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Fuzzbuzz books for dyslexia

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by billandsplodge, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. No I am not really. In the first instance, teachers should go with what would give the greatest benefit to the greatest number.
    No, I don't think it is possible to know until you try. And some children may not get it staight away because of immaturity rather than any serious problem.
    I think this is where the problem is. The instruction has been effective for everyone else but not this person. How long can you keep trying the same thing?
    I agree that coloured lenses make the act of reading more comfortable for those who can read, they don't enable reading for those who can't.
    I will have another look at the Kerry Hempenstall site.
  2. As is the student I wrote about in post 131. Very inaccurately, but with tremendous enthusiasm. Even more bizarre is that from his spelling, I would never have guessed how poor his reading was.
  3. That's interesting, creasey, but I'm not sure that it is as simple as that - I agree that word 'outlines' can look very similar, but in SP you are trying to achieve subconscious rapid and automatic decoding all through the word from L to R. In other words, if that process is taking place efficiently the shape of the word should be irrelevant as it is the detail of the letters within it which is being processed.
    Kerry Hempenstall wrote a nice paper called 'Practice makes permanent' in which he stated that it was the act of decoding and blending a word a few times which placed it in long term memory and made subsequent readings of it appear to be 'on sight'. Now, I don't know if he has research evidence to back this or whether it is a hypothesis based on observation. (I certainly would agree from my own experience that many children only need to sound out and blend a word two or three times for it to become 'secure'.) Is he subscribing to the theory (which seems to be borne out by eye movement research) that skilled readers still process every single word, L to R, all through the word, albeit completely subconsciously, or does he go along with the Colheart & Castles 'parallell (hell, can't spell it...) processing theory that 'known' words immediately activate meaning with no input from phonology (sight words) and some need to be decoded & blended (less 'familiar' words)?
    If it is true that we still process every single 'familiar' word then it seems to me that, in these very unfluent (is there such a word?) readers there is something amiss with the system by which the brain recognises that it already 'knows' that word, or with its ability to process so very rapidly that word recognition appears to be instantaneous.
  4. Creasey says, "I think this is where the problem is. The instruction has been effective for everyone else but not this person. How long can you keep trying the same thing?"
    Your comment suggests to me that you believe there are students who have had effective instruction from an experienced teacher who have failed to make adequate progress in a particular space of time and, therefore,.require an alternative teaching/learning program.
    Annoying as it is to answer a question with another question, I have to ask;
    1. How much time do you think is adequate before giving up on evidence-based instruction?
    2. Having given up on evidence-based instruction, what 'else' do you propose could be tried?

  5. I can't find a copy of ‘Practice makes permanent' online, but since it was published in the same year as 'What brain research can tell us about reading instruction', I'm assuming Hempenstall takes the same approach to brain function. What he says is that good readers predominantly use left-side language areas of the brain for reading. Struggling readers tend to use right-side ‘picture' areas because they have learned the visual pattern formed by the word, rather than a stepwise decoding based on the phonemes represented by the graphemes.
    ‘Long-term memory' in the brain takes the form of consistent activation of neural pathways that represent the people, place or thing that is being recalled. Sometimes, only one activation is necessary for that representation to be permananently stored; sometimes more activations are necessary. The more activations, the faster and more ‘automatic' recall is likely to be.
    One thing to bear in mind is that object (picture) recognition through parallel processing can be automated in just the same way as sequentially processing graphemes can be automated. When we see objects that we have seen many times, such as furniture, houses or faces, we activate an area of the brain called the fusiform area. Some classes of objects, seen a great many times, form their own dedicated bit of the fusiform area; there's a fusiform facial area, for example. Unsurprisingly, it's used for processing information about faces. It doesn't matter to the picture bit of the brain whether it's processing faces, items of furniture, Chinese characters or English whole words. If the images are familiar enough the processing can be very fast. Obviously, learning to read using whole word recognition has limitations and significant drawbacks, notably with spelling, but once automated, doesn't overload working memory any more than recognising one's next-door neighbour would.
    The left-side fusiform area is activated during reading by ‘normal' readers; I don't know whether anyone has looked at whether right and left-side fusiform areas are activated simultaneously in normal readers, or whether there is any difference in reading speed or accuracy between left-side readers and right-side readers.
    The human brain tends to cobble together solutions to cognitive problems in whatever way it can, so I suspect, once we get to the bottom of how reading works, we'll find that efficient readers use two systems in conjunction, sequential processing and parallel processing.

  6. At the risk of fanning the flames: Reading is a complex cognitive skill. It co-opts a number of other complex cognitive sub-skills; vocabulary development, linguistic decomposition, visual pattern-matching, auditory pattern-matching, and integrating the two at high speeds. If a child has problems with any of the sub-skills, for whatever reason, s/he will have a reading difficulty. Whether or not an intervention is effective will depend on what the cause of the reading difficulty is.

    We know that glue ear and ear infections can affect the ability to detect certain sounds, including speech sounds. We know that some children start school with poor ‘phonemic awareness', quite possibly the result of repeated middle ear infections or persistent glue ear in infancy. It is more than likely that phonemic awareness training will address that issue in most children. But since it is easy to overlook cases of glue ear, particularly if it is in one ear and the child has adequate hearing for most purposes, it makes sense to screen for auditory problems and to treat them where possible.
    We also know that visual problems can affect the ability to read. It would make sense, therefore, to screen for visual problems, including eye movement abnormalities. Eye movements are affected by the balance organs in the ear through the vestibular-ocular reflex. (Nystagmus (eye wobble) brought on by activating the balance organs is a long-established test of whether the brainstem is still functioning in comatose patients.) So eye movement abnormalities can also be caused by balance problems. The much-maligned Dore clinics address balance and hand-eye co-ordination using interventions and a theoretical explanation, remarkably similar to those used by occupational therapists in relation to the same problems. Since there is a well-documented causal pathway (not necessarily the one embraced by Dore and the OTs) and a substantial body of anecdotal evidence that balance exercises can improve reading, such treatments should not be dismissed out of hand.

    We also know that essential fatty acids (EFA) are required for a number of physiological functions including the formation of the myelin sheath around neurons; the myelin sheath allows rapid transmission of signals along a neuron. So if a child has an EFA deficiency, it is quite possible that their myelination and therefore neural function might be impaired. So fish oils could lead to improvements in some children.
    We know that there are non-visual cells in the retina that contain melanopsin, a pigment responsive to blue light, that has a range of physiological roles, including regulating biological daily rhythms, the light reflex of the pupil and some neurotransmitters. It's quite possible that variations in melanopsin cells between individuals could affect those physiological functions and that modifying the colour of light entering the eye, via tinted lenses or coloured lamps, could result in changes to reading ability, sleep patterns etc.
    A major flaw in many assessments of controversial interventions is that ‘poor readers' are treated as a homogeneous group, ie they are all assumed to have the same cause for their reading problems - usually ‘dyslexia'. If, in fact, there are different causes for reading difficulties, lumping research participants together in this way will produce inconclusive and contradictory research findings. But just because research findings are inconclusive and/or contradictory, doesn't mean the intervention being assessed is snake oil.

  7. Maizie,
    While I'm no expert, based on the brief discussions I've had with both Max Coltheart and Anne Castels about the Castles & Coltheart 'Duel Route Theory', this is my understanding of it in lay-man's terms.
    If a skilled reader got to the stage of being a skilled reader by mastering phonics, then when they read their eyes fixate on each individual letter, although for a infinitesimally short period of time. Their brain does not require that the letters be 'sounded-out' so the brain can 'hear' the words in order to know the meaning of the words. There is a short-cut whereby the brain goes from letters to meaning without sounding-out, unless this person comes across an unfamiliar word, in which case, they 'sound-out' the word in order to access it's meaning.
    If a person has learnt to read by the whole word method, they have built up a bank of sight memorised words and when they encounter these words in print, they go from seeing the word to knowing the meaning also without 'sounding-out'.
    The problem for whole word readers is that they get stuck when they encounter an unfamiliar word as they don't have the knowledge of phonics that will allow them to decode the word to reach the meaning.
    The Duel Route Theory does not negate the information we have that a skilled reader's eyes fixate on every letter of a word, and it certainly doesn't negate phonics as the best way to get to skilled reading.
    Our Whole Language/Reading Recovery friends have tried to use the Duel Route Theory to support their discredited philosophy of how 'Literacy' is acquired, but they are barking up the wrong tree.
    As both Coltheart and Castles have said to me, the Duel Route Theory is entirely consistent with systematic, synthetic phonics.
  8. That's interesting too maizie, but if rapid decoding is taking place with more experienced readers and those without reading problems, why would unfamiliar words be slower to read than familiar words. I bet even we, as experience readers, would be as faltering as your very unfluent readers if we were confronted with a list of, say, yoga poses (for want of anything better that I can think of for words we wouldn't already have read hundreds of times) with, of course, the added complication that as we become good readers, unfamiliar words we read are less and less likely to be in our spoken vocabularies.
  9. No, it isn't annoying answering a question with a question, but I'm afraid I can't come up with a better answer than I wish I knew. I would love to hear of an example (with some detailed evidence which would convince me) of someone, other than an early years pupil, who suddenly 'got it' when they had not got it before. My only conclusion from my experience is that anyone can become a bit more literate through doing a lot of literacy activity but that the problems do not go away.
  10. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    I haven't read through the last few pages but just picked up Creasy's last comment.
    When I do the ART (Adult reading test) and the York Précis on adult students, some students who fall in the moderately high percentile levels for reading accuracy and speed , in comparison, achieve below average scores for reading comprehension.
    My main point is that even when reading accuracy is achieved, many students continue to have considerable problems because of the difficulties they have retaining the information they have just read in their short term memory which means they have to keep re-reading the text in order to get some kind of meaning from it.
    So obviously, those who score poorly in all three areas (reading accuracy,speed and comprehension) will struggle even more.
    Just a response to Creasy's comment about problems not going away - even when reading accuracy is achieved, many dyslexic students will still struggle in varying degrees with specific difficulties such as reading comprehension.
    Reading comprehension ,in particular, appears to be one of the main areas of difficulty for many of my 16+ students, whether they are fluent readers or not. There are some very fluent readers from Level 2 to degree level who have very poor reading comprehension skills.
    The ones who aren't as fluent have the added frustration of decoding words as they struggle to get to grips with the text but with the more fluent readers, it often appears to be poor short term memory difficulties and they need to re-read each paragraph in order to retain the information and process it successfully before they move on.
    It is often slow and laborious work for some of them, making scanning and skimming for information difficult. Some will avoid reading completely ,while others manage to retain their enjoyment of reading.
    No two students are ever the same which makes it interesting to observe.

  11. Creasey,
    Adult literacy programs that I am aware of are mostly non-evidence based, 'more of what didn't work in the first place'.
    An exception to this is the MULTILIT program in Australia, see www.multilit.com.
    MULTILIT was designed for older slow progress readers, from Year 2 to adult. They run a number of different programs, some school-based, some based in their tutorial centre and some where they train parents/tutors to teach. I don't know how many adults come to MULTILIT for intervention although I'm aware of many teenagers. I haven't examined their website closely for information about adult slow-progress readers, but if you were very interested, I suggest you send them an email and ask them. I'm sure they would be very happy to respond.
    The MULTILIT program that I am most familiar with is 'Schoolwise', a pull-out program for disadvantaged students in Years 5 & 6. The kids go from their local school to a Schoolwise site and get (from memory) about 2 hours of evidence-based reading instruction. The content of the program is phonics, reading/writing practice and spelling practice.
    The students undergo a battery of tests pre and post instruction. Average gains based on the test data are after 20 weeks of 2 hours per day instruction;
    (average gains)
    20 months in reading accuracy
    16 months in reading comprehension
    20 months in single word reading
    22 months in spelling
    30 months in non-word decoding
    read 46% more words correctly per minute.
    ie, 2 terms effective instruction = 2 years progress.
    Another question from me. When you say, "... anyone can become a bit more literate through doing a lot of literacy activity...", what do you mean by "literacy activity"?
    If you mean practicing more whole word recognition and guessing strategies, then these students are just being set up to fail yet again. If you mean that even after effective instruction, these students are still struggling, then the problems could lie with their comprehension of oral language, the Matthew Effect, the 'affect' of failure and so on.

  12. I know that SRA/Direct Instruction Reading Mastery & Corrective Reading is highly successful for adults and I believe there is a lot of information available through the Association of Direct Instruction. I know that there is a paper on Kerry Hempenstall's website where he describes teaching an adult wiht a mild intellectual disability to read using DI.

  13. Interesting paper. Unfortunately, there isn't a detailed description of Alice's 'mild intellectual disability'. All that's said is that her language was at kindergarten level.
  14. This chap wasn't on a programme, he was getting one to one tuition from me.
    The weekly session generally involved him doing a bit of reading, some phonics and a writing activity. It wasn't my intention that he practice whole word recognition and guessing because this was his coping strategy and it meant that every book he read was like a giant cloze exercise. I hoped that he would be able to learn to use phonics to enable him to read the words he didn't already know so that he could read more accurately and enjoy the books that he wanted to read.
    Every week we did some phonics work but he never got the hang of blending. However, he did learn to read more words 'on sight' as a result of doing it. Also, work on vowel digraphs did not enable him to use these to work out new words with these sounds, but it did become a rather theoretical look at spelling patterns and his spelling did improve. Other results were that his handwriting improved despite doing no work on this and he started to use punctuation which he just hadn't bothered with at the start. I also managed to find some books that were accessible to him at his level that he gained some enjoyment from. Comprehension was not really a problem, it was merely compromised by how inaccurate the reading was.
    I have also experienced great success too, with another learner - a complete non-reader. Although I did not use any formal test, I would estimate that her reading age went up from about 5 at the start to about 13 in around 50 one hour sessions, with the odd worksheet for homework. The contrast was stark. The chap above probably started with a reading age of about 9 or 10 and left 2 years later with about the same.
  15. Creasey,
    Formal testing to monitor progress is the imperative of effective instruction, not because as you infer it is required for marketing a program, but so that unreliable teacher-personal opinion judgement does not send a student down a dead-end path for two years.
    If you understood the process better, you would have the results of formal testing that have informed you of where your student's problems were and what to do about it with some degree of accuracy, for example, did he have more difficulties with nonwords and unfamiliar words or with irregular words? What was his ability with phoneme deletion, blending and sound categorization? What was his ability to form and maintain visual representations of written words?
    "He never really got the hang of blending" is an inadequate.
  16. Creasey,
    I have no doubt that this guy had real problems learning to read. My point is that, after two years of instruction, you don't know any more than I do if his problems were 'intrinsic' or if he was an instructional casualty. If his problems were 'intrinsic', you don't know what they were or how to remediate them.
    My point is that you are too willing to look for something wrong with the student, and not willing enough to question the instruction you provided.
  17. What tests would you recommend, Yvonne, and how would the instruction programme be modified in the light of the results?

  18. It was obvious what this student's problems were. If he had scored a reading age of 10 on a standard test, it would not have been obvious what this student's problems were.
    Obviously! I can't believe you have asked that.
    No the regularity of a word made no difference.
    It is not something I asked him to do. This is not a prerequisite for reading. Presumably he would have scored poorly which would have told me he had a problem with phonics.
  19. Do you mean writing? He could spell the words that he knew how to spell. If he kept it simple, you would not realise he had a problem. I have met worse spellers who have had no reading difficulty.
  20. I cannot believe your arrogance.
    I have one thing to add before I bow out of this. Our service was set up to provide a second chance for people with poor or interrupted education. We have no way of telling in advance whether this is the cause of their difficulties or whether it is something else. Nor do we turn people away if we find that it is something else. We do not, however, have the resources to provide what would amount to intensive therapy.


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