"Better a Diamond With a Flaw..."

November 16, 2018

For this week’s inspiration we find ourselves looking to some pretty heavy hitters.

Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.”  On that same theme, Confucius reminded that, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”  Shakespeare, cautioned, “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”

How do these variations on a theme apply to struggling children?

The vast majority of kids sent for special education as well as outside evaluations are struggling with the fundamental core skills of reading, writing and spelling.  They may have other “stuff” (you know, the usual – distractability, attention and behavior issues), but those core skill deficits are the primary reason they are referred.

When assessments are completed, most of the kids with these issues need sensible instruction targeting their skill deficiencies.  (Note, I did not name a specific program or method.)

Parents will go to schools insisting things like, “I must have my child seen in individual daily instruction by a certified Orton-Gillingham teacher.”  Or, “My child must have a certified Wilson Instructor.  It is not acceptable that the teacher went to an introductory workshop on Wilson.  She can’t possibly teach my child.”

Often, the school will push back saying that the demands can’t be met. They don’t have a certified Wilson or Orton-Gillingham instructor.  (These programs are expensive per teacher and they take a great deal of time and commitment on the part of the teacher to get trained.)

Things can get very contentious and adversarial.

Sometimes, attorneys and advocates get in the mix.

Many years ago (I won’t tell you how many), I had a kid in my class named Frankie who was severely disabled in reading, spelling and writing.

Sitting in a third grade class, he couldn’t read at even the preprimer level.  In spite of my newly minted master’s degree in learning disabilities, I had no idea what to do with him.

By chance, I attended a workshop in Brooklyn given by Dr. Gerald Glass, a colorful professor from Adelphi University, who had a method that he developed called the “Glass Analysis for Decoding.”  It was a sensible and structured methodology for teaching basic decoding and reading fluency skills to severely reading disabled (dyslexic) kids.   Glass taught us the method and after the day’s workshop, he said, “Now go try it out.”

The next day I did just that.  I started to use the method and in a short time, even though I was certified in nothing, Frankie started to get better.  He started proudly responding to words, none of which he was able to read previously.

Looking back, I wonder how did this happen?  How could he have made progress in decoding when I wasn’t certified in Orton-Gillingham, Wilson or any other research-supported methods?

Sure, programs like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson may represent remedial nirvana, but what if there is no one in the kid’s school, district or geographical region who is certified?  What then?

I say, ok.  It’s not that big a deal.  Think Voltaire!

Find a program that is good enough, one that follows the basic tenets of these methods. For example, maybe you are a teacher out there in Wyoming, Montana or Australia (I’ve been contacted from these areas by parents) about to start working with a reading disabled kid.  Well, for $20 you may want to consider purchasing a program like, “Angling for Words,” or “Explode the Code,” both Orton-based programs and start using them with the child.

Are they perfect?  No.  Could there be better?  Of course.  Could your kid make progress with  programs like these?  Absolutely.

Takeaway Point

Don’t believe everything you are hearing.  It’s great to get teachers certified in research supported program like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, but it takes a long time and money to train teachers in these methods.  They may not be readily available.

In the meantime, I’m ok going with good enough programs or approaches.  I’m sticking with Voltaire, Confucius, Shakespeare (and Gerald Glass).

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All comments (10)
  • Luqman Michel
    November 16, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    I am not certified in any research supported programmes and yet have taught more than 60 so-called dyslexic kids over the past 14 years. I have […] Read MoreI am not certified in any research supported programmes and yet have taught more than 60 so-called dyslexic kids over the past 14 years. I have taught kids, who could hardly read a single sentence, to read within four months of 3 one hour lesson per week. We need to ask as to how are kids who cannot read, able to read after a short period of intervention. Read Less

    Reply
  • Jeanne Voelker
    November 17, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Hi Richard, Explode the Code is a very helpful workbook series for student mastery of basic phonics and some of the basic English spelling patterns. Additionally, […] Read MoreHi Richard, Explode the Code is a very helpful workbook series for student mastery of basic phonics and some of the basic English spelling patterns. Additionally, in my thirty-odd years of tutoring, I've made a notebook of word lists with each student. These lists illustrate additional English spelling patterns, and the ideas come from Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading. Spalding's patterns have their basis in Orton-Gillingham concepts, with the brilliant addition of teaching correct printing and writing concurrently with reading. A parent, teacher, or tutor doesn't necessarily need to take months or years of expensive classes to teach reading. If they themselves have mastered our language, if they thoroughly read, understand, and apply the ideas in Spalding's book, and if they have the patience to teach step-by-step, with encouragement, they can successfully teach reading. That said, how does one encourage and motivate? Praise the effort and make corrections gently. I sometimes have to remind my youngest and most conscientious students that it's okay to make a mistake. I tell them we all make mistakes when we are learning, and they immediately relax. Read Less

    Reply
  • Carolyn Cuda
    November 17, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    AMEN!

    Reply
  • Sysan
    November 20, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    This is so true!!!!!!!!I wish others could understand this!

    Reply
  • Luqman Michel
    November 23, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    Dr Selznick, You said, "He started proudly responding to words, none of which he was able to read previously." I wonder if he could have been […] Read MoreDr Selznick, You said, "He started proudly responding to words, none of which he was able to read previously." I wonder if he could have been a shut-down Learner as per your book? My latest battle is with a programme from the UK which, in my opinion, will create more shut down learners in time to come. I have written to the producers explaining why that programme will cause many kids to be confused to no avail. Unfortunately, many schools in the world are teaching kids sounds of alphabets the wrong way. Please allow this comment on your post here and let us see if we get comments from your readers. Many kids will shut down if sounds of alphabets are taught in the following manner. More than 100 countries are airing this programme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8gFfr2b5hU Read Less

    Reply

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