Treating DyslexiaThe Speech Pathologist’s Role in Treating Students with Dyslexia
Believe it or not, speech therapists play a very important role in treating dyslexia. Our extensive knowledge in language and phonetics gives us a very solid background in understanding the foundation of the disorder and how to successfully treat it. At Chicago Speech and Reading Center, we are trained in the Orton Gillingham Approach to Reading Instruction. Read on to learn more about dyslexia and this treatment approach.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. Children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia have difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and usually have poor spelling and decoding abilities. Dyslexia is not related to a child’s intelligence. In fact, many dyslexic children have average to above average intelligence. Overall, these children process information differently and learn differently than others. Consequently, this makes reading and spelling especially difficult.
Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia has nothing to do with vision (i.e., these kids do not see words backwards). Dyslexia is a result from the structure and function of the brain and is a processing issue. Difficulties come about because there is a deficit in the phonological (i.e., foundational) component of language. Not surprisingly, dyslexic students likely have difficulty with reading comprehension and vocabulary growth along with decoding and encoding. As a result, there is often a large gap between a child’s potential for learning (i.e., they are intelligent) and actual school achievement.
Approximately 15-20% of the population has a reading disability and dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties. Dyslexia runs in families and affects males and females equally. Young children who are poor readers will likely remain poor readers later in elementary school and middle school if it is not treated properly. Therefore, it is crucial to intervene early!
There is no “quick fix” to treating dyslexia, and the remediation process can be very long. People with dyslexia do not “outgrow” the disorder and typically struggle with reading throughout their entire lives. However, this is not to say that they cannot become successful readings and cannot compensate for their disability with the proper supports in place.
Most approaches to treating dyslexia are multi-sensory. In other words, they use a combination of visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic techniques in order to help these kids form new pathways in the brain and successfully learn to read. Additionally, most techniques focus on isolating particular phonemes and spelling rules for students. These kids need to be taught the foundational aspects of language, and therefore “whole language “ approaches do not work well (i.e., approaches that teach kids to recognize words as whole pieces of language). It is important for dyslexic children to understand how words are broken up into sounds and the rules that govern reading and spelling. The following are some popular approaches to treating dyslexia:
- Wilson Reading System
The first manual for the Orton-Gillingham approach was published in 1936. This method has been around for a very long time, and over the years, research has shown that it works! The program has a neurological basis, and the overall goal is to use multi-sensory pathways in order to teach the code of written language in a logical sense. It integrates visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic pathways in order to do so in a very systematic way.
Furthermore, Orton-Gillingham is diagnostic and prescriptive. In other words, my job is to discover what the child needs to know and teach it in a structured and sequential way. Elements of language are introduced using a pre-determined order and each session follows the same format in order to keep it consistent for the kids. As I mentioned before, dyslexic children need to be taught the foundational aspects of language, so learning is based on teaching the parts (e.g.,, phonemes) that can be made into a whole (e.g., word). The lessons start simple and gradually become more complex over time. Each session is based on what the student learned during the previous session and they build on one another. It is very important to always review previously learned material and never move on to something new until the child has mastered a concept. Overall, these characteristics ensure that children find success with this approach and therefore, they will gain the confidence they need with reading and spelling.
As mentioned previously, at CSRC, we are trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Reading Instruction and have experience treating students with dyslexia. If you are concerned about your child’s reading abilities, contact us today!