It is generally accepted (and generally true), that if you want to be good at something, you have to practice, practice, practice. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that for someone to become really expert at something, they have to put in their ten thousand hours.
When students have trouble reading, most people believe that more reading, more practice, will solve the problem. If only the student were more motivated to pick up a book…If the student would just read every single day…
But while practice is incredibly important in becoming good at something, more reading will not generally correct dyslexia or a reading related learning disability.
Good readers are able to think about, or process the sounds inside of words and therefore, learn and apply phonics easily. They can visually perceive the letters and words on the page without confusion, so remembering words from day-to-day (or line-to-line) is no problem. With reasonable exposure, they are able to build a strong, dependable sight word vocabulary.
Dyslexic students typically show challenges in both the visual and auditory aspects of reading, making it difficult for them to consistently use what they know about sounds and phonics, even if they know the phonetic rules. There is often some confusion with letter symbols or visually similar words, making it difficult to retain a mental image of words, causing students to have (in many parents words) “horrendous, ” “terrible,” “horrible” spelling.
More practice is nothing but torture for the dyslexic students experiencing this kind of confusion, causing not only frustration, but anger about reading. They know they should be able to do it, and everyone expects that with their intelligence and age they can do it.
If letters and words appear to be moving around or disappearing off the page, getting to the visual processing root of the problem that is triggering the disorientation has to be a first step in improving reading.
English is a phonetic language. If the brain can process clumps of sounds but can’t think about the number, order, or identity of the individual sounds in the words, phonics cannot make enough sense to be a reliable tool. Phonemic awareness, or the auditory processing skill that allows the person to think about the sounds in words must be developed first in order for phonics to make sense.
So more reading will not solve dyslexia or most reading problems. But addressing the weak or underdeveloped learning/processing skills that are causing the problem can. Children and adults with dyslexia and other reading disabilities can become good readers.
When she started with us last year, Alexis, a 2nd grader with very strong dyslexic symptoms, was virtually a non-reader. She became a solid grade level reader by the time she entered 3rd grade this year. She is bright and motivated, as so many of our dyslexic students are, but the real difference, was eliminating the disorientation that caused the letters to swim before her eyes and training the auditory part of her brain to “hear” the sounds so that phonics could make sense.
Do you or your child struggle with dyslexia, reading, spelling, learning or attention? These challenges can be changed. While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas. Need to know more??
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