The field of learning disabilities/dyslexia can be overwhelming to parents. There is so much terminology and confusion out there, much of it is unnecessary. It is a mission of mine to try and make the obtuse clear, to put things in terms that parents can understand.
Frequently, I use metaphors to explain different concepts to parents. One of my favorite is that learning to read really isn’t that much different than learning how to play music. First, you need to learn the notes. Then you learn some chords and soon you are playing simple pieces of music. Once you have learned the simple pieces, you can tackle more complex ones.
Is learning to read that much different?
I don’t think so.
First, the child learns the letters, then the sounds that go with the letters. Once these skils have been internalized, the child can learn basic words (chords), which leads to actual reading (playing the music).
Recently, I went through old files and came upon an article from the NY Times that I saved called: “How Learning to Read is Like Learning to Play the Piano.” The article centered on the Windward School, a special private school for dyslexic children in Westchester County, NY.
The article discussed the philosophy of Windward and the difference between the work that they did and more traditional teaching of reading.
“The most important difference,” the article stated, “is that the school [Windward] views reading and writing not as things that human beings are “naturally wired” to do, but as acquired skills –like driving or playing the piano – that require structured practice and constant conceptual reinforcement. Phillis Bertin, director of reading for the Windward’s teacher Training Institute, believes that many children who fall behind are “curriculum disabled” by schools that do not know how to teach them.’
Reading instruction and the acquisition of the skills is not that different than learning any other skill, like playing the piano. A good instructor will break things down for you and directly teach skills to practice over time until they are mastered.
Now go work on those notes and scales!