Reading teachers, Specialists, and Tutors…this one’s for you! Being able to teach isn’t enough to help a dyslexic child.
WHAT! What are you talking about?
Let me explain…
There are specific skills that a tutor or teacher needs to have to work with a dyslexic child. Your teaching MUST be effective.
There are several skills that make an effective Orton-Gillingham instructor. Two extremely necessary skills are the ability to diagnose and prescribe.
(It sounds like we need MD after our names…Maybe;)
A dyslexia reading therapist MUST be able to identify all the errors a student makes AND implement corrective action to fix those errors in their struggling reader.
How does a reading therapist know this?
Training and experience, that’s how! Plus collaboration with colleagues for particularly challenging students.
At WNY Dyslexia Specialists, we use what many call a “boxed” or “canned” program.
We use a scripted program that is sometimes looked at with disdain by those who do not feel that we individually tailor our lessons to our students because we “follow a script”.
This is simply untrue of our literacy center.
One of the most important skills our tutors possess is the ability to be diagnostic and prescriptive.
Let me share a couple of case studies that may help shed some light on this:
One of our students could not pass the Barton Student Screening. This is actually very common. About 60% of the students who come to us cannot pass the student screening. If a child cannot pass the screening, they need to begin with either Lindamood-Bell LiPS or Foundation in Sounds.
Even though I am trained in LiPS, once Foundation in Sounds became available I shelved LiPS. I still bring my LiPS training into my lessons, but Foundation in Sounds is our go-to preliminary program.
Students with auditory discrimination and auditory memory issues often do not do well in an Orton-Gillingham program until that issue is corrected. I talk about this in detail in my article:
So, back to our student who couldn’t pass the student screening. As we worked through Foundation in Sounds with this student, we noticed that the student struggled to discriminate the following sounds /d/ and /t/, /s/ and /z/, /b/ and /p/ but only when they came at the end of words.
That step is diagnosing the problem. Now that we’ve identified the problem, which is failure to discriminate specific sounds at the end of words, we have to prescribe a solution.
The trick with those sounds is that they do not look any different when you say them. To use a LiPS term, they are “brother pairs.” They do, however, FEEL different in the mouth of the speaker. The difference is one is noisy and the other is quiet. In other words, one vibrates the vocal cords when it is pronounced and the other does not.
Diagnosing the problem is half of the equation. Now, we had to figure out how to help this student hear the correct sound at the end of words. We had to prescribe a solution.
We came up with a plan to work on ending sounds in the instructional games that we play at our literacy center. This way the student can get better and more skilled at identifying ending sounds, all while having fun with it.
The first few times the student told me that it was challenging to hear the ending sounds, but after a few times, this student was doing much better.
Another strategy that we used was making sure the student said the ending sound strongly. I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but due to sound discrimination issues, common with dyslexia, some students will mumble the ending sound. I’ve seen this in a few students.
This is a simple example of how stopping to diagnose and address the student’s exact need makes the tutoring program stronger. With an appropriate tutoring program, the student gains the skills needed to move forward.
If time is not taken to address issues, even small issues as they come up, the student will never make all the gains that they are capable of making.
Another example happened when working with a different student.
In the Barton Reading & Spelling System, students in Level 2 complete a procedure called “Creating Longer Words.”Because CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) nonsense words are often the first syllable in longer words, we spend some time at the end of each lesson reading a nonsense word, then the student tries to come up with a longer word that starts with that nonsense word.
For example, a nonsense word might be FAS. Some longer words would include: faster, fasten, fastener, and so forth.
My student and I were working through this activity when we came to the nonsense word LIB. It seemed so easy to me what the possible choices are, but I always give my students space to come up with a word before I jump in to offer a clue.
On this night my student sat thinking carefully about what a longer word could be. Then she said, “Livy!” I asked her to repeat it. She did and offered this explanation, “”You know like a girl’s name Livy!”
I thought about it for a minute and it dawned on me. She meant Libby. I asked her if she meant Libby. She said yes.
Then I tried to get her to say the name of that statue that sits in the harbor in NY with the torch in one hand and the book in the other. She knew exactly what I meant. She excitedly offered the answer, “The Statue of Liverty!”
This dear student was not discriminating between B and V because of a speech issue that had not been addressed.
I immediately pointed out to her what I thought was going on. She grabbed on to this information and agreed. Yes, she was confusing the two, and that was giving her issues with spelling and using the correct letter.
Let me be clear: this student knew that the V tile says /v/ and the B tile says /b/, but it got twisted around in processing. And this student does not have a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)!
I am not a Speech-Language Pathologist, but we deal with a lot of speech issues related to reading. We have been trained, to a point, to deal with them.
Teachers working with children who have language-based learning difficulties need to be able to stop when a problem presents itself, analyze the problem, and come up with the proper prescription to solve the problem. This requires training and a lot, a lot of experience.
I hope if you take away one thing here, it is to slow down your teaching and address the issues as they appear, with the best practices you know, and if you don’t know, ask.
Can you think of a time that you were called on to diagnose a problem and offer a prescription to solve the problem? Share it with us in the comments.