What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language based learning disability characterized by problems in oral or written language. Dyslexia is not the result of low intelligence; rather it is an unexpected gap between learning ability and achievement. The problem is not behavioral, psychological, motivational, or social. It is not a problem of vision; people with dyslexia do not "see letters backwards." Dyslexia results from differences in the structure and function of the brain in regards to language. Dyslexia is often a hereditary condition. The International Dyslexia Association reports about 10% of the population has a language based learning disability. Of the students with learning disabilities receiving special education services in public schools, 70-80% have deficits in reading.
What are some characteristics of dyslexia?
- Lack of awareness of sounds in words, rhymes, or syllables
- Difficulty decoding single words
- Difficulty encoding words (spelling)
- Poor sequencing of numbers, and/or letters in words, when read or written
- Difficulty with reading comprehension, due to poor decoding or fluency rate
- Difficulty expressing thoughts in written form
- Delayed spoken language
- Difficulty processing information that is heard
- Difficulty expressing thoughts orally
- Similar difficulties seen in other family members
- Difficulty with handwriting
- Difficulty in math; often related to sequencing of steps, directionality, or the language of math
What type of instruction is recommended for a student with dyslexia?
Students with dyslexia typically NEED special instructional programs to learn to read, write and spell effectively. Traditional educational programs are often NOT effective for students with dyslexia, due to the differences in brain structure and function regarding reading and language skills.
- Program Content: Students with dyslexia often require a "Structured Language" or "Structured Literacy" program. Direct instruction in the code of written language (the letter-sound system) is critical. This code must be taught in a sequential, cumulative, and explicit manner.
- Program Delivery: Students with dyslexia require multisensory delivery of language content (MSL). Multisensory instruction employs varied pathways of learning; seeing, hearing, touching, writing, and speaking. Multisensory instruction requires a teacher or therapist who is specifically trained in a method or program which research has documented to be effective for dyslexic learners.
How long does a student usually need individualized remediation services for dyslexia?
Each student's difficulties differ in severity and type. Other factors affecting student progress include age, learning style, home and school support, and any other impairments that may be present. There ARE effective educational strategies for dyslexic students and these strategies take time and effort. Typically, students in a specialized language program meet several times per week for 1-2 years.
Why is it important to choose an educational therapist rather than a tutor?
Teaching reading is complex. As researcher Louisa Moats states, "Teaching reading IS rocket science!"
A tutor typically helps a child with homework assistance or helps the child to "catch up" on certain academic skills. They may or may not have an advanced degree or specific knowledge of learning disabilities. An educational therapist combines educational and therapeutic approaches for evaluation, remediation, and advocacy for children with learning difficulties. Educational therapy programs are focused on building underlying skills which are the foundations of literacy. Therapy is systematic, sequential and cumulative in nature. Therapy is designed to follow a hierarchy of instruction, effectively building a new skill based on the understanding of a skill learned in the previous lesson. Assessment of progress and comprehension is built into each session.
Educational therapists who specialize in reading difficulties have extensive training in a "Structured Language Approach". Multisensory techniques are used so that the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic/tactile senses can all be employed to help focus the student’s attention and allow the brain to imprint the letters and sounds that go together. Teaching is completed using diagnostic, prescriptive, cyclical and explicit methodology. Educational therapists are highly trained with advanced educational degrees and specialty certification. This type of certification is equivalent to college level courses and typically includes a practicum with supervision by a master teacher.