Dyslexia Research

What programs can help?

"The greatest stumbling block preventing a dyslexic child from realizing his potential and following his dreams is the widespread ignorance about the true nature of dyslexia" Sally Shaywitz, M.D. (2003)

Dyslexia Research

Sally Shaywitz, M.D., in her book Overcoming Dyslexia (2003, pg.53) describes two major components of the reading process: decoding, which is used when reading words, and comprehension, which is related to the meaning one gets from reading. The difference between an individual with dyslexia and one who has another type of reading disorder is that the individual with dyslexia can usually understand what s/he is reading even though a problem with identifying the individual words exists. This is due to the fact that the higher-order intellectual abilities necessary for comprehension, vocabulary development, understanding the pattern and structure of word order, the basic understanding of connected text, and reasoning are all okay.

A phonologic weakness at the lower level of the language system impairs decoding that is needed for word identification. According to Shaywitz, the problem with the phonologic processing interferes with the decoding, preventing word identification. Without word identification, the individual must use familiar words around the unknown word and use information about the topic that s/he has learned to guess the meaning of the passage. If the individual has new information to read and no background knowledge, the comprehension is likely to be poor.

Phonemic awareness is the term teachers often use when describing the learning of sounds and the association with the written letter, rhyming words, and manipulating words, as in changing first sounds to make new words. Based on the research by Shawitz, 88% of the individuals identified with dyslexia have a phonologic weakness in common.


What programs can help


For individuals with dyslexia, a structured, sequential, multisensory phonics program is best. There are many programs in schools that are based on the Orton-Gillingham research, like Alphabetic Phonics, Multisensory Teaching Approach (MTA), and Wilson. There are also programs that are designed to address the ways the sounds are articulated and how each sound feels, as in the Take Flight (a combination program) and the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program (LiPS).


Note:  These programs can be very tedious and at times difficult because of the rules that must be learned. Very young children, children with low intellectual abilities, or those with general reading disorders usually do not do well with these programs. Individuals with reading problems who are not diagnosed with dyslexia may benefit from other types of instruction. They may need more instruction in comprehension and more meaning based instruction. Phonics is important, but not all poor readers need the same instruction, and not all need phonics.


Things we know.

1. Dyslexia is a phonologic weakness at the lowest level of the language system.

2.Dyslexia impairs decoding which is needed for word identification.

3.Dyslexia runs in families.

4.Individuals with dyslexia have average to above average IQs.

5.Multi-sensory programs that emphasize phonics are best for remediation.

6.One learns to compensate and the brain can become more efficient, but dyslexia is never gone.