Learning Disabilities, Language Development and Disorders, and
Cognitive Neuroscience. Also Chief of the Child Development and
Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development (NICHD) within the National Institutes of Health
select Reading from the Topic list,
click on Lyon: Developing Reading Skills
Why Reading is not a Natural
Process by G. Reid Lyon
NIH Research Results
Article on Brain Differences
select Reading from the Topic list, click on Brain Research and
National Center on Learning Disabilities
Catch Them Before They
Fall, Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure
in Young Children by Joseph Torgeson
California Reading Initiative
Texas Reading Initiative
Children of the Code
A Social Education Project
A Public Television, DVD & Web Documentary Series
American children suffer more long-term life-harm from failing to learn to read than from parental abuse, accidents, and all other childhood diseases and disorders combined. In purely economic terms, reading related difficulties cost our nation more than the war on terrorism, crime, and drugs combined.
More than any other subject or skill, our children's futures are determined by by how well they learn to read.
So begins this fascinating website that contains amazing statistics, quotes, and over 100 interviews with leading neuroscientists, reading researchers, educators, and policy leaders.
To watch a 5-minute on-line video called Part 1: We Have A Problem, which contains statements from many of these famous professionals, go to: www.childrenofthecode.org/genpreview/index.htm
To read the interviews and other fascinating information on this website, go to: www.ChildrenoftheCode.org
Orton Gillingham Adaptations
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Be sure to choose an Orton-Gillingham-based
multisensory method to teach a dyslexic person to read, write,
and spell. The following are the most well-known adaptations
of the original Orton-Gillingham method:
Barton Reading & Spelling System
Designed for one-on-one tutoring of children, teenagers and adults by parents, volunteer tutors, reading or resource specialists or their aides, and professional tutors.The Barton System is the easiest one to learn because tutor training comes on DVD, along with fully scripted lesson plans.
Published by Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, Inc.
The pure, unchanged, original method.A.C.C., Massachusetts General Hospital
Designed for classroom settings of young children in the first, second, and third grades.The Slingerland Institute
MTA (Multi-sensory Teaching Approach)
Edmar Educational Services
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
Wilson Reading System
Wilson Language Training Corporation
by Enfield and Greene
Published by The Language Circle
Recipe for Reading
Preventing Academic Failure (PAF)
Published by Educators Publishing Service (EPS)
How to find a tutor?
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The most important decision a parent
must make is hiring the right tutor. Anyone can call themselves
a tutor, but not everyone knows how to effectively teach an Orton-Gillingham-based
So before you hire anyone, be sure to ask:
"Which Orton-Gillingham-based system are you certified in?"
If they don't know what Orton-Gillingham is
or means, they are not the right tutor for your child.
If they are not certified, you won't
know if they've been properly trained or are using the materials
effectively. That's because anyone can buy the materials. But
it takes special training to learn how to use them appropriately.
Certified means the tutor has gone through special training by
the developer of the program, and has passed their rigorous testing
Research has shown that the single most important factor in
a student's educational success is the knowledge and skill of
his or her teacher, and that fact is even
more significant when the student has a disability.
It doesn't matter so much which Orton-Gillingham
program they're using as that they are certified.
To find a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor in your
area, click here, then type in your
city and state. We will send you a list of certified tutors.
For a list of other questions to ask a potential tutor,
Successful Tutoring needs these 5 things:
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Susan Barton advises parents to seek professional
one-on-one tutoring for their child outside of the public
school system. That's because to bring the reading, writing,
and spelling skills of a child with dyslexia up to grade level,
you need these 5 things:
1. The right system
(an Orton-Gillingham system)
2. The right tutor or teacher
(someone who is well trained and certified in that Orton-Gillingham
3. Instruction at the right intensity level
(at least twice a week, for an hour each time)
4. The right setting
(one-on-one tutoring is best; one-on-three is maximum)
5. For the right duration.
(until the student's skills are at or beyond grade level)
Most public schools cannot provide those five
elements. So parents should either:
1. Send their child to a private school for
2. Hire a private tutor who is certified in
an Orton-Gillingham method,
3. Get trained in an Orton-Gillingham system
and tutor their own child, or
4. Start an early intervention program
at their school using well-trained parents as volunteer tutors.
The Barton Reading & Spelling System is
perfect for options 3 and 4. For more information, either watch this free webcast:
or visit this website: www.bartonreading.com
While a child is receiving one-on-one tutoring,
he or she will ALSO need classroom accommodations until their
skills reach grade level.
Common Classroom Accommodations
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While your child is acquiring his/her basic
reading, writing, and spelling skills through an Orton-Gillingham
Multisensory method, classroom accommodations will be needed.
To learn which ones, why they are fair, and how to get them, watch our one-hour webcast on classroom accommodation, free, by going to:
Here are the most commonly requested classroom
accommodations that will allow your child to demonstrate his/her
knowledge even though the child is not yet reading, writing, or spelling at grade level:
- Oral testing
Tests are read to the student (or provided pre-recorded on audio
tape), and student are allowed to give answers orally (or tape
record their answers).
- Untimed tests
Dyslexic students do not perform well under time pressure. It
also takes them longer to read the questions, compose the answer
in their head, and get it down on paper.
- Eliminate or reduce spelling tests
Classroom teachers rarely teach spelling rules in the same way
or same order as a dyslexia tutor. Many teachers will accept
a spelling test given in a tutoring session as a replacement
for the classroom test, or only grade a classroom spelling test
on a small number of pre-determined words.
- Don't force oral reading
Teachers should never force students with dyslexia to read out
loud in front of the class. If for some reason this is absolutely
necessary, warn the student in advance and show them exactly
which passage they will have to read so that they can practice
ahead of time.
- Accept dictated homework
Dyslexic students can dictate answers much more easily and quickly
than they can write them down. Allow parents to act as a scribe.
- Reduce homework load
Many teachers create homework assignments by estimating how long
it would take a "normal" student to complete it. They
may not realize it takes a dyslexic student 3 to 4 times longer
to complete the same assignment. Teachers should agree to a maximum
time to spend on homework. Parents should sign the end of the
homework page showing the amount of time spent on the assignment.
- Grade on content, not spelling nor handwriting
Some teachers take spelling and handwriting
into consideration when assigning a grade. For dyslexic children,
this is not appropriate. Teachers should be asked to grade only
on the content of an assignment.
- Reduce copying tasks
It takes dyslexic students longer to copy information from the
board, and if they have dysgraphia, they may not be able to read
their notes. So provide lecture notes, or discretely assign a
fellow student to act as a scribe using NCR paper.
- Quick print shops can create NCR sets of
binder paper. (NCR paper is sometimes called carbonless copy
paper.) The top sheet of binder paper has a coating applied to
the back of it that is pressure sensitive. When someone writes
on the top sheet, the coating automatically makes a copy appear
on the lower sheet of binder paper. So when class is over, the
scribe just tears off the lower sheet and gives it to our student.
- Alternate assignments
Teachers should offer alternative ways to show mastery of material
other than a long written paper. Alternatives could include oral
or video presentations, dioramas, collages, or debates.
- Avoid or reduce essay tests
Use match up, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer formats for
tests. List vocabulary words for fill-in-the-blank sections at
the top of the exam.
- Multiple-choice questions are also difficult
for dyslexic students due to the volume of reading required to
answer them correctly.
- Conduct a class review session before
Also, provide a study guide with key terms and concepts to the
- Ask the student how he/she learns best
Often, dyslexic students can explain strategies and techniques
that help them learn to teachers. These are usually easy to incorporate
into a classroom.
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Computer technology makes the lives of dyslexic
students much less difficult while they are acquiring their basic
reading, writing, and spelling skills. Here are some of the most
useful technology tools I've found:
- Naturally Speaking
Continuous speech recognition software that runs on Windows-based
PCs. Software comes with a headset. You just talk, and the software
types in what you said, spelled correctly. The hardest part is
training the software to recognize your voice. Training requires
reading a long passage displayed on the computer screen. (I sit
beside my students and whisper the hard words into their ear.)
Once trained, the person with dyslexia just talks to the computer
in his/her normal voice at a normal speed, and the software types
in the words, correctly spelled. It will even read the passage
back to you when you're through. Available in most major computer
stores. It can also be purchased from the publisher, Scansoft,
in Newton, Massachusetts (800-443-7077 or 978-977-2000).
- Franklin Spelling Ace
This portable electronic dictionary runs on batteries and is
a wonderful tool. You can enter the phonetic approximation of
a word, and the closest choices will be displayed, along with
a brief definition. Franklin web
site. Available at many office supply stores. Suggested retail:
- AlphaSmart Pro
This less-than-two-pound portable, battery-operated, virtually
indestructible keyboard with a small display provides an ideal
way to take notes in class or at meetings IF you know how to
touch type. At home (or back in your office), start your personal
computer (Macintosh or Windows-based PC), open your favorite
word processor, plug in the AlphaSmart Pro, and watch your typed-in
words fly into in the document. This is a lifesaver for people
with dysgraphia. For more information, check out the AlphaSmart
Pro web site.
- Books on Tape
Virtually every textbook used in the United States is available
on 4-track audio tape through Recordings
for the Blind and Dyslexic. Books for pleasure and books
for literature classes, read by professional actors, can be rented
through Recorded Books
Rentals. And most states also sponsor a state-funded Books
Aloud program through their public libraries. Contact your closest
library for details.
Even after a dyslexic person has learned to read, recorded books
are useful, especially in high school and college, where it may
prove impossible to read fast enough to keep up with the demands
of many different teachers.
- Type to Learn
This is an excellent program that teaches both children and adults
how to type by touch. It is available from Sunburst
Software for both Macintosh and Windows-based PCs.
- Any Word Processor
It goes without saying that once you can type, your most important
technology tool will be any word processor that has a good spell