Last week we talked about how you need to get clear on what it is you are targeting in any type of remedial situation such as tutoring. Continuing that theme, let’s talk about tutoring/learning therapy for Type I (dyslexic) readers. Typically, it is recommended that they receive some type of ‘Orton-Gillingham’ approach as these are the ones that are considered structured and multisensory. What is it about these methods that benefits struggling readers?

Consider this. About 70% of the population in suburban school districts progress pretty nicely with reading, spelling and writing no matter what curriculum, methodology, or approach that is utilized with them. The necessary skills (e.g., decoding, fluency, word identification) are internalized early. Progress is rapid and off they go.

Then there’s the 30% or so (a significant percentage of those who fit the definition of “dyslexia”) who are on the other side of the fence.

These kids need certain elements in their instruction and remediation in order for them to progress.

Some of the elements are:
• The instruction needs to be explicit. Skills can’t be left to chance. They need to be taught directly and explicitly.
• There needs to be a logical sequence with one mastered skill being layered on top of another. Until a skill is mastered, the instruction should not rush ahead.
• The individual lessons themselves need to follow a set sequence.
• To the extent possible, the lessons should simultaneously engage different senses, such as the auditory, visual and tactile.

These elements are in pretty clear contrast to the “literature based” approaches that are seen to be more “top-down,” and comprehension focused. There is a less discernible skill sequence with these methods. In a sense, the children who are in the 70% category don’t need the mastered skill sequence, since the necessary skills have already been internalized. The emphasis on comprehension and “higher-order reasoning” is appropriate.

Most of the methods that fall under the umbrella of the “Orton-Gillingham” approaches follow these principles as noted in the above bullet points..

As a final note, I would encourage you as a parent not to get too fixated on one brand or method over another. For example, I will hear parents say something like, “My child must have a Wilson certified tutor,” or Lindamood-Bell, or whatever (insert the method). While the methods being requested may have great value, research (e.g., National Reading Panel Report) does not advocate one method as superior over another, but that the elements of good remediation need to be in place.

Takeaway Point
The kids in the 30% category need different instruction than the rest!