#88 January 2010
The devil is in the details. A lot of people ask why they are told to follow the directions in RfS so slavishly. Teachers in general are allergic to a tightly scripted program pointing out that different kids respond to different teaching techniques. This is true if you are just teaching, but if you have a dyslectic student, his problem is a physical one of miswiring in his brain and you are addressing what amounts to a medical problem that needs a specific treatment.
The details in RfS are all there for a particular therapeutic reason, just as penicillin is specific for pneumonia and it must be administered in an exactly prescribed time and place. (Not any old time that is convenient and rubbed on your arm.)
One reader asked whether the colored plastic letters wouldn’t seem “babyish” to an older student, and wouldn’t just plain white letter tiles be better? No. Two reasons. Students of any age suddenly don’t feel that the colored letters are babyish when they discover that they don’t know the correct pronounciation of short vowels and have trouble distinguishing quickly between EN and NE. The other reason is that dyslexics have serious left-right problems. Two letters, both black, like EN and NE, look the same to the right brain. If they are colored, red-green and green-red are clearly different.
The same reader asked whether it wouldn’t be tiring to hold up the cardboard all the time. Answer: you don’t hold it up except when you are reading a column of words in the Phonics book. She wanted to know whether it might be better to keep music going whenever you are reading anything and whether you should use the I CARD all the time.
The answer to both these questions is that the I CARD and the earphones are just exercises to train that left hemisphere to match letters with sounds. They are the musical equivalent of scales. They are not Mozart. The right hemisphere contributes humor, emotions, comprehension and the richness of the prose. But you have to get the words off the page accurately first.
Her last question was whether the RfS program increased fluency, and the answer is yes. Fluency in anything, of course, comes with practice, but the more quickly you can read a word, the sooner you work up speed. The really big improvement is always in comprehension. That improves almost better than anything else.
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