Over the last month, I've discovered what I presumed to be true. My child has dyslexia. My blog is dedicated to these wonderfully different learners. I marvel at their creativity, out of the box thinking and their infectious need for humor. This is a journey of our discovery process and our journey homeschooling with what works. I hope you will find encouragement along with helpful advice in teaching your right brain learner in this left brain world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The key ingredient to reading success!

I've been learning so much about dyslexia in the last couple of months, and I have to admit knowledge is power in this case. If you can't understand why your child is struggling, how will you know how to help him.

In the early 1980's, the United States Congress mandated the National Institutes of Health to research learning disabilities and answer seven specific questions.

After conducting longitudinal research plus numerous studies on genetics, interventions, and brain function, we now have a great deal of independent, scientific, replicated, published research on dyslexia.

This page shares the research results released by the National Institutes of Health from 1994 to the present, as well as from dyslexia researchers in several others countries.

NIH coordinated 18 top-notch university research teams throughout the United States to answer the following questions posed by Congress:

* How many children are learning disabled?
* Clearly define each specific type of learning disability.
* What causes each learning disability?
* How can we identify each learning disability?
* How long does each disability last? Map its developmental course.
* What is the best way to teach these children?
* Can we prevent any of these learning disabilities?

NIH investigated dyslexia first because it is the most prevalent learning disabili

These research results have been independently replicated and are now considered to be irrefutable.

* Dyslexia affects at least 1 out of every 5 children in the United States.
* Dyslexia represents the most common and prevalent of all known learning disabilities.
* Dyslexia is the most researched of all learning disabilities.
* Dyslexia affects as many boys as girls.
* Some forms of dyslexia are highly heritable.
* Dyslexia is the leading cause of reading failure and school dropouts in our nation.
* Reading failure is the most commonly shared characteristic of juvenile justice offenders.
* Dyslexia has been shown to be clearly related to neurophysiological differences in brain function. Dyslexic children display difficulty with the sound/symbol correspondences of our written code because of these differences in brain function.
* Early intervention is essential for this population.
* Dyslexia is identifiable, with 92% accuracy, at ages 5 1/2 to 6 1/2.
* Dyslexia is primarily due to linguistic deficits. We now know dyslexia is due to a difficulty processing language. It is not due to visual problems, and people with dyslexia do not see words or letters backwards.
* Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.
* Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia.
* Of children who display reading problems in the first grade, 74% will be poor readers in the ninth grade and into adulthood unless they receive informed and explicit instruction on phonemic awareness. Children do not mature out of their reading difficulties.
* Research evidence does not support the use of "whole language" reading approaches to teach dyslexic children.
* Dyslexia and ADD are two separate and identifiable entities.
* Dyslexia and ADD so frequently coexist within the same child that it is always best to test for both.
* Children with both dyslexia and ADD are at dramatically increased risk for substance abuse and felony convictions if they do not receive appropriate interventions.
* The current "discrepancy model" testing utilized by our nation's public schools to establish eligibility for special education services is not a valid diagnostic marker for dyslexia.

There is so much information right there, so I'll point out some of these that helped us.

1. Dyslexia is identifiable, with 92% accuracy, at ages 5 1/2 to 6 1/2.

2. Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.

3. Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia.

4. Early intervention is essential for this population.

My point here is DON'T wait! Do not believe in the development lag theory. They may learn to read, but they will never catch up to their counterparts. There will always be a gap. Please don't wait. It is identifiable, and there are things you can do to prevent dyslexia.

Now for the best part. Dyslexia is a structural and functional brain difference. People with dyslexia process language differently, so what does that mean to a mom trying to teach their child how to read? Even after you've taught your child all the letters and their sounds, they are still struggling. It doesn't make sense right? The answer is. These children have a phonemic deficit.

Quotes from prominent NIH researchers:

"The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure to learn to read."

"Phonemic awareness is more highly related to learning to read . . . than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension."

"Phonemic awareness is the most important core and causal factor separating normal and disabled readers."

NIH research has repeatedly demonstrated that lack of phonemic awareness is the root cause of reading failure. Phonemes are the smallest unit of SPOKEN language, not written language.

Children who lack phonemic awareness are unable to distinguish or manipulate SOUNDS within SPOKEN words or syllables. They would be unable to do the following tasks:

* Phoneme Segmentation: what sounds do you hear in the word hot? What's the last sound in the word map?
* Phoneme Deletion: what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cat?
* Phoneme Matching: do pen and pipe start with the same sound?
* Phoneme Counting: how many sounds do you hear in the word cake?
* Phoneme Substitution: what word would you have if you changed the /h/ in hot to /p/?
* Blending: what word would you have if you put these sounds together? /s/ /a/ /t/
* Rhyming: tell me as many words as you can that rhyme with the word eat.

If a child lacks phonemic awareness, they will have difficulty learning the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent in words, as well as applying those letter/sound correspondences to help them "sound out" unknown words.

So children who perform poorly on phonemic awareness tasks via oral language in kindergarten are very likely to experience difficulties acquiring the early word reading skills that provide the foundation for growth of reading ability throughout elementary school.

Phonemic awareness skills can and must be directly and explicitly taught to children who lack this awareness.

How do you teach this necessary skill to your child. We've started using the Barton Reading and Spelling System. I am in no way trying to sell or promote this program. I only want to share what is working for us and many, many, many other parents. Just get on any message board about dyslexia and you will see. Many people are using different techniques, but what you will quickly notice is the people using Barton or any other Orton-Gillingham influenced reading system are getting results. The reason we are using Barton is because it was created for the parent to teach their child and not to be used in a classroom.

Here is a list of other Orton-Gillingham influenced reading programs.

The pure, unchanged, original method.A.C.C., Massachusetts General Hospital

Designed for classroom settings of young children in the first, second, and third grades.The Slingerland Institute

MTA (Multi-sensory Teaching Approach)
Edmar Educational Services
214-321-8656 (Phone/Fax)

Alphabetic Phonics
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children

Wilson Reading System
Wilson Language Training Corporation

Language!Sopris West

Project Read
by Enfield and Greene
Published by The Language Circle

Recipe for Reading

Preventing Academic Failure (PAF)
Published by Educators Publishing Service (EPS)

We are in Level 1 of the Barton system and here is how it works. I say a made up word: IZM and Big Brother has to pick from a pile of color coded tiles one to represent each sound. As we go further on in the lesson, I will start changing one of the sounds, and then he will compare the sounds in two different made up words. Once you start doing this, you can see how it teaches them to read and spell.
Again, we are only in Level 1 and already both Big Brother and I am seeing a difference. He's been running around spelling like crazy. This is NOT normal at this level, because print isn't even introduced yet, but I drilled him so much when he was younger on letters and their letter sounds that he knows them pretty good. When I mentioned that he was spelling a lot, he said, "Mom, this program is helping me. It's helping me to hear the sounds". That is amazing that even a 6 year-old can recognize this.

If you have any questions or comment please leave one for me. My honest goal is to inform and help other families.

All research information and picture is taken from the Bright Solutions Website.

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