There are two points I would like to focus on here. The first is ascertaining the truthfulness of your text. If you compared a Russian, Iranian and American history textbook you would have a very different picture of the last hundred years. Which version is true? You have to seek truth and do your research.
The second point is reading. Since you cannot study a text if you cannot read it, it is important to understand how to foster reading and how to differentially diagnose “dyslexia”. I put dyslexia in quotes because in my professional opinion it is a term that does a great disservice to those who cannot read. It slaps a label on them as though it says something when in fact it says absolutely nothing. Before going for testing you knew the child could not read, what was gained by confirming this and putting a fancy title on him? What you want to know is why the child cannot read. The label dyslexia tells you that you have no idea why they cannot read but that they should be able to as they are “intelligent enough”. But this is an injustice to the dyslexic because you are lead to believe you cannot know why the person cannot read, when in fact they simply haven’t assessed the underlying functions.
Do you have any idea how many reading programs there are? These are the ones I am familiar with:
- Whole Language
- Sight Words (See and Say)
- The Language Experience Approach (LEA)
- The Context Support Method
- The Syllabic Method
Do you have any idea how many reading remediation programs there are? Too many to list here. So how do you choose the “right” program? The key is a good differential diagnosis. I spent over 20 years studying the learning process before developing my testing protocol. My focus is on the underlying functions that enable decoding to occur.
- Auditory acuity (hearing)
- Auditory processing (listening)
- Visual acuity
- Visual processing
- Cognitive processes including:
- the ability to multitask
- Related language skills such as phonics
Once you have identified the strengths and weaknesses of your student you can match him to the most appropriate reading program. It is important to find a program that works with your student’s strength and bypasses his weakness as much as possible.
One of the flaws in this approach is it does not rehabilitate the weak area. A common mistake is to think that getting the child to read is the goal. This attitude fails to appreciate that whatever weakness this child has will manifest in other areas as well. A good example of this is an illustration that a well-known educator (who shall remain nameless) gives in explaining letter reversals of the LD child. He uses a watch to illustrate his point, which I find ironic. He dramatically holds up his watch and calls to the audience, “what is this?”. When the audience responds, “a watch”, he dramatically rotates it and calls out again, “what is this?”. Naturally, the audience responds again, “a watch,” at which point he turns the watch sideways and asks again, “what is it?” and then points out that no matter which way you turn the watch it always remains a watch. However, not so the letters of the alphabet. For the same shape, depending on how it is positioned, represents a different letter e.g. b/d/p/q or u/n. As I said, I find his example ironic, for what happens when you try and tell time on this very same watch and then rotate it?
I am all for trying to bring this child up to speed in reading, since it will have a snowball effect academically and socially if we don’t. However, it is important to identify and rehabilitate the underlying issue instead of just treating splinter skills. You probably noticed that I have a lot more than visual processing on my assessment list. You may be wondering why phonemic awareness is not on my list when it is the current vogue for “the” issue dyslexics have. It is actually part of my auditory processing battery.
What other academic skills would you expect someone with letter reversal issues to struggle with? (You can respond in the comments section).