I often think there is needless complication in the field relative to the varieties of issues that children present. From the perspective of having seen tons of kids over the years, I typically see two essential types of reading problems. Each one requires a different treatment approach. I call them Type I or Type II Readers.
Type I Readers
Type I Readers are the ones typically referred to as “dyslexic,” as they have difficulty with word decoding, that is the translation of letters and parts of words into their spoken equivalent. They also have reading fluency issues, that is they read very inefficiently.
Years of clinical experience and a tremendous body of research highlights that phonological decoding is a cornerstone skill for adequacy in school. Acquiring the skill is a major goal in the early elementary grades.
The vast majority of children referred for special education assessments have Type I issues.
Type I kids do not respond to typical classroom instructional methods for developing reading, such as literature-based approaches. They need to have the skill of phonological decoding taught directly and systematically with multisensory, language-based approaches. Almost always, these children have associated deficits with spelling and written expression.
Type II Readers
Quite different than Type I readers are ones in this category, referred to as Type II Readers. These kids decode and read fluently. There is none of the word-reading inefficiencies or oral reading fluency issues common to the first type. They just have trouble understanding what they have read. Similar to Type I, this proiblem can be mild, moderate or more severe.
With Type II, frequently, other language problems are underlying, such as weaknesses with vocabulary. When these children are asked questions about what they read, they often stare blankly with very little understanding. They often miss the details and subtlety of the text and have trouble with higher-order reasoning questions, such as with inferencing and drawing conclusions.
Similar to the Type I child, the Type II children also need to be taught systematically and directly strategies for processing information and comprehending. Training these children to more actively visualize and to create more visual anchors in the way that they may take notes from their reading are good points of instructional emphasis. There are many other skills that Type II children can be taught.
If you simplify things a bit, you will find that there are two essential types of reading problems. These Types can be a identified with a good assessment. Once you have identified what type of reading problem child has, then this will help guide what to do next in terms of future remediation and instruction.
(Adapted from “The Shut-Down Learner,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D (2009 Sentient Publications)