Appropriate Intervention Does not Include a Curling Iron

It's important that your teacher have the right tools

It’s important that your teacher have the right tools

When comparing tools, a mechanic cannot fix a car with a curling iron and a glue gun. A mechanic could try to glue on the fuel pump or the spark plugs, but they would not get very far. It is similar to a teacher not having the tools necessary to teach a child to read. A dyslexic child needs a highly specialized technique, called Orton-Gillingham, in order to read effectively. Without that technique, or tool, they will be ineffective, as the mechanic with the a curling iron.

It’s important that the intervention is evidence-based and Orton-Gillinghma has over 30 years over research and effectiveness. Ask your teacher about their training. See if there is the possibility that they can be trained, as this will be the most effective way for your child to have reading remediation.

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.

cat

/k//a//t/

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.

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.