Our View on Phonics
Here at The Dyslexia and Learning Disability Center Inc®, we believe that for dyslexic students, excessive drilling of phonics can create too much confusion, obsessive word guessing, and boredom – all conditions which turn a student off to learning. Constant repetition, sounding out, and drills can also make a student even more dyslexic (as well as irritated.)
Dyslexics are usually visual learners; they think in pictures, and if they have to think about a single word too much, then they will “thought disorient” and go into a “picturing mode.” We define “picturing mode” as a rapid fire imaging process particular to many dyslexics.
When dyslexics picture, they misread the word because they are turning on the multi-dimensional or 3-D aspect of their thinking. We believe that when students read aloud, if they aren’t able to say the word right out, they need to be told the word.
Being told the word immediately gives them an opportunity to learn it correctly. We train our students to tell us when they don’t know the word in order to break the pattern of word guessing.
Some dyslexics have an amazing ability to almost spontaneously substitute words, sometimes substituting dozens of words on a single page of text, or even in one paragraph. These substitutions are often correct in terms of syntax, so that the sentence may sound logical, but the meaning is skewed. “Home” becomes “house,” “girls” becomes “grills,” “no” becomes “on,” positive statements of fact become negatives, and words are dropped completely out of the sentence, because they are not “seen.”
Dyslexic students are often not even aware just how much word guessing and substitution they are doing when they read.
Instead of the classic approaches to teaching phonics, we use a different process – one designed uniquely for the dyslexic student. First, we have a student “clay” or draw the concepts from a list of the most common abstract words which we have compiled from experience. We call this list the “Stumbler Word List.”
These are the little words which have no pictures; dyslexics do not think with these words. We help the student find the word in the dictionary and grasp the meaning correctly and then model quick, 3-dimensional images in clay, or draw the “picture” of a sentence using that word in context. In addition, we teach the student to create each word in clay or to draw it in color.
This goes far beyond using ready-made multi-sensory materials, as the student creates the images and meanings from experience and, therefore, more readily remembers and understands the image. We use dry erase boards with color pens, magic markers, or any other visual and tactile materials for reinforcement.
In addition, we use special focusing techniques and also methods from Neurolinguistic Programming®.
After the basic training at The Dyslexia and Learning Disability Center Inc®, our tutors continue the above techniques. They also bring in new ways to approach grammar, composition, reading aloud, comprehension, handwriting, spelling, memorizing, staying on task, and study skills. They apply our reading and thinking techniques to math word problems and life problem solving.
Tutors may bring in literature and interesting articles, or teach computer skills and modern information accessing skills. In addition, we all address focusing techniques and the countless executive skills required to “do school” or to succeed at work or in life.
After many years of clinical experience using every possible combination of phonics and whole word techniques, we have come to the conclusion that our methods are unique, realistic and the most useful approach to learning.