Margaret Galloway is a Slingerland tutor who works exclusively with students who have dyslexia or related learning disabilities. With a background in classroom teaching and special education, Margaret now understands the intricacies of dyslexia, but that was not always the case. “In the classroom, I felt like I didn’t know enough to help my students who were struggling with learning disabilities,” she says. “I began to get more training and found that I enjoyed working one-on-one with students and individualizing my instruction. I completed the first level of training in the Slingerland multisensory language approach. It changed my life and made it possible to teach in a way that was effective for students who have dyslexia.”
The multisensory language training cleared up many misconceptions that Margaret had picked up from fellow teachers regarding students with dyslexia. “I’ve heard that the student just needs more time to catch up, they need to work harder, or that they need to be far behind their grade level before receiving intervention. That is not correct—they need direct, structured multisensory instruction, and they need it as soon as an issue is noticed. Waiting to start intervention is hard on the student and their family as they continue to struggle.”
Part of the problem is that it’s hard for teachers and sometimes parents to look past their own experiences. “Many teachers were good readers and writers in school and they can’t relate to their students’ challenges,” Margaret says. “They underestimate the importance of an approach that is research-based and effective for students with dyslexia.”
Multisensory reading programs work because reading and writing are activities that inherently involve multiple senses: we speak, hear, write and read language. For students with dyslexia, the explicit, breakdown of language can be the key to comprehension. “Tapping into the different senses strongly reinforces language learning, as does using a direct approach. When a student is learning a new word, we work through it, one sound at a time. It needs to be broken down to that level.”
While Margaret stresses the necessity of a multisensory reading program, she does not underestimate the importance of hard work on the student’s part and the role it plays in their success. “All of the students I’ve tutored have worked really hard. I think it’s important from an educator perspective to realize that all students want to learn and succeed. You need to find that drive in them. I’ve had a couple students who started out struggling very hard, but they persevered, stayed with the program, and then went on to AP classes in high school and did fantastically. In their own way, they climbed Mount Everest. For many students, that is possible.”
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