Multi sensory language teaching for children with Dyslexia
In an earlier post I wrote that dyslexia is a learning difference that leads to difficulties in reading and writing – which is often most noticeable in spelling. The latest scientific research suggests that the dyslexic brain works differently. Dyslexia is often associated with memory problems but it can affect people across the range of intelligence. Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties – with any individual likely to have his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
A multi sensory teaching approach addresses problems people have in visual and auditory memory (interpreting what they see and hear). It also encourages the building of neural- pathways (pathways in the brain) that connect the speech with print. You could call this ‘rewiring the brain’.
Using a multi sensory method teaches children how sounds are made and how they are written. They learn the sounds and the letters that represent them – how they are put together and how they are taken apart. As they write and say the sounds their hands, eyes, ears and voices are working together to make the connections.
Learning language for a child (or adult) with dyslexia is a time consuming and intense undertaking. The teacher is always needing to assess the needs of the individual learner. The teacher needs to be an expert with time to work with the child.
The pace of learning should be as fast as possible, but as slow as necessary.
Phonics need to be taught in a logical, sequential and organized manner alongside language rules. Despite its irregularities English is 85% predictable and children can be taught to think through language problems.
Most language programmes that work for dyslexic learners include
- multi sensory practice for symbol learning
- explicit teaching of letter-sound relationships, syllable patterns and meaningful word parts
- a lot of successful practice of skills learned
- fluency building exercises
- vocabulary instruction
- spelling skills that are applied in meaningful reading and writing of sentences
- immediate feedback on mistakes
There are programmes that use the ‘Orton-Gillingham approach’ – incorporating methods described by Dr Orton, Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman in the ‘thirties – and encompassing structured, sequential, multi sensory techniques for teaching written English.
- Children are discouraged from guessing and skipping words, instead they learn how to analyze and read unknown words.
- Don’t expect that a dyslexic learner will infer a language concept – direct teaching is needed
- The teacher needs to continually assess the needs of the individual learner
- The content must be mastered step-by-step for the student to progress
A dyslexic learner will need a structured, step-by step and multi sensory approach to the learning of language. Their teacher will need to constantly assess progress and adjust the content. With the right support a dyslexic learner can succeed with language.
Source: Multisensory Structured Language Teaching fact sheet. The International Dyslexia Association. Baltimore. Website: http://www.interdys.org