Volume 10 #10 October
In my last newsletter I explained how the visual and auditory signals you use for the activity of reading must arrive simultaneously in the brain so that the two kinds of neurons can eventually wire together, producing new and faster connections with each other. Once the neurons have fired together often enough and the chemical changes surrounding them have taken place, you read. So the cause of dyslexia is actually quite simple: it is a timing problem in interhemispheric transfer that prevents the neurons from learning to fire together. Yes, it is that worm in the apple, the faulty corpus callosum.
So what am I leading up to? It’s this question that I often get in my e-mail: can I just add RfS to whatever my kid is already doing in school, like Orton Gillingham, Wilson, or whatever? The answer is no. All those are excellent phonics methods, but they are not therapy for the physical problem, the out-of-sync timing. They teach the phonic rules, but they don’t help the wiring.
But there’s more. RfS clears up the timing problem mechanically, but the order in which the spelling rules are taught, and the presentation of phonics exercises, are also carefully planned to maximize the results. For instance, dyslectics have notoriously slippery memories, so you can’t teach them something today and hope it will be there tomorrow. If you start something new tomorrow, yesterday’s lesson evaporates. You need to repeat something over and over, and RfS is designed to do that with a minimum of boredom. Let’s say, you are doing three letter words with a short vowel in them. There are three (count ‘em) pages of words like that! But you don’t repeat any of the pages. After he has done one page, the next bunch of words are on the next page, so he always has the feeling he is moving on.
The other characteristic of the material is that any one rule has exercises on it in the phonics book, the spelling exercises, and the workbook, so that he gets it three ways without having it look as though it is the same old, same old (even though it is!) And it doesn’t go on to another rule until the kid has gotten pretty reliable on the first one. And only one rule is taught at a time, with exercises on that one plus the previous ones, but only one new one. This pyramid approach gives you inconspicuous review and apparently makes the RfS an excellent program (without the equipment) for ESL students. Or so I am told. I have never used it for anything but dyslexia, but the idea makes sense.
So don’t try to mix and match. You don’t do it with medicine when your kid is sick. Don’t do it if he can’t read, either.
This one is very important. When you ask for a spelling rule, the student must repeat what you have taught him VERBATIM.
You: How many ways can you spell /j/? (remember, the / / means “the sound of”)
You: Right. What are they?
Student: J, GE, and DGE.
You: Right. When do you use J?
Student:, In front of A, O, or U.
You: Right. And when do you use GE?
Student: After a long vowel.
You: Good. And when do you use DGE?
Student: After a short vowel.
VERBATIM. Not in his own words.