Lindamood Bell Learning Processes

Lindamood Bell Quick Facts

  • A chain of learning centers across the U.S. but also in the United Kingdom and Australia serving children and adults
  • Founded by Patricia Lindamood, a speech language pathologist and Nanci Bell, a teacher and expert in literacy disorders
  • Their method was developed in the 1960s and 70s and the company founded in 1986. There are now over 65 centers around the world, most in the U.S.
  • It is not a full-time September-June kind of school. Most students attend four sessions per day for five days a week over several weeks—i.e. it's intensive.
  • Their reading program is based on a 'Theory of Cognition', focusing on process, rather than subject. Emphasis is placed on the 'sensory-cognitive' functions. We explain the programs in simpler terms below.
  • The cost is not disclosed on the website but from online accounts and reviews runs in the $90-110/hr range 
  • It is not an Orton Gillingham based method, but shares many aspects with that approach
  • They currently offer five programs; four on reading and one on math
  • Their programs can be used for all early language and literacy learners, but also for students with dyslexia, hyperlexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), autism spectrum disorders and other learning difficulties
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History

Following an initial degree in Elementary Education, Nanci Bell specialized in reading, earning a Masters in Education from California Polytechnic State University. Beginning as  a classroom teacher, her interest in literacy disorders took her into private practice and clinical treatment where she studied the role of concept imagery and analytical thinking in language comprehension. Later, she researched and developed her own program to improve reading fluency and accuracy.

Patricia C. Lindamood earned a Masters of Science degree and a Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). Later working with her husband, who had a background in linguistics, she conducted research and developed a diagnostic test and treatment program for phonemic awareness.

Bell and Lindamood co-founded Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes in 1986. Beginning in California, the organization has since grown to over 65 international Learning Centers.

Is LMB Orton Gillingham?

Proponents of the Orton Gillingham (OG) method will recognize many similar components in the Lindamood-Bell approach and may mistakenly think that it is an OG based approach but technically, it's not. Why not?

1) LMB's reading programs initially place more emphasis on distinguishing and vocalizing sounds, delving into the minutia of tongue and lip position. Students are first taught to perceive sounds and only then produce them.
3) An emphasis on symbol and concept imagery.
2) LMB always includes a comprehension element.

In some sense this makes the LMB method an Orton Gillingham + system, in that it incorporates all critical OG content and methods plus more.

The Lindamood Bell Method (the how)

Key components of the method:

  • Individualized (5-8 students per group max)
  • Intensive (1-4 hours per day, several times per week)
  • Multisensory
  • Structured
  • Cumulative, sequential
  • Sensory-cognitive
  • Concept imagery

What doesn't jump out immediately from their website is that the program is typically short term but highly intense. Students may attend four hours a day for several weeks. This contrasts sharply with other approaches that consume only 1-5 hours per week over a much longer period.

Many supporters of the program site the intensity as essential for the success. And this may be true for any reading program adopted. When it comes to reading remediation more is always better.

Sensory-Cognitive.... huh?

You may be wondering what is meant by 'sensory-cognitive' and 'concept imagery'.  So were we. Here is how Lindamood Bell describe the terms on their website:

"Based on a Theory of Cognition, Lindamood-Bell instruction differs from traditional reading and comprehension tutoring by focusing on the process, rather than the subject. Proficiency in learning requires the ability to process language, which is dependent on the sensory-cognitive functions of phonemic awareness, symbol imagery, and concept imagery. By developing and strengthening those underlying sensory-cognitive functions, Lindamood-Bell instruction improves reading, spelling, comprehension, critical thinking, and math skills for students of all ages."

"Concept imagery is the ability to create an imaged gestalt (whole). It is the underlying sensory-cognitive function needed for comprehension and critical thinking. Many children and adults who are thought to have reading or learning disabilities are able to process the parts (details) of a written passage or social situation. However...these individuals struggle to connect those parts, and thereby have difficulty understanding the big picture – the gestalt."

Unfortunately these brief paragraphs fail to define sensory-cognitive, concept imagery, or even what  'process' and 'subject' are in this context. Web searches for these terms invariably point back to the Lindamood Bell website itself—revealing that they have essentially coined them, leaving us where we began: confused.

Without clearly defined terms we simply cannot determine here if their methods are truly unique or simply described with confusing terminology. 

Lindamood Bell Content (the what)

The Lindamood Bell company uses many programs. The content summary here refers only to the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program for reading, spelling and speech (LiPS) and their Seeing Stars programs. These programs are highly likely to be used for dyslexic students.


  • Auditory discrimination / phonemic awareness

    Students in the LiPS program move through a series of steps to learn how their mouths produce the sounds of language.

  • Grapheme-phoneme correspondence

    Students are taught the 44 phonemes of English and explicitly taught the relationship between these sounds, letters (graphemes) and letter combinations.

  • Comprehension

    Unlike some reading programs, comprehension is emphasized throughout the learning process.

  • Sight word recognition

    500-1000 of the most common words are explicitly taught to become sight words—words instantly recognized on sight.

  • Spelling

  • Fluency

Ok, but show me the proof...

What does research have to say about Lindamood-Bell?

On the website they provide a list of research backing their approach.

BUT, the fact remains that there is a general lack of methodologically sound research into reading programs for dyslexics. In July 2010, the U.S. Department of Education reported that it had not been able to identify a single method or approach for dyslexia or learning disabilities that is supported by strong research. See more detail at the What Works Clearing House.

But don't despair too much from this lack of evidence on specific brand name programs. There is a lot of evidence that the methods employed by these programs (intensive, multisensory, etc.) and content included (phonemic awareness, fluency) work.

Specific programs offered

LMB currently (Dec, 2014) offers five programs, four for reading and one for math. The descriptions of these programs on their website are extremely cryptic. Some additional research and YouTube videos later, we think we understand the fundamentals. Below is our best effort at a plain language explanation.

  • Seeing Stars: Symbol Imagery for Phonological and Orthographic Processing in Reading and Spelling

    This program teaches beginning readers consonant and vowel sounds and then progresses into syllables, prefixes and suffixes. Using these skills, students master 500-1000 common sight words.  

  • Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking

    Some students can read text but not understand its meaning; they can't see the forest for the trees. This program teaches students to use imagery to improve comprehension and critical thinking.  The process begins with word imagery then progresses to sentence imagery and paragraph imagery.

  • Talkies: Visualizing and Verbalizing for Oral Language Comprehension and Expression

    This is a primer to the Visualizing and Verbalizing program above. Exercises help students link images to words and build vocabulary.

  • Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program for Reading, Spelling, and Speech (LiPS)

    The LiPS program teaches phonemic awareness. The 'Oral-motor' movements which produce sounds are explicitly taught. For example, students are taught to feel the physical characteristics of the lips, tongue and mouth associated with the different phoneme sounds.

  • On Cloud Nine Math

    The On Cloud Nine math instruction program teaches students foundational addition, subtraction and multiplication skills using numbers up to 100. Division is not included. Like the Visualizing and Verbalizing program above, Cloud Nine makes extensive use of imagery in the teaching process.

Locations

Beginning in California in the 1980s, Lindamood Bell is now an international learning organization:

  • U.S.: Over 65 locations(plus a large number of season learning centers)
  • Australia: 4 locations
  • U.K.: 4 locations
  • Switzerland: 2 locations
  • Canada: 2 locations
  • Bangkok: 1 location
  • Hong Kong: 1 locations
  • Singapore: 1 location
  • Japan: 1 location

Final Word on Lindamood-Bell

Based on the method, content, anecdotes and available research, Lindamood Bell reading programs are an excellent choice for dyslexics. They are not cheap (running $90-110/hr) but they are relatively short in duration. Expect to drop many thousands of dollars but to see a significant spike in reading ability and confidence. Some parents report several grade year equivalent bumps during a 12 week run.

In terms of value for money it's more difficult to guage. If you use any effective reading program intensely (>1hour, 5 times a week) over several months of time, significant gains will likely result. So a more relevant question is whether or not LMB offers significantly greater gains than other programs, or whether the reading gains are maintained better over time. We have no answer, but still feel that the LMB program is a very good one for the dyslexic reader. 

Good Luck and Good Reading!

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