Jenny is a dyslexic sixth-grader who, despite her unusual approaches to reading, does well in school. She can read new words when she is able to understand the context of a paragraph.
Jenny is a happy, confident student because the highly trained staff at her school allowed her to "discover" her own approach to language. Her special ways of thinking about language are accepted by her teachers and used in their teaching of other children.This is the story of a child who has an unusual approach to writing, reading and reading for meaning that is characteristic of a kind of developmental dyslexia.
Educational research and innovative teaching techniques in language difficulties are achieving hallmark discoveries in some European countries.
Had some of the outdated approaches to dyslexia and other language difficulties been applied to Jenny, her present educational position might be much worse.
For example, had her teachers seen her pronunciation and writing difficulties in her early years as indicating low intelligence, her advances might have been limited. Had they concluded that Jenny would outgrow her slow language development because she is a female, she would not have received the special support and help that she needed.
Had they seen her delays in first and second grades as meaning she was emotionally disturbed, efforts to help her likely would have hurt her.
Dyslexia is actually many different disorders and special approaches to language. Jenny has a decoding deficit that has prevented a normal transition from one stage of language development to the next. She successfully relies upon context and compensates for decoding deficits. Her developmental language problem is different from other reading and writing disabilities, all of which are usually called "dyslexia" in the United States.
Dyslexia is frequently seen as group of language difficulties in children of all ages. Even though a common belief in the United States is that dyslexia is more common in boys, girls have it just as frequently.
The different language difficulties that are called "dyslexia" are different from and usually exist separate from lower intelligence of emotional illness. While these distinctions are now frequently accepted in this country, methods for dealing with the problems in our schools are often not specific, sophisticated or effective.
Language difficulties are often accompanied by other, unnamed learning disabilities. These include problems with attention, problems with concentration, problems sitting still, hearing problems, chronic disorganization, memory problems, and other difficulties that can camouflage or be mistaken for dyslexia. Careful diagnosis of "the dyslexias" therefore requires sophisticated understanding about these problems.
As we look at the careful ways the staff at Jenny's school approached her difficulties, we can begin to realize the exciting progress that is taking place in special education.
Jenny had trouble in kindergarten saying words. Later she had trouble copying them. Like many bright children with dyslexia, she could read words like "cat," "house" and "child" but she couldn't sound out parts of words. Even by second grade, again like most dyslexics, she couldn't "sound out" or spell.
Jenny still cannot easily distinguish letter groups by hearing them, nor can she say or spell the letter sequences. Yet her visual skills are good. She can match words and meanings, as she recognizes similarities of middle letter groups.
As a sixth-grader, she reads quite well although her spelling is poor. Recently, her spelling has progressed through the technique of "simultaneous oral spelling." She recites letter names as she writes.
Beginning in the second grade, Jenny and her teacher learned single letter sounds together. Since age 9, Jenny has worked on "subsyllabic segmentation" and rhyming, such as r-ain, p-ain, st-ain. This is different from rule-training techniques. It also simplifies "sound blending."
Jenny's teachers are highly trained professionals, competent to use and compare techniques that help dyslexics with varying problems. Jenny is fortunate that her school system is respectful of the complexities and wide-reaching effects of all the disabilities that are called "dyslexia."