Detecting Dyslexia

Detecting Dyslexia, p.4

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Once the results from either a school or private test show that there is a significant discrepancy between a child's IQ and his academic performance, he's classified as learning-disabled and receives an I.E.P. (individualized educational plan). Parents should make sure the I.E.P. objectives are specific and measurable. For example, the plan should include a date, fluency (number of words read per minute), and an error rate ("By March 15, Zane will read second-grade material at 40 to 60 words per minute with zero to five errors").

Similarly, work with your evaluator so that the yearly goal of the I.E.P. is broken down into two or three stages. By checking the objectives several times during the school year, you'll know if your child is falling behind and won't have to wait until June to make a case for changing the program.

Research highlighted by the National Reading Panel indicates that kids, including dyslexics, learn best when taught the sounds of language (phonemic awareness), how letters represent sounds (phonics), fluency (the ability to read rapidly and accurately), vocabulary, and comprehension. "These elements should be taught in a connected, systematic way," says Dr. Shaywitz.

One widely accepted approach to teaching dyslexics to read is a multisensory method developed in the early 20th century by neurologist Samuel Orton and linguist Anna Gillingham. The Orton-Gillingham technique teaches letter-sound relationships, using multiple senses to strengthen the associations. With this strategy, a teacher will use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile activities to help a child understand letter-sound associations and imprint them on the brain. For instance, to learn the sound and symbol for s, a child may be asked to draw it with her finger in a sand tray or skywrite the letter in the air while at the same time saying the name and sound. She may also be asked to lie on the floor and make an s with her body.

There are also things parents can do at home to reinforce the help kids are getting at school. Dr. Shaywitz recommends taking turns reading a brief story or passage out loud. Kids can also use commercial programs at home to practice their reading and monitor their progress. Two she recommends are Read Naturally (www.readnaturally.com), which uses an audiotape or CD-ROM, and Reading Assistant (www.reading-assistant.com), which takes advantage of speech recognition technology.

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