The Science of Reading

from “The Science of Reading (A Response to the New York Times”, by David Hurford, the IDA Examiner Vol 9, Issue 1 https://dyslexiaida.org/the-science-of-reading-a-response-to-the-new-york-times

It is encouraging that the New York Times showed an interest in the very important issue of reading failure. It is critically important that everyone understands that a third of U.S. students do not read at the Basic Level, which represents a rudimentary ability to read, and that nearly two-thirds of our students do not read at the Proficient Level. And, although we would all agree that we need to do better, not everyone knows that we have the ability to do better right now.   

Unfortunately, most of those who train pre-service teachers to teach reading are not using the scientific data that should be directing their pedagogy. 

It needs to be strongly pointed out that the “Science of Reading” is not a methodology or system designed to teach reading. The Science of Reading, just like any other specific application of science, is a process that helps scientists discover the essence of reality. That is, the Science of Reading is everything that is known about reading, including how it should be taught.   

More Than Phonics

In short, the Science of Reading is much more than just phonics. Phonics is only one component among many that must be taught to individuals learning to read. Phonics simply describes the relationship between the sounds of a language and how they are visually represented by symbols or letters. One of the important components of reading an alphabetically based writing system, such as English, is learning this code and how to use it.

However, the Science of Reading includes much more than learning this code, and it does not and has never suggested that phonics should be the sole method used to teach reading—phonics instruction in isolation is insufficient. The Science of Reading also includes the genetic and neurological bases of reading, the components of reading; phonological processing, sound-letter correspondences, decoding, synthesizing, word recognition, spelling, comprehension, writing systems and their influence on reading issues, how to teach reading, how to teach reading to struggling readers, and everything else related to reading.

The strategies that the Science of Reading have identified help all children, those with dyslexia, those who struggle to learn to read, and those who do not struggle to learn to read. So, why are we not using these processes? This is not only frustrating for parents, but also for the scientists who have studied and determined the best strategies to teach reading, legislators who are now writing laws to help children become competent readers, teachers who want to teach their students to read and, most importantly, children who are struggling to learn to read.

Becoming a Competent Reader

The first step is to guide the child through the process of the mechanics of reading; sound-letter correspondences, decoding, synthesizing, word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, etc. If teachers are taught how to teach their students with the mechanics of reading and structured literacy, reading failure rates plummet. Once a student fully understands how to use the code, he or she will be on the path to becoming a competent reader. It is a challenging journey, but it is a journey that will lead to learning to read. Collectively, our goal is to help children become competent readers; using the scientific basis for teaching reading is how we will make this happen.

Dyslexia Basics

from The International Dyslexia Association (IDA)

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.

What causes dyslexia?

The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a dyslexic person develops and functions. Moreover, most people with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully.

How Widespread is Dyslexia?

About 13–14% of the school population nationwide has a handicapping condition that qualifies them for special education. Current studies indicate that one-half of all the students who qualify for special education are classified as having a learning disability (LD) (6–7%). About 85% of those LD students have a primary learning disability in reading and language processing. Nevertheless, many more people—perhaps as many as 15–20% of the population as a whole—have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words. Not all of these will qualify for special education, but they are likely to struggle with many aspects of academic learning and are likely to benefit from systematic, explicit, instruction in reading, writing, and language.

Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People who are very bright can be dyslexic. They are often capable or even gifted in areas that do not require strong language skills, such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports.

In addition, dyslexia runs in families; dyslexic parents are very likely to have children who are dyslexic. Some people are identified as dyslexic early in their lives, but for others, their dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.

What are the Effects of Dyslexia?

 The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The core difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some dyslexics manage to learn early reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.

People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to good language models in their homes and good language instruction in school. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak. Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relating to other people. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom.

Evidence does not support what many take to be indicators or predictors of dyslexia, including clumsiness, fine motor problems, attention deficits, creativity, or handedness . . . read more 

– International Literacy Association 2016.

Dyslexia Instruction

MultiSensory Structured Language

What is meant by multisensory teaching?

Multisensory teaching is one important aspect of instruction for dyslexic students that is used by clinically trained teachers. Effective instruction for students with dyslexia is also explicit, direct, cumulative, intensive, and focusedon the structure of language. Multisensory learning involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language. Links are consistently made between the visual (language we see), auditory (language we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (language symbols we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.

Teachers who use this approach help students perceive the speech sounds in words (phonemes) by looking in the mirror when they speak or exaggerating the movements of their mouths. Students learn to link speech sounds (phonemes) to letters or letter patterns by saying sounds for letters they see, or writing letters for sounds they hear.As students learn a new letter or pattern (such as s or th), they may repeat five to seven words that are dictated by the teacher and contain the sound of the new letter or pattern; the students discover the sound that is the same in all the words. Next, they may look at the words written on a piece of paper or the chalkboard and discover the new letter or pattern.

Finally, they carefully trace, copy, and write the letter(s) while saying the corresponding sound. The sound may be dictated by the teacher, and the letter name(s) given by the student. Students then read and spell words, phrases, and sentences using these patterns to build their reading fluency. Teachers and their students rely on all three pathways for learning rather than focusing on a “whole word memory method,” a “tracing method,” or a “phonetic method” alone.

The principle of combining movement with speech and reading is applied at other levels of language learning as well. Students may learn hand gestures to help them memorize the definition of a noun. Students may manipulate word cards to create sentences or classify the words in sentences by physically moving them into categories. They might move sentences around to make paragraphs. The elements of a story may be taught with reference to a three-dimensional, tactile aid. In all, the hand, body, and/or movement are used to support comprehension or production of language.

Margaret Byrd Rawson, a former President of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), said it well:

“Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language—the sounds and the letters which represent them—and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for conscious organization and retention of their learning.”

What is the rationale behind multisensory, structured language teaching? . . . read more

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While most of our clinical practice is Direct Instruction and Remediation, we are experts in the interpretation of psycho-educational evaluations.  We can do some educational testing, screening and benchmarking for language-based problems as well as design intervention programs based on testing results.  Some of the services we offer include:

  • Review the Assessment/Evaluation you already have.  Many of our clients already have a full PsychoEducational Evaluation, and have been referred to us for Intervention.  Others may have one from another City or State.  We can review and analyze your Evaluation, help you understand what it means, and make recommendations for Intervention based on your testing.
  • Help you determine if you need an eval.  We can make recommendations for additional testing if we think you need it.  Or we can do some testing ourselves depending on our availability and what you need or refer you to a competent provider.  Read more . . . What is an Evaluation, and Do I Need One?
  • Review other testing (like Normative tests given at school, or Benchmarking results) and recommend best-practices for intervention.
  • Review your IEP or 504 Plan and recommend best-practices for accomodations and school services.
  • For our existing clients:  answer questions about school placement (or refer you to an appropriate service), summer programs, and other support services.
  • Diagnose Dyslexia

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We specialize in intervention for Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia (math deficits), Reading Comprehension (with or without Dyslexia), spelling, written language, and ADHD/EF Comorbidity.  If your child is struggling or has fallen behind in school, we can help!

All of us really love what we do and it shows. We are here to help make learning rewarding, and lift the stress and shame that occurs when a student experiences failure. As a team, we are passionate about evidenced-based instruction. We’re committed to maintaining a command of best practices and to promoting learning and mastery. HGA has cultivated hundreds of successful and confident learners in our years of practice.

Services at HGA include one-to-one expert reading intervention for dyslexia and related language based difficulties (writing), vocabulary or math struggles. Our intervention includes homework and academic support for improved executive function. . .

As clinicians and part of your team of professionals (teacher, administrators, physician, psychologist, Speech Pathologist, etc.), our intervention gives your student the tools he/she needs to overcome and manage the challenges of an academic career.

“Statistically, more American children suffer long-term life-harm from the process of learning to read than from parental abuse, accidents, and all other childhood diseases and disorders combined. In Purely economic terms, reading related difficulties cost our nation more than the war on terrorism, crime, and drugs combined.”

Children of the Code, www.childrenofthecode.org; National Institute for Family Literacy, www.nifl.org

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Regulating behavior, Planning, Inhibition, time-management, self-awareness