Dyslexic pupils not helped by reading method
(Image and article from The Independent – UK) Up to 400,000 dyslexic children may be hampered in learning to read by the Government’s insistence on the use of synthetic phonics to teach them, says a report to be published. Read the full article.

Pam Taylor, founder of LexiAbility, responds:

Some struggles in reading are based in neurobiology and some struggles are based on environmental issues. Sometimes reading struggles are combination of both. Yet, our school systems, as well as those in Britain, keep trying the same approach for everybody — and keep failing.

We have known, for decades, that the best remediation for dyslexia is a multisensory method. This method follows a very specific sequence and scope, taught in a very explicit and diagnostic way. This method called Orton-Gillingham is unique from other reading programs in not only what is taught but also in how it is taught.Orton-Gillingham curriculum uses a logical, building sequence, first teaching phonemes, then phonics, and then orthographic patterns based on probabilities and rules. In order to meet individual needs and to address issues of certain types of memory, Orton-Gillingham uses a diagnostic and customized approach that involves visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic activity using a one-to-one teacher-student ratio.

Although reading assistance in the classroom is valuable for all sorts of reasons, it rarely has any positive effect for those students with moderate to severe to profound dyslexia. So, it would make sense that any approach offered in the classroom is going to be met with mixed results.  Yet, somehow, educational publishers are still able to keep selling the same programs that still don’t work to the same schools — over and over and over again.

Schools want phonics progams to work because it is an approach to reading that can be offered in the classroom and is relatively inexpensive in comparison to Orton-Gillingham remediation. The research that phonics publishers offer is often seized upon as being “effective” is not research-based on those with dyslexia — it is based on research of reading issues more typical of access to education, poverty, and intellectual disability. Although phonics instruction may be helpful for some issues with reading, and must be included in programs for those with dyslexia, it is not the panacea that is claimed to be for decades.

Often, the failure in reading instruction has nothing to do with the teacher’s effort, the training, or even the program. Most reading programs for the classrooms will work for some of the students. But none of these programs, as we have noted for decades, work for even most of the students. This  failure is grounded in the greatest fallacy of education: that all children can and should learn the same way.

At LexiAbility, we use an Orton-Gillingham based program, but in order to succeed with each student we have to flex according to their specific needs, abilities, learning preferences, and strengths.