Letters to the Editor

Not all reading problems are dyslexia


Re: “Michigan students are failing students with dyslexia, advocates say” (Dec. 1):

As a person who earned a master’s degree in reading and held an Illinois reading specialist teacher’s certificate for many years, I would like to explain that “dyslexia” is a lay term (not used by reading teachers) regarding reading disabilities. It would be such a bad idea to try to screen for this in the schools! There are no eye exercises or special brain exercises to remediate so-called dyslexia. It is sometimes said that dyslexic children mix up the lowercase letters “b” and “d”; however, quite a few kindergarten to third-grade students do this, and they grow out of it. Imagine a kindergarten child being labeled “dyslexic” because he or she mixed up these letters.

I remediated a child whose parents thought he had dyslexia, (although, again, it is not a term reading specialists use). He was in 5th grade, but his frustration level for reading was 2nd grade material. In testing him, I found out he was sounding out every word. His classroom teachers had focused too much on phonics. By the time he got to the end of a sentence, he had lost its meaning. A child should have a reading vocabulary of words recognizable on sight – words such as “those,” “some,” “could”, etc.  By the use of flash cards, this boy learned all the sight words appropriate to his grade level.

Some of you may have received funny “tests” on Facebook in which the vowels have been removed from words, yet you are able to understand what is written. This does illustrate that vowels are not important. Children need to know the sounds of consonants, not vowels, recognize sight words, and read for meaning. I told this boy that sentences should make sense, and he learned to stop himself at the end of a sentence if it hadn’t made sense to him – to go back and have another look. By the next semester, this boy was reading at grade level.

In Illinois, reading specialists take struggling children out of the classroom to give them special, individualized help. This is not part of the special education program. Reading help is what is effective, not dyslexia screening.

Janet Pendleton


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