In this free, one-hour webinar for parents and teachers of children with dyslexia, Educational Therapist Diana Kennedy
shares insights into the areas of reading that can break down for children. She also covers warning signs and red flags to look for, assessments that reveal what is happening with a given child, and the major reading programs that address each type of breakdown.
Download the slides and watch the presentation below:
We received many thoughtful questions from the audience, some of which Diana did not have time to answer during the live session. Read her answers to those questions here:
Question: Are auditory processing programs primarily for young children?
It depends on what level of auditory processing programs you mean. This term is used to refer to many different pieces of the same puzzle. You can think of auditory processing as a pipeline that goes from your ears to your brain stem, up the brain stem to the auditory receiving areas in your brain to the language processing areas of the brain. This means that there can be issues anywhere along the line, from way deep in the brain stem through to the language processing area.
To diagnose and treat the deeper parts of auditory processing, you really need to go to an audiologist who can pinpoint where the breakdown is occurring. The remediation is a little trickier, but is often a sort of retraining like AIT--Auditory Integration Training. This is when a person wears headphones and listens to all sorts of tones that retrain the deep processing. This is appropriate for any age.
Other programs like FastForward and Earrobics are more focused on further up the brain--on the phonemic awareness piece. That is, they are made to help people parse the individual sounds of language and be able to manipulate them, which is a key building block for reading. Because these are both computer programs with graphics and games, I would say they are aimed at younger kids. However, there is nothing scientifically that makes them only appropriate for kids--it is just the cute graphics, etc.
The final piece is working on phonemic awareness one on one or with a teacher. This overlaps with FastForward and Earrobics, in that the student is learning to attend to, parse and manipulate the individual sounds in words, but there is no specialized auditory piece. This can be adapted to work for any age student, and should definitely be a part of any remedial reading program. And, from my understanding of the research, if the instruction is high quality, it matches the effectiveness of FastForward and Earrobics.
Would Phonics Suite by Really Great Reading, the FAST program, or the Explode the Code program be appropriate for a student with dyslexia?
I don’t have any first hand experience with Phonics Suite, but it looks from the information on its web site like it is an Orton-Gillingham-based, explicit, systematic phonics program, so it should be fine. I also have no direct experience with the FAST program, but it too seems to be Orton-Gillingham-based, explicit, systematic phonics instruction, so that looks appropriate as well. He even quotes Shaywitz and includes some of the same diagrams about reading and the brain. Explode the Code is another great program, although for me, because it is workbook based, it serves as a great supplement for a more hands-on program, rather than a program itself. A lot of people may disagree and use it as their main program, so you can look for yourself and see what works for you.
What might you recommend to assist a student with reading comprehension challenges when phonics, decoding and fluency are not the issue?
Often-times, if a student has strong phonics, decoding and fluency, yet still lacks comprehension, I look to see if there is any non-verbal learning disorder present. There may be what is referred to as hyper-lexia, which is often, but not always, associated with some degree of Autism Spectrum Disorder. if this is the case, then usually the core deficit is being able to connect pictures to words and vice versa. The program created for exactly this issue is Lindamood Bell’s Visualize and Verbalize. The program literally helps to rewire the brain to create those connections between the picture area and the verbal area of the brain. Other games that develop oral language can be added on: Headbandz and Guess Who are two commercially available games that are great for this. I also like to play a game I call “Guess Which One” with these kiddos. You take a bunch of pictures in a given category, like animals, and spread them on a table, and then you and your child/student pick one secretly and write out a description of it. Each person then reads their description to the other while the other tries to guess which one was picked. it’s really fun, and is a good way of developing that connection between pictures and words, boost reading comprehension and develop details in writing, all at once.
For more on this topic, you can look at Two pathways to Weak Reading Comprehension (http://www.mindsparklearning.com/two-pathways-to-weak-reading-comprehension/
) and Developing Details in Writing, Beyond Visualize and Verbalize I and II (http://www.mindsparklearning.com/developing-details-in-writing-beyond-visualize-and-verbalize-part-1/
Can you recommend any solid online programs for teaching explicit phonemic awareness?
You know, there are a couple that work to do this. Both FastForward Earrobics aim at developing phonemic awareness, and Starfall and Lexia (a computer program) aim at building on phonemic awareness and developing phonics. They are all fine, but in my experience, kids don’t make great progress just being parked at one of them. They still learn best with a parent or teacher or educational therapist next to them, scaffolding and supporting their learning. Any of these can be used as a resource or supplement (A to Z Phonics is a great resource too), but I just don’t think there is one yet that replaces a human.
Can you tell us a little more detail about the Wilson Program versus Orton Gillingham? When would Wilson be preferable?
Well, first of all, it is important to realize that Wilson is an Orton-Gillingham-based program. In fact, Barbara Wilson is trained as an Orton-Gillingham teacher. Barbara Wilson streamlined some of the concepts and techniques to make it easier for teachers to be trained in it and to use it. Wilson also has some more specialized programs aimed specifically at classroom teaching, teaching younger kids, or teaching older kids, while I believe OG has its one program. As for which a particular child could benefit from more, I would say they are comparable. It is much more important to look at who around you is trained in which and what the personal relationship is between the student and the educational therapist.