California Dyslexia Bill 1369

Dyslexia InfoOn February 27, 2015, Assemblymember Jim Frazier submitted AB1369. This bill, referred to as the CA Dyslexia bill identifies 4 specific areas of change.

The first area of AB1369 addresses the need for early identification of dyslexia. Dyslexia has a rate of 1 in 5, yet most dyslexic children are never identified. This bill would mandate screening for dyslexia for all children annually from kindergarten through 3rd grade. Research shows that early identification allows for early intervention. When a child is given an intervention younger the timeline for that intervention is much shorter. The goal of this section is to close the gap, so struggling readers are found.

A secondary section looks at the need for a specific effective intervention to be utilized. The intervention needs to be evidence-based, not just research based. It needs to be structured, systematic and explicit. It is a generic way of referencing the Orton-Gillingham approach which has over 30 years of research. The problem is that schools do “interventions” whether through RTI or special education, but they are not the right intervention that target dyslexia.

Section three of AB1369 addresses the need for training. In service training is needed for general education teachers so that can know what to look for- risk factors, and specific reading and spelling issues within the classroom. Special education teachers, and any teacher providing reading intervention, need to be specifically trained on how to implement the research based reading intervention. It is very specific, but can be done. Lastly is the need for psychologists to be trained in the identification of children with dyslexia.

The last section may seem the simplest is defining and using the word dyslexia. Dyslexia is neurological in nature where a weak phonologic process exists. There is difficulty between the sounds and the symbols. It effects reading comprehension and fluency. The definition within this bill is a whole paragraph long. The wording is important because parents have been told that dyslexia doesn’t exist or is not real. Dyslexia exists within the federal IDEA. It is not used in our school systems. It will allow administrators to utilize the word dyslexia with a specific definition.

We hope that you will support this bill and ask your CA legislators to support this bill. You can sign the petition here. It would be even more helpful to write a letter to your legislators.

When -ed Puts a Kink in Your Spelling

The three sounds of -ed

The three sounds of -ed

When adding the suffix -ed to make a past tense, you might assume it always makes an /id/ sound, but in reality there are three sounds of -ed. It can say /id/ as in wanted. It can also make the /t/ sound as in looked. The third sound is /d/ as in called. When we converse we don’t think about the different sounds we make when talking in past tense, but we need to when we convert it to writing.

It may seem arbitrary when we say -ed one way or another but there is actually a very systematic way we say each of these sounds. The /id/ comes out when the end of a word is /t/ or /d/. I call them the Ted words, because they are either t or d.

The /t/ sound comes from the sounds /s/, /k/, /p/, /f/, /sh/, /ch/, /x/, unvoiced /th/. These are sounds that are called “unvoiced”.  These sounds are said in our mouth and not in our throat. With words that end with these sounds, we naturally say the /t/ sound when making something past tense with -ed. I teach my kids this sentence to help them remember the unvoiced sounds. Skip has the fishchex. Remember that these are sounds are not letters. So, if you have a soft c that says /s/, or if you have the unusual gh with the /f/ sound, you would say the /t/ sound – fenced, laughed.

The /d/ sound comes from the voiced sounds, essentially all the other sounds not listed above. Instead of listing off 11 sounds, I usually just teach the first two and by default all the others will be /d/ sound.

The importance of teaching the 3 sounds of -ed, is mainly for spelling. Spelling -ed is not the complicated piece, it is distinguishing it from words that end in: -pt, -ct, -ft, -st, -nd, -rd, -ld. It is only these 7 endings in which older students seem to get confused. You will see words spelled: malld, reflecked. When a student is spelling in this manner, this is the concept that has eluded them.

It’s important for them to understand the concept of “passed tense”, but what throws a wrench in things with words like swept. Although there are only a few past tense exceptions, those spelling patterns can be taught as well. I find that this concept plagues the older student often as words get longer. They like the fact that it is only 7 endings to watch out for. Giving older students hope for spelling is so important. With exposure to the explicit rules and review they can master this concept!

I Have a Dream…Let Appropriate Education Reign

I have a dream that all children will be able to read

I have a dream that all children will be able to read

On this historic today, in the honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for our freedoms, I believe he would stand beside us in our advocacy for educational justice in literacy.

In a world where 15-20% of our population has dyslexia, a condition of difficulty in accurate, word recognition, poor spelling and inadequate decoding ability. Dyslexia disrupts our children’s ability to read and write in relation to his or her peers. It is seen in all states, in all ages, and in all ethnic groups.

We live in a world where the word dyslexia is considered profanity, and if given the opportunity it would be bleeped out at every school, administrator’s office and school board meeting. Those in use of such a profane word would be given detention and surely be expelled for repeated use. We have been told by teachers, principals, and administers it doesn’t exist, and that it has no meaning.

We live in a world where “special education” no longer refers to education, but to behavioral services, to mental health, and classroom management. Dyslexia is a disability that can only be addressed by the realm of education. It is not a mental health disorder. It is not a behavioral disorder. It is not a medical problem. It needs to be dealt with not only in the education system, but in the public education system.

We live in a world that passed a law 40 years ago affording persons will disabilities the right to free, appropriate public education, but today in 2015, we are still fighting for the ability to exercise our right. Parents are being told on a daily basis that their child with dyslexia does not qualify for specialized education services. Parents are being told their child will not be tested because they will be receiving RTI, albeit separate education services; they are neither special education nor appropriate. Tell us this is not a Jim Crow approach to education. Parents are told daily that their school does not have the researched based structured literacy programs necessary to teach their child. Parents are told daily that their child doesn’t need those structured literacy programs and their general education approach is adequate.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s federal education code: “Each State must ensure that free and appropriate education is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.”

I have a dream that one day any child of this America can sit on the field of his school under a tree and have the capacity to read the great literature of our nation.

I have a dream that my son and his friends with dyslexia processing will not be judged by the speed of their reading, the inadequacy of their spelling, nor the difficulty of their word retrieval, but by their extra-special abilities afforded to them by these dyslexic genes.

I have a dream that the blind educational administrators who vow to disregard dyslexia and the struggles of dyslexic students, those that deny the young 7 year old of specialized educational services will be granted sight.  That one day the administration will see, actually see, these students who have word blindness. That not only will they be seen, but that they will be worthy of specialized appropriate reading education as afforded in our federal education code.

I have a dream that students will not be put down for their reading skills. That their teachers will not call them lazy or tell them to “try harder.”  I have a dream that when teachers start their teaching career, they know the word dyslexia, it’s meaning, see it in the classroom and know how to teach them. That this newly trained teacher can join with his student’s parents in their deepest concerns for their child and truly help their child to read the great stories availed to them in this free nation and to be able to write the wonderful stories from their own minds.

I have a dream that our educational system will employ the specific teachings shown through research that will actually teach our child to decode and encode, to read and write. That they will be taught by multi-sensory structured literacy program, such as Orton-Gillingham, Slingerland, or another research based program. I have a dream that every teacher in America whether they just graduated yesterday or 40 years prior, that they too will know and embrace this way of teaching that is more than 30 years old yet has barely seen the inside of an American public school room.

I have a dream that every child in this great nation will learn to read. That we will live in a society where our prison population’s literacy is 100%, not 30%. I have a dream that if our literacy rates rose, it would give great hope to the young people of this nation. That hope would fill their souls, instead of despair and when it was time to make a choice that might carry them to prison, that they would choose otherwise, because they would have hope for their future because their ability to read.

I have a dream that other parents will not shake their heads and tell me that my child just “needs to read more.”  I have a dream these fellow parents will join with me to see that the education system needs change. That “reading more” is not effective if these young people have not been adequately taught to decode so they can read the words on the page. I have a dream that all Americans will demand 100% literacy for all of America’s children whether they have a child with dyslexia or not, and whether they even have have children or not. We must cross the Edmund Pettus bridge together.

I have a dream that all of America’s children will receive free and appropriate education.

Let appropriate education reign.

Let appropriate education reign.

God almighty, we need appropriate education at last.

What is a Phoneme and Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?

A phoneme is a unit of sound or sounds. A phoneme allows a student to hear the three separate sounds of “cat” – /k//a//t/. There are some phonemes that carry more than one sound, for example the “q” and “x”. The “q” has the sounds /k//w/ and the “x” has the /k//s/. Some may argue that it is two phonemes, but it is really 2 sounds that make up that one phoneme. Likewise there are some sounds such as /sh/ that have a 2 letter grapheme, “sh”.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear all the sounds in a word. For a word as easy as “cat”, there is three /k//a//t/. The struggles come in with the blends. “Mold” is often hard for some dyslexic student to hear the separate /l/ and /d/ at the end. The word “wild” is similar. Beginning blends can be difficult for dyslexic students to hear the /r/ or /l/, such as “blind” or “grand”. The purpose of phonemic awareness is to teach a student to break down what they hear, to ensure they are recognizing all the sounds present for a word. When a student is unable to master phonemic awareness, letters are often omitted, especially “r” and “l” at the beginning or “l” or “n” neat the end. When this skill is not mastered, they will struggle with reading, and even more so with spelling.



What is the Importance to Teaching Nonsense Words to Dyslexic Students Learning to Read?

nonsense words for use in decoding

nonsense words

Nonsense words are words that are not in the English dictionary. The use of nonsense words are used to practice reading consonants and vowel patterns. Children with dyslexia can guess words from pictures in stories and do well at “word prediction”, which falsely makes it look as though they are actually decoding. This is one reasons that sometimes dyslexia is not identified until 3rd grade, as that is when chapter books begin and there are no more picture clues to help the dyslexic child. Here are some nonsense words:

cat vs. vit

most vs. blost

my vs. gry

nine vs. scrine

The first word is a regular dictionary word. The second word is a nonsense word. The idea is that the second word can be decoded using the principals of the first word. Therefore “vit” would be said with short vowel and “blost” would be said with long vowel. The “y” in “gry” would say a long i sound. “Scrine” would have long i and silent e. There are crucial decoding skills.

If a student is unable to master the nonsense words, there is a significant deficit in their ability to decode. Sometimes students will master one segment of nonsense words, but not others. So it is important to pay attention to the nonsense words carefully.

Independence in Checking Your Writing for a Dyslexic Student

How you check your writing

How you check your writing

When a student with dyslexia writes, they use a lot of brain power to get their thoughts onto the page. Most dyslexic students are unable to process their thought, capitals, punctuation and spelling all in one moment as they put pen to paper. Most students have to review each process separately. I like to use the acronym: CHOPS.

C- capitals. Go back to see where capitals need to be? Where are there capitals that don’t belong?

H- handwriting. Is it neat? Are your o’s closed? Are your t’s crossed? Can you make out each letter?

O- out loud. Read your writing out loud to make sure it sounds right.

P- punctuation. Do your sentences have a punctation at the end? Any commas, or quotation marks needed?

S- spelling/sight words. Do all of your words look right? Do you need to look any of them up?

This simple acronym can help your writing become easier to read by others, especially teachers and writing critics.

An older child with dyslexia using Orton-Gillingham approach

It is possible to use the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach with an older student with dyslexia. An older student has the advantage of more schooling and exposure to reading and spelling rules. The problems is that some of them have stuck and some of them have not. The OG method allows for the systematic review of the phonological process to see areas of need.

I love to help older students because it is like being a detective in a real world mystery (where no death has occurred). The OG method give me a secret treasure map of where to find the treasures needed at every turn of reading and spelling. The students come with some negative experiences related to reading and writing. I have always felt that half of my job is keeping them positive, while the other half is teaching the actual skills they need. We work together to gain mastery over the weak area. The students are always amazed at some of the things that they never learned in elementary, middle school or even high school. Sometimes it is something they have never learned, and sometimes it is looking at it from a new perspective.

If you would like me to work with your older student, contact me.

When to add an -es to word rather than just an s

Add -ed when word ends in s, ss, sh, ch, x, z

When to add -es

What is the rule about when to add an “es” to the end of a word rather than just an “s”? It may be simple when we talk, if we are native English speakers, but when writing why does the “es” happen? The reason it happens is purely for sound.

The -es is added to words that end in s, ss, sh, x, ch, or z. All of these letter sounds have a similar /s/ sound when saying it’s sound making just adding an “s” awkward to say. Therefore, orally we added another syllable when added a plural or verb change so that it is easier to say.






This is an important distinction for spelling. When reading, students seem to read the ‘es’ well, but get tripped up as to when to add the ‘es’ rather than just the ‘s’.  I hope these key words will help your student remember when ‘es’ is needed.

How to choose spelling of -ce or -se at end of a word

how to spell words with "ce" or "se" ending

ce or se spelling?

When spelling words, sometimes it is difficult to know how to use two similar sounding sets of letters, such as “ce” or “se” at the end of a word. Dyslexia makes spelling difficulty, but when there are similar sounding ending happening, it can make spelling even more difficult. Lets look at two ways to choose the “ce” or the “se” ending.

The first area, that I will discuss is sound. Notice that some words that end in “se” are actually said with a /z/ sound, such as nose and surprise. When you are trying to figure out whether these words should end in “se” or “ce”, choose “se”. The reason is that “ce” ending should not have a /z/ sound, they will have a /s/ sound such as pace.

The next contemplation is for words that are similar to each other with the only different is the letter of c or s, such as advise and advice. The rule of thumb for this differentiation is that the word ending in ‘se’ is a verb, while the word ending in ‘ce’ is a noun.

Sometimes the nuance of a small letter with a similar sound can really put a wrench in the spelling. I hope this helps your student make some correct choices when needing to spell some of these advanced words.

Dyslexia tutoring

There are several kinds of dyslexia tutoring. The two most common tutoring is Orton-Gillingham tutoring and Linda-Mood Bell. They are effective tutoring from the research. They can be very time consuming and very expensive. It’s important that your tutor is trained.

Orton-Gillingham approach includes several curriculums including Barton and Wilson. It is sequential, multi-sensory, explicit, and individualized.