Living with Dyslexia – Part II
How do I Teach my son to Read????
Near the end of Grade 4 my son Donny was seen by a psychologist at the school. He was officially diagnosed with a reading disorder, or Dyslexia.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) defines Dyslexia as a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia include difficulties with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.
Of course I was relieved to hear from the psychologist that my son was above average intelligence and he only had difficulty with symbol/sound relationships. He also has the extra challenge of having Dysgraphia, which seems to be more challenging now than the Dyslexia.
Knowing that this was our obstacle made the task seem much less daunting, however I still had a 9 year-old that was not able to read. I was panicking inside.
The psychologist’s recommendations listed many useful strategies to deal with Dyslexia, including the use of a computer, an IEP to address his learning needs and the Orton-Gillingham Method as a means to remediate reading. I had never heard of the Orton-Gillingham Method and as a teacher, my interest was especially peaked. I did quite a bit of research on Dyslexia and different ways to address the challenge.
Through a little research I was able to receive training in the Orton-Gillingham method. There is a learning centre located in our city that offers free training to students with Dyslexia. However, the waiting list for this centre is quite lengthy due to high need. I volunteered to offer my time tutoring in exchange for training (this is only one of many ways to become trained in the methodology).
My son attended the centre for two years and graduated from the program. I was very proud of the success that he achieved through the program and believe wholeheartedly in the method.
So – What it is all about?
The Orton-Gillingham Method was named after Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948) and Anna Gillingham (1878-1963), early pioneers in reading and language mastery. They conceived of a program that was language-based, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible – exactly what students with reading disorders need to be successful in learning.
The most important aspects of the program are that the approach is the multi-sensory. The learning must be:
Below is the detailed description of the Orton-Gillingham approach, as provided at the Academy’s website.
Teaching begins with recognizing the differing needs of learners. While those with dyslexia share similarities, there are differences in their language needs. In addition individuals with dyslexia may possess additional problems that complicate learning. Most common among these are attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).
It uses all the learning pathways: seeing, hearing, feeling, and awareness of motion, brought together by the thinking brain. The instructor engages in multisensory teaching in order to convey curricular content in the most understandable way to the student. The teacher also models how the student, by using these multiple pathways, can engage in multisensory learning that results in greater ease and success in learning.
Diagnostic and Prescriptive
An Orton-Gillingham lesson is both diagnostic and prescriptive. It is diagnostic in the sense that the instructor continuously monitors the verbal, non-verbal, and written responses of the student in order to identify and analyze both the student’s problems and progress. This information is the basis of planning the next lesson. That lesson is prescriptive in the sense that will contain instructional elements that focus upon the resolution of the student’s difficulties and that build upon the student’s progress noted in the previous lesson.
The teacher presentations employ lesson formats which ensure that the student approaches the learning experience understanding what is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how it is to be learned.
It uses systematic phonics, stressing the alphabetic principle in the initial stages of reading development. It takes advantage of the sound/symbol relationships inherent in the alphabetic system of writing. Spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds, and the letters of written words graphically represent those speech sounds.
It draws upon applied linguistics not only in the initial decoding and encoding stages of reading and writing but in more advanced stages dealing with syllabic, morphemic, syntactic, semantic, and grammatical structures of language and our writing system. At all times the Orton-Gillingham Approach involves the student in integrative practices that involve reading, spelling, and writing together.
It increases linguistic competence by stressing language patterns that determine word order and sentence structure and the meaning of words and phrases. It moves beyond this to recognizing the various forms that characterize the common literary forms employed by writers.
The teacher presents information in an ordered way that indicates the relationship between the material taught and past material taught. Curricular content unfolds in linguistically logical ways which facilitates student learning and progress.
Sequential, Incremental, and Cumulative
Step by step learners move from the simple, well-learned material to that which is more and more complex. They move from one step to the next as they master each level of language skills.
Continuous Feedback and Positive Reinforcement
The approach provides for a close teacher-student relationship that builds self-confidence based on success.
Students understand the reasons for what they are learning and for the learning strategies they are employing. Confidence is gained as they gain in their ability to apply newly gained knowledge about and knowledge how to develop their skills with reading, spelling, and writing.
Students’ feelings about themselves and about learning are vital. Teaching is directed
toward providing the experience of success and with success comes increased self-confidence and motivation.
Reading Systems Based on the Approach
Commercial Reading Systems that use the Orton-Gillingham approach are listed below. If your school or tutor uses one of these, you’re probably in good hands:
- Multi-Sensory Teaching Approach
- Project Read
- Recipe for Reading
- Orton-Gillingham (in addition to being an approach there is also an actual OG reading system based on the approach. Essentially it’s the latest version of the program Anna Gillingham invented! )
Along with these commercial systems, there are also many individuals that tutor students privately using this training method. I have found it to be very effective in small group instruction at school and especially in smaller groups privately. I have used this methodology to teach dozens of children how to read and have personally seen the effectiveness!