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Volume 1 • #7 • February 2002


I tested a child the other day who turned out to be dyslectic. Her school wanted to use the Reading from Scratch material to help her, so I suggested that to save money they have some other dyslectic child tutored at the same time with her since their age and grade didn't have to match. The principal agreed, and said that she was sure they could find another child who was dyslectic to be the partner. I asked her how many kids there were in the (large regional) school.

"About 2000," she said.

I didn't want to shock the lady, but after swallowing hard, I did tell her that according to the scientific community five to ten per cent of any population is dyslectic, and that I was sure there would be more eligible pupils in her school. I don't think she believed me.

Why on earth don't teachers and principals find these kids? It is not just the expense of testing and SPED classes, although with SPED costs going through the roof, money has to be in the back of people's minds.

The real reason is diagnosis on the basis of secondary symptoms instead of an underlying cause. If a child is depressed, if he acts out (that's teacher-speak for behaves like a brat) is truant, defiant, lethargic, doesn't pay attention, violent, teased, or is stomach-sick often, he is apt to be referred to the school ad justment counselor. His parents are told to be sure he does his homework, gets to school, and behaves on the bus. Almost never does the counselor test his IQ and reading level and see whether they match.

But all these unhealthy behaviors can come from the frustration, despair and embarrassment that go with constant school failure and from trying to cover up a lacerated ego without knowing what is the matter. Teaching a child to read can eliminate emotional problems, but counseling for emotional problems never taught a child to read. The brighter the dyslectic child, the worse it is, partly because he knows in his gut that he is intelligent, and partly because his reading level may be close enough to grade level so that nobody realizes he is dyslectic. But the seventh grader with an IQ of 135 who is reading at about sixth grade level should be reading like a tenth grader. He has a real deficit for him.

Does this mean that every little creep in school is dyslectic? Of course not. There are plenty of good readers who go bad for various reasons. But it does mean that any attempt to deal with serious misbehavior should include a reading test and an IQ test.

Surely one of the saddest things in the world is the preventable waste of human potential. The undiagnosed dyslectic is a victim of a combination of money, politics, and the general cussedness of things, but we will get into that in the next newsletter.

Teaching tip:

While you are galloping happily through your phonics lessons, don't forget parts of speech. A speller must know the difference between a noun and a verb and be able to identify past-tense verbs, or he will never know when to use a T or an ED on the end of a word. He bold 120 to win the game? The banned played on? Besides that, grammar and syntax are the province of that old friend, the left hemisphere, which you are constantly poking. Remember the four biggies: phonics, phonemic awareness, letter sequencing, and grammar and syntax.


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