Dyslexia – “We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident”

I am not pretending here to be the Thomas Jefferson of learning disabilities, but to borrow a phrase from that famous document that he authored (you know the one), where it was said “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” here are a few truths of reading disability (dyslexia):

Not All Dyslexic Kids Are Created Equal –  These kids come in all shapes and sizes from all kinds of different family styles.  The issues of concern are on a gradient from mild to more moderate and severe.

Instructional Range Matters –  One of the biggest issues of concern is the fact that these children are swimming in tough waters and given work above their head.  In short, they are often drowning.  Work given (especially homework and independent reading) needs to be within a comfortable instructional range. Do you know your child’s comfortable instructional level?

No One Method of Remediation  –  Research has never supported one particular brand of instruction over another.  There are many good methods that follow the best principles.  These methods typically fall under the umbrella of the Orton-Gillingham based approaches.  There are many of  these Orton-style methods on the market.  As Dr. Jeanne Chall noted, these kids need good “decoding-emphasis work.”

Dyslexia is Largely a “Big Word” Disability –  I would imagine most of you can quickly read this word I made up – “flotenashingly.”  How come you can read that? If you don’t have dyslexia, it’s a piece of cake.  You know how to break words down into their parts.  You’ve internalized “the code.”  Dyslexics haven’t.  Simple as that.

Fluency is Tough to Crack:  I’ve seen kids Orton-ed  to death and their decoding has improved.  Reading fluency (the ability to read smoothly and not laboriously), however, often still lags behind and is extremely difficult to overcome.

Dyslexia is Not a Score – You can have average range scores and still be a very inefficient reader.  The only way to know this would be to listen to the child read on reliable measures of reading.  While scores matter, they do not tell the whole story.  How is the child reading when you listen to him?

“Dyslexia” is Possibly a Misnomer – I know I may be moving into sacrilegious territory here, but in many ways the term “dyslexia” does not describe the problem.  It’s not a “reading problem.”  It’s 99.99% of the time a “reading, spelling and writing problem.”  What should we call that?

Level of Severity Drives Level of Intervention –  For the kids with realtively mild decoding/fluency issues you can probably have them work in a small group (up to four, let’s say) a couple of sessions a week and you would see progress.  For the ones who are more moderate to severe, those kids need remediation much more intensively (preferably one on one) on a daily basis, if possible.

Well, I hope you like your  “Declaration of Dyslexa-pendence.”