The research on dyslexia
treatment clearly shows that dyslexic kids need special kinds of
instruction in terms of both content and method. Below is a summary of what we know works.
According to the prominent dyslexia researcher Dr. Sally Shaywitz, in her book Overcoming Dyslexia, the key ingredients of effective early intervention programs are:
1) Systematic and direct instruction in:
2) Practice applying these skills
in reading and writing: Practice means using them everyday from reading comic strips to writing e-mail.
3) Fluency training: Fluency is the ability to read quickly, smoothly, accurately and with good comprehension. When reading is slow and tough, kids spend all their energy to just sound out the words, often missing the meaning entirely.
4) Enriched language experiences: Interactive dialogue involving listening, speaking and story telling.
In terms of a successful method, the Orton Gillingham (OG) approach
to reading that was developed in the 1930s by
Samuel Torrey Orton and Anna Gillingham is still believed to be the most
effective dyslexia treatment. It is based on the following process
Personalized: Teaching begins with recognizing the differing needs of learners.
Multisensory: The simultaneous use of multiple senses including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (touch). For example, a dyslexic learner is taught to see the letter A, say its name and sound and write it in the air—all at the same time. The use of multisensory input is thought to enhance memory storage and retrieval. Multisensory approaches can even be used for math.
Structured, Systematic, Sequential, and Cumulative: Language elements and rules are introduced in a linguistically logical, understandable order. Students go back to the very beginning of their language learning, to lay a proper foundation.
Beginning by reading and writing sounds in isolation (phonemes), then blending sounds into syllables and words. Elements of language—consonants, vowels, digraph blends, and diphthongs are introduced in an orderly fashion. Only later, learners proceed to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, prefixes and suffixes.
Cognitive: Students study the many generalizations and rules that
govern the structure of language.
Flexible: Instructors ensure
the learner is not simply recognizing a pattern and applying it without
understanding. When confusion of a previously taught rule is discovered, it is
re-taught from the beginning.
Personal and Direct: Building a close teacher-student relationship with continuous feedback and positive reinforcement leading to success and self confidence.
For more information check out the International Dyslexia Association's fact sheet explaining why multisensory teaching using OG principles is best.
There are other approaches that are not considered OG but offer comparable benefit through somewhat different methods. The Lindamood-Bell learning centers are one of the best examples.
With your school
If your child is in a special
education program and/or has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you
will be part of the planning for that program. Be sure to attend the meeting
where your child's plan is discussed. Ask
if the school is using a reading program that has been shown to work for dyslexic
students, one that meets the content and method criteria above. For more detailed information and advice on the IEP process (U.S. perspective), try this site on Special Education.
Unfortunately, sadly, and remarkably, most public schools will fail you at this point. They either don't have the right tools for dyslexia treatment, resource teachers, time or money to provide the kind of support your child may need. I hope your school is an exception.
Below is a list of reading programs that incorporate Orton Gillingham or equivalent approaches and which include emphasis on phonemic awareness, fluency, and strategies for spelling and comprehension. Your school and tutor should be using one of them or an equivalent.
The migration of reading programs into the digital realm has been strikingly slow. While you can find countless apps to help with spelling or vocabulary, there are relatively few comprehensive software based reading programs suitable for dyslexic students. But consider the inherent advantages that software has over paper book, flashcard and tile type reading systems:
Because of these advantages we believe that software based systems are the future of reading instruction for both home and the classroom. In part, this belief has resulted from two impressive software programs we have experimented with at home:
With 100 lessons, Nessy is more comprehensive, more game oriented and sells for a fraction of the cost—$100 for a year license versus over $1400 for four months of Fast Forward. Our Fast Forward representative provided great service (weekly calls to discuss progress), but in terms of value for money, Nessy wins easily and we recommend giving it a try.
Other software reading systems include Wynn, Kurzweil, Lexercise, Mindplay and Academy of Reading, though the first two programs do not explicitly incorporate as many OG oriented elements—in particular phonemic awareness, which are critical for the dyslexic student. Lexercise, Mindplay and Academy of Reading look promising, but seem to follow the Scientific Learning model of high cost with regular in person service support.
At home we use the Barton Reading and Spelling System, developed by Susan Barton in California
which is based on the Orton Gillingham method. And as mentioned above, we are also experimenting with Nessy Reading, a comprehensive computer based program.
Any reading program that doesn't
incorporate the Orton Gillingham approach and the type of content noted earlier is less likely to work. The programs and interventions listed below may offer benefits to your child, but they will not likely help them make the kind of progress necessary to close the reading gap with their peers.
Don't be afraid to experiment, but stick to proven programs for the core of your interventions