Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dyslexia – Is the teaching method at fault?

Among the many definitions of dyslexia one definition I can accept is ‘To have more difficulty learning to read (in English) and dealing with text than would be expected for a given cognitive ability’.

So, it is a specific difficulty with reading (in English) and words in relation to the person's general intelligence. Anything more complex than that will begin to link dyslexia to one or more of the personality traits often seen in children who happen to also have difficulty with reading. That is a distraction from the actual underlying reasons for the difficulty.
The dyslexia I am talking about is the kind that afflicts children who have come to school with perfectly good speech, hearing and eyesight. In fact, some of these so-called dyslexics are some of the brightest and physically healthiest students in their classes.

The following is what you need to be able to read.

1.Understand the way speech sounds make up words.
2. Focus on printed marks (letters and words).
3. Connect speech sounds to letters.
4. Blend letter sounds smoothly into words.
5. Control eye movements across the page.
6. Build images and ideas.
7. Compare new ideas with what is already known.
8. Store the ideas in memory.

Most students have no problem with all of the above. There are about 10% to 20% of students who have a problem with number 3 and number 4 above as far as reading in the English language is concerned.

 I have now been teaching certified dyslexic children for 7 years and I have spent a good deal of that time investigating why these smart children find it difficult to read and the real cause of this difficulty.

I have explained in detail why dyslexic children find it difficult to connect speech sounds to letters (in the English language) and why they cannot blend letter sounds smoothly into words (in the English language.) Dyslexics do not have a problem learning to read in orthographically consistent languages like Malay and Romanised Mandarin which use the same 26 alphabets as the English language. They DO NOT have a problem with number 3 and 4 above in Malay and Romanised Mandarin.

If there is anyone out there who disagrees with me please let me know how you blend letter sounds into words for words such as bough, cough and dough. Explain how one who has not heard the word 'quay' pronounce this word the same as 'key'.

All my dyslexic students, taught on a one on one basis, begin to read well in less than a year. Many of them begin to read well above grade level.

There is absolutely no reason why most dyslexics cannot read well with the right kind of instruction for them.

Today I want you to ponder on the many successful teaching methods parents of dyslexic children say have helped their dyslexic child.

Some of these reading programs include Orton-Gillingham, The Barton Reading and Spelling Program, Wilson, and The Linda mood Bell Phoneme Sequencing Program for Reading, Spelling and Speech.

A recent e-mail friend has also been very successful in teaching dyslexic students. In a recent e-mail she had the following to say, “This encourages us to focus on what is working rather than what isn't (avoiding the victim game), it also builds confidence in my students as they are continually exposed to what is going well, rather than what isn't. We all shut down if we feel the situation is hopeless.”

You may read more about her here:

The kind of reading difficulties afflicting perfectly normal children in our schools today are being caused by the teaching methods and not by any defect in the children themselves. There are many who keep writing and telling us that the reason why so many children are having problems learning to read is because of a learning disability they've been born with. If that is true then how is it that I am able to teach these children to read? How is it that parents swear by some of the teaching methods I have listed above? How is it that my recent e-mail friend Diana Vogel is able to teach dyslexic children?
If you can identify a dyslexic student early on, then you can truly get great results using any variety of re-mediation methods. Dyslexics do not have a learning disability. Dyslexics simply learn in a different way. Teach them in ‘their way’ and see them flourish. I repeat what I have said in my earlier articles ‘You can’t fill up a diesel engine with petrol and expect it to work’.
‘If you cannot catch a ball with your left hand as well as a left hander are you disabled?’What if, in the land of left handed people, you are forced by society to use your left hand? Isn’t this what we are doing with children who have a different way of learning?
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.-Martin Luther King, Jr." 


Anonymous said...

My son and daughter are dyslexic but read well above grade level with very good comprehension. Other issue persist at this time but they love to read and consider it their strength. My son is dysgraphic, hates writing and spelling non phonetic words is a problem. Math facts are hanging up my son in spite of his IQ testing showing him the very superior range for mathematical problem solving and reasoning. My daughter has her quirks but mostly reversals of letters and numbers and less than perfect speech at the end of 2nd grade. The label of dyslexia is misleading if you take it as just reading, but it is a language processing issue and the memory and sensory issues all live in the same neighborhood so to speak. We tutored my son at home by teaching reading, reading aloud to him and having him read aloud but the real break through was Lindamood Bell Seeing Stars. This method uses through teaching and visualization, and positive
active learning environment that was one on one or small group. My daughter took the same program as enrichment for a fraction of the time and money which was early intervention and it WORKED. I am convicned that the method of teaching is CRITICAL. The public school continues to not get it. We home school our son now and I really feel we saved him. He had shut down, became very negative. Now he is a happy child learning and advancing academically and otherwise. Academics is so important but it is only one measure and is often more arbitrary than one would think. Self esteem, confidence is so important. How parents and teachers(especaily teachers) miss the signs; that children who need help but don't get it will have to resort to shutting down, acting out, copying work (cheating), and other responses to unmet needs.My daughter has yet to hit a wall at school and feels succsful and loves it but entering 3rd grade with the same teacher who told me my son may not be able to continue at the school because she could not teach to dyslexia and a principal who told my son was super smart and being manipulative after I had him tested outside of school by an educational psychologist may find a point where it is not working so well for her. I worry about her getting what she needs even if she gets good grades. It is sad that school is not the safe learning haven it is supposed to be. That a free and equal education is really not being offered. That even parents like us doing what we are supposed to do and finding resources and spending our savings do not get the collaborative support from the school we expected. They missed a learning opportunity for themselves. But I will not have my son drown in their ignorance. Luckily I am able to home school him and when the time comes my daughter wants to join us she is welcomed. By the way, my son now takes violin and acting classes, hands on science and has lots of quality family time. Sure beats jumping throu7gh hoops for points and not getting what he needs.
So, my children may have learning differences but they are able when taught properly and if inclusive teaching methods were used all children could do quite well. It is something they were born with but it did not have to be such a big deal if the teachers had used a different method. My son is doing great and all the clinical symptoms are gone, so that means it was situational, and the situation was his school. By the way it is ranked 2nd in our county by STAR test scores but that is another issue.

Luqman Michel said...

Hi, Thank you so much for your comment. It is rather unfortunate that teachers do not know how to teach these smart children. I have written about most of the matters you have raised in your comment. Please feel free to write to me if you have any thing at all that we may be able to share with each other in regard to your children learning to read and comprehend. You may write to me at :

Your dyslexic children can read well above grade level and are able to comprehend very well!! That is what I have been trying to say to many of the professors who write about dyslexics being unable to read because of "phonological awareness deficit" and dyslexics not being able to comprehend. If more parents like you can write and comment we shall be able to convince many more that if dyslexics are taught in a manner appropriate to them they will learn and be able to read above grade level. Thank you once again.

Aspergers said...

It is too difficult to live with dyslexia because it directly effects the study and career of a person. It is quite difficult to figure out dyslexic child for teacher if that child present in his/her class. Few people think that there is no cure for it but with the help of therapies and emotional support, condition get better.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your comment, Aspergers

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