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Volume 3 • #1 • September 2003


Suppose you had a little boy of eight or nine who is as musical as Mozart, you have just inherited a piano from your great Aunt Minnie, and there is a blind pianist in the neighborhood who plays beautifully and loves to teach. Naturally you start the kid on lessons.

But every time your little boy sits down at the piano to practise, he is unknowingly wearing invisible ski gloves. When he just can’t get his fingers to move quickly no matter how hard he tries, he gets frustrated. The teacher, who is a well-known expert, blames the little boy for not working hard enough. But one day you get sick at work, come home early and as you are hanging up your coat, you hear his efforts at practising. It sounds awful. You go in and with your Mother’s Special Vision, you see right away what the matter is. You remove the gloves, and everybody lives happily ever after. Isn’t that nice?

Of course if you can see what’s the matter, a problem may get solved. But in dyslexia, you can’t see what is going on in somebody’s brain. Even if the child appears bright enough, if he can’t learn to read like the rest of the class, his teacher, unable to see what is the matter automatically assumes he is either dumb or has an attitude. But there is no excuse for her to assume he is stupid. If she has had any training as a SPED teacher, she certainly must have been exposed to the federal definition of dyslexia, which includes the phrase “....average or above average intelligence”. There are articles all over the place saying that the dyslectic child has a normal intelligence. Even Oprah Winfrey had a doctor on her program once who explained that the dyslectic child was not dumb, he was just wired differently and needed to be taught differently. How much more publicity can you get?

The nasty truth is that there probably aren’t 100 public school teachers in this whole country ( probably the whole world, if it comes to that) that have read enough neurological journals to know what causes dyslexia. Unfortunately there are thousands of school psychologists who don’t read either. I heard one of these a few years ago tell a parent that there was no such thing as dyslexia; her son read badly because he was emotionally identifying with his non-reading papa (who, I assume, was emotionally identifying with non-reading Grandpapa, who was. . . . . )

I have had a number of students with IQ’s in the 130 to 140 range (140 will get you into Mensa) and one little ball of fire who clocked in at 170. He couldn’t read, either. Clearly the problem is not that the students aren’t bright. Well then, is it the teachers who aren’t very -- -, shall we just say, motivated to embrace a novel idea? Of course not. A smart, energetic teacher who wants to try something innovative must buck principals, SPED directors, supervisors, and school superintendents who aren’t eager to embrace a novel idea. But the idea is not novel. Don’t they read?

Teaching Tip:

If you are going to teach English spelling, get used to doing a lot of apologizing. I often tell students, “Hey, don’t look at me funny. I don’t make these rules. I just teach ‘em.” The RfS program helps by assembling some notorious messes into groups: bomb, tomb, numb, etc., the silent t’s: nestle, hustle, often, etc., and everybody’s favorite, the silent –gh’s. These come near the end of the program when the student is pretty good and doesn’t feel particularly threatened.

But what do you do about the ridiculous fact that “er”, “ir”, and “ur”, all sound alike? Reading them is easy. But how about spelling? The best you can do is point out that “er” is the most common because of coming at the end of comparative adjectives—better, larger, etc. For the rest? Ask somebody.

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Archives (2001 files in .doc format):

July 2003 - Vol. 2, #11 July 2002 - Vol. 1, #10
June 2003 - Vol. 2, #10 May 2002 - Vol. 1, #9
May 2003 - Vol. 2, #9 March 2002 - Vol. 1, #8
April 2003 - Vol. 2, #8 February 2002 - Vol. 1, #7
March 2003 - Vol. 2 #7 January 2002 - Vol. 1, #6
January 2003 - Vol. 2, #5 December 2001 - Vol. 1, #5
December 2002 - Vol. 2, #4 November 2001 - Vol. 1, #4
November 2002 - Vol. 2, #3 October 2001 - Vol. 1, #3
October 2002 - Vol. 2, #2 September 2001 - Vol. 1, #2
September 2002 - Vol. 2, #1 August 2001 - Vol. 1, #1
August 2002 - Vol. 1, #11  



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