Early Intervention is the KEY to unlocking a student’s potential
The research is clear: identifying dyslexia and providing appropriate intervention early on (before second grade is the best) can significantly reduce the struggles for a dyslexic child, both academically AND emotionally. The first step is to recognize the early warning signs. Click here to visit my Warning Signs page and get a comprehensive list.
First and foremost, if you or a family member has/had dyslexia or struggled to read/spell as a child, pay attention to these warning signs. Dyslexia has been linked by genetics. My father was extremely dyslexic, but I had no problems reading, nor did my husband. But, when my son started showing early warning signs, I started paying close attention because of the familial link. Teachers: if you have a student who is struggling with literacy, have a conversation with the parents to find out if there is a possible familial connection. This will be one piece of the puzzle.
A very common EARLY symptom of dyslexia is speech and language issues. If your child shows any struggles with speech and language, pay attention and recognize that this is a red flag for future reading problems. I’m talking even at 2 years old. As an early childhood educator, I knew my son wasn’t hitting his language milestones. He didn’t coo on time, babble on time, and by 2 years old he couldn’t put two words together. Thankfully, through a family friend who happens to be a speech and language pathologist (SLP), I got hooked up with First Steps and my son got the therapy he needed- EARLY. I attribute that early intervention to his success in acquiring the speech skills necessary BEFORE he started school. So parents, if your children is a late talker or seems to have speech problems, please go get them evaluated by an SLP (it will most likely be partially covered by insurance) and get them help early. Teachers: when you have a struggling reader, talk to the parents to see if they received speech therapy when young OR if they were a late talker and/or had any speech issues. This one is harder if the child didn’t receive services and the parents don’t have a background in this area. Again, it’s just another piece of the puzzle.
So aside from getting speech/language therapy before school, what should we be doing once they get to school?
Research shows that the critical time period for dyslexia intervention (and for most all other issues) is in kindergarten and first grade. That is not to say that children cannot become successful readers later on, but it will take more intensity and more frequency to achieve the same results as if we started earlier. Recent research out of University of California, Davis and Yale concluded that we can narrow and even CLOSE the achievement gap when we provide early intervention in kindergarten and first grade.
“If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, or even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition,” said Emilio Ferrer, a UC Davis psychology professor. He is lead author of the article published in The Journal of Pediatrics. You can read the full article here.
So what is the specific type of intervention that works with dyslexic children?
It is important to remember that dyslexia is typically a phonological processing deficit. Some students also struggle with a rapid naming deficit (creates slow processing and word retrieval). New research is finding there are about 25% of dyslexic readers who have good phonological processing skills, but they struggle with the orthographic piece of reading and spelling. Orthography is the conventional spelling system of a language. These students struggle more with turning the code into sound and remembering how a word looks when reading or spelling the word rather than the phonological skills such as blending and segmenting sounds.
Research shows that dyslexic children need EXPLICIT instruction in cracking the code of our English language. The tried-and-true, gold standard methodology of instruction for dyslexic students is the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method. This is an approach, NOT a program, although there are many programs out there that utilize this methodology.
Click on this website to see an EXCELLENT job explaining everything about OG.
Marianne Sunderland, mom of 7 dyslexic home schooled children and blogger extraordinaire, posted a FANTASTIC discussion of the types of reading methods that research shows effective. Click here or on the picture to visit her site and read more.
For specific teaching ideas on all areas of phonological awareness, phonics, and spelling rules, visit my various pages under the Teacher tab.