Unlike talking, no one is born knowing how to read. We all have to be taught.
The way a dyslexic learns is simply different from a non-dyslexic. There is nothing wrong with their brains, only the way they are being taught. This is why it is such a shame when a dyslexic child internalizes their reading, writing, and spelling struggles as being unintelligent.
** Please note that ALL dyslexia experts agree that if someone suspects dyslexia is the reason for a child’s reading, writing, and spelling struggles, waiting to see if it improves is the WORST thing they can do. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition and it will never get better without proper help, but it will most certainly get worse if you do nothing!
The definition of potential is: Hidden qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness. To me, this definition explains a dyslexic perfectly! They have so much potential just waiting to be nurtured, and if it is nurtured, the sky is the limit for their future success!
This potential is due to the fact that dyslexics have a larger right brain hemisphere that is dominant. The right hemisphere of the brain is known as the creative side. It is responsible for creativity, imagination, musical awareness, and artistic abilities. Dyslexics have a sea of strengths and possess a natural ability in one or more of these areas and sometimes athletically.
It would be such a misfortune to let this talent go undiscovered. Many unidentified dyslexic children feel embarrassed or ashamed of their reading and spelling struggles. This affects their self- esteem in a negative way and does not allow them to realize their potential or hidden abilities.
While dyslexia does impact learning, it has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
There is Hope!
This is an image showing the left hemisphere brain patterns of a non-dyslexic (Image on the left), then the left hemisphere brain patterns of a dyslexic brain before any type of intervention (Image in the middle), and the same brain after Orton-Gillingham tutoring methods (Image on the right):
Not only has the dyslexic child learned to read and spell more proficiently, but as you can see, the brain activity patterns have changed! They actually look more similar to the patterns of a non-dyslexic reader.
The use of functional MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanning reveal that not only do certain interventions work, but that the brain can actually change its neural pathways because of them!
This phenomenon happens because the brain has plasticity—the ability to adapt and reorganize neural pathways as a result of new experiences or learning— and it continues throughout life. The brain, whether dyslexic or not, continues to adapt and form new pathways or alter existing pathways well into adulthood. Given what researchers know about brain plasticity, children, adolescents and even adults can benefit from a proper intervention method.
The key is to find these special kids and get them the appropriate help as soon as possible!
Dyslexics learn through the use of a reading system that is simultaneously multi-sensory (uses the learning pathways of sight, sound, and touch/movement), methodical, and cumulative, with direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and intense practice.
This approach was originally created in the early 1930’s by Doctors Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist at Columbia University, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist. It is commonly referred to as the Orton-Gillingham method or system and it differs from ordinary reading programs and instruction due to what it teaches and how it teaches it.
Before a dyslexic receives any type of intervention, they are usually quite confused about written language. It is crucial to go back to the very beginning and create a solid foundation for these individuals. They have to be taught the logic behind language. This is done by introducing one spelling/grammar rule at a time and practicing it until the student can automatically and fluently apply that rule both when reading and spelling. A dyslexic must continue to review previously learned rules, when learning a new lesson, to keep them fresh and solid.
An Orton-Gillingham system provides logical sense to dyslexic students, from the first lesson through the last one and is the ONLY way they are able to learn to read, write, and spell proficiently.
There are several Orton-Gillingham based systems that have been created through the years. The most well-known ones are:
- Standard Orton-Gillingham (Unchanged from the original method)
- Barton Reading & Spelling System
- Wilson Reading System
- Take Flight
- Project Read
Although these different programs have some variances, they all use a multi-sensory approach and apply all of the Orton-Gillingham core principals.
Orton-Gillingham (OG) based tutoring can fix the reading, writing, and spelling struggles so often associated with dyslexia, but these methods take time; anywhere from one to three years.
Since dyslexia is on a spectrum from mild to profound, every child will progress at different rates. The length of a program will also be dependent on how many days per week the student is receiving the specialized tutoring.
No matter which OG based program is used, it is imperative that it be completed from start to finish. Some parents decide to stop a program once they start seeing results. And most schools that offer Orton-Gillingham based interventions pull kids out of the program once they start making some progress. The dyslexic child will NOT have all the tools they need to be proficient with reading throughout life unless they complete an entire program.
There has been tons of research done on dyslexic brains over the years by the government and many respected universities. All of their data proves that a dyslexic brain can be “reprogrammed” to read more proficiently, but this process takes time.
Like mentioned above, most programs typically take 12-36 months to complete if the individual is able to attend the minimum of two, forty-five minute sessions per week.
Beware of any method or product that costs lots of money and/or promises quick 4 to 8 week “cures.” Remember, there is no cure for dyslexia. A legitimate OG based program will teach a person how to read more proficiently, which will help manage their symptoms of dyslexia and boost their confidence, but it is no cure.
Make sure to look at the research behind any program or product that you are considering purchasing and make sure that it has been PROVEN effective for dyslexics. This proof needs to be independently tested; don’t look at any tests that the company has paid for itself.
All of the well-known OG programs listed above have many years of independently tested research that proves they are effective for helping dyslexics read proficiently. This research is easy to obtain. If you have trouble locating the research on a particular program or product, then I would be wary.
All OG programs are systematic, so they can only be effective if the tutor follows the program in the correct order, from start to finish. Be sure the tutor you are considering hiring understands dyslexia and has helped other dyslexic children successfully.
Barton Reading & Spelling
I personally use the Barton Reading & Spelling system when I tutor students. I chose this system for many reasons:
- I could use it at home.
- It teaches spelling just as much as it does reading.
- It was designed for one-on-one tutoring.
- It is easy to use and follow.
But the #1 reason why I chose this system is because it WORKS!!