Volume 2 #79 February
Most of my e-mails understandably come from distraught parents whose kids are in trouble in school. The commonest scenario is that the school won’t admit that there is anything wrong, the next most common is that after three or four years of stalling, they finally test him and decide that he has something impressive sounding, like an “auditory processing deficit,” or worse yet, he has the most frequently misdiagnosed problem in the world, ADD. Inevitably they suggest that the parents put him on Ritalin. Of course Ritalin has never taught a child to read, but it is cheaper for the school, and then they don’t have to admit that they, themselves, have no idea how to teach him to read. The worst, most damaging, scenario of all, is that they then keep him back a year.
This month I am going to jump ahead to the hapless adult dyslexic who has been through all that, is depressed from being considered damaged goods all his life, and simply copes the best he can with the misery of life in a verbal world when you can’t read or spell.
But he doesn’t have to live this way. Just as penicillin is good for pneumonia at any age, stimulating the left hemisphere of the brain into activity will improve reading and spelling in adults as well as kids. Shortly after I devised the RfS program for junior high school children, two women who got interested in it wondered whether the technique would work in older people. They got themselves a grant from the Department of Education in Massachusetts and investigated. They formed three groups of students: one using RfS with the equipment that isolated the verbal signal to the left side, one using RfS just as a phonics program without the equipment, and a popular program they referred to as “the Comparison Curriculum, or CC,” designed for disabled adult readers in adult education centers.
Scores were recorded as years and months. A score of 7.9 would mean a gain of seven years and nine months. Obviously the average gain would be 1 year of gain in 1 year of teaching. The CC students’ rate of gain was .6 times the average, which figures, since dyslectic students are known to improve at about half the speed of the normal reader. The gain for the RfS students, however, was 4.6 times the expected rate! The most startling statistic, however, was in the area of comprehension. The RfS students using the equipment gained at 6.5 times the expected rate and RfS even without the equipment improved at 3.6 times the expected rate.
These scores were so discrepant that the teachers decided not to continue the CC, knowing that there was something much faster for these adults. So instead of being a two year program, as I had hoped, it was a one year affair. I would have expected the DOE in Boston to take a look at what their funds had uncovered and do something about it, but they never did. So adults still think that it will be years in an adult ed center before they can read and spell well. I have only vast admiration for those who persist.