All evidence suggests that early identification is key to overcoming dyslexia. Still, we consistently encounter students who aren’t identified or diagnosed with dyslexia for years.
Why is that?
The challenge begins with elementary teachers who, charged with recognizing and acting on early symptoms, become gatekeepers of the initial diagnosis. This is a problem because they are often (a) overwhelmed by their other responsibilities and (b) underprepared to recognize the symptoms of dyslexia. Additionally, schools actually face disincentives to identifying dyslexia–a problem explored in a previous article.
Specifically, several misguided beliefs and attitudes can prevent otherwise wonderful teachers from taking steps towards a dyslexia diagnosis.
7 Thoughts That Prevent Teachers from Identifying a Child’s Dyslexia:
1. “He is trying so hard and I don’t want to discourage him!”
When teachers see a likable child who works hard and stays out of trouble, they too often hesitate to admit the depth and scope of his academic challenges. Nobody wants to tell a nice kid that he is failing, so these students are sometimes passed because of their good effort.
2. “She just isn’t applying herself!”
When a student is really gifted in some areas, rather than identify her with a learning disability, teachers may believe she is just not putting forth appropriate effort in reading. They think if the child would simply work harder, she would “get it,” when the real culprit is dyslexia.
3. “If only he’d pay attention!”
Students with dyslexia may have behavioral challenges due to auditory processing or executive function deficits. They also may misbehave to avoid the embarrassment of failing when reading aloud. If teachers assume reading difficulties are due to attention issues, dyslexia may go undiagnosed.
4. “She doesn’t reverse letters!”
While many students with dyslexia do have difficulty with reversals (writing or reading “b” for “d,” etc.), not all students do. If teachers believe this is the primary symptom to look for, they will not identify many dyslexic students.
5. “He does fine on his spelling tests!”
Too many schools use spelling programs that consist of memorizing lists of words for a final test at the end of the week. With a great deal of effort, many students with dyslexia can memorize how to spell those words. This does not translate into becoming a good speller, however, and masks the root causes of difficulty with spelling and writing.
6. “According to our assessment, she is on grade level!”
In a previous post, I detailed how this measure fails early readers. To summarize, too many schools equate students’ ability to read early reader books–which rely on predictable text, pictures, and high frequency words (which students can memorize)–with learning to read. A student may appear to be reading on grade level but is not actually learning to read.
7. “We tested for special education and he didn’t qualify!”
Schools generally cannot justify using federally allocated money to help struggling students until they have fallen far behind their peers in quantifiable ways. However, some students with dyslexia will not fall this far behind for years! While schools are waiting to essentially “build a case” that a student needs additional resources, that child is failing to receive the specialized instruction needed to master reading during the critical early education period.
Teacher education programs (especially in elementary education) do not prepare teachers to recognize dyslexia, let alone to teach students with dyslexia. Parents and educators who are aware of this problem are actively advocating to improve this situation, like our friends at Decoding Dyslexia. In the meantime, parents must be extra vigilant, assuring that their children are making adequate progress.
If you suspect that your child may be slipping through these cracks, I recommend you use this free screener we’ve developed, then call us at 1-888-461-3343 to talk about additional assessment and treatment options.
Edited 10/31/14: introduction changed to clarify that elementary teachers are not responsible for diagnosis or identification.
This is Part Two of a two-part series about what report cards might mean (or might not mean) for the struggling reader and writer. (Here is Part One on Good Grades and Dyslexia.)
A Bad Report Card
The first grading period has ended or will soon end at schools across the United States. For many parents, this is the first opportunity they’ve had to learn about how their child is doing in school, and, for some, it will be the first time they learn that their child’s literacy is not developing as it should.
Even if you were already aware that your child’s reading and spelling is not where it should be, a bad report card is discouraging. If you have suspected your child has dyslexia, you may approach a parent teacher conference thinking that this report card will be the catalyst to finally get your child the help he or she needs.
Often, if a child has not succeeded during a marking period, schools will begin interventions. Schools in the United States are encouraged to use a Response to Intervention model (often called RTI) to determine what level of interventions are necessary to assure student success. You may be told that your school will be providing “Tier 2” or “Tier 3” interventions. But a closer look at what this really means reveals that, too often, this simply delays getting your child the instruction that will close the reading gap and help him or her overcome dyslexia.
Three facts you should know about the RTI approach
These interventions are designed to be provided in addition to regular instruction. So, during reading time, the student should still be participating in the regular instruction and the intervention should be provided at a different time of the day. This is a problem for two reasons. First, it means that a large chunk of your child’s day (the reading block) is likely still spent receiving frustrating instruction that has not yet succeeded in teaching him or her to read. Second, it means that your child will miss some other part of the school day, often in content areas that they are good at and enjoy, in order to participate in this intervention. This might be science lab or history time. In some schools, it’s even art or music that the kids miss out on!
The intervention is to be research-based and delivered in smaller groups. That may sound good on the surface, but may still fail to meet your child’s needs. In the brief video below, dyslexia expert Sally Shaywitz explains the difference between research-based and evidence-based approaches. The bottom line is this: your school can meet the requirement for “research-based” intervention and still be using an approach that will not effectively teach your child to read. Second, a school’s definition of “small group” is very rarely small enough to provide the frequent feedback and individualized instruction required for students with dyslexia.
Securing appropriate intervention will take many months and may culminate in a recommendation for retention. The protocols at many schools mean that your child will first receive Tier 2 instruction for a period of time (often about six weeks, though sometimes more) and data will be used to determine the success of the program. Then, if that is not successful, he or she will receive Tier 3 instruction for the same period of time. If that is not successful, the school may consider testing your child for disabilities. This will then start a testing timeline that may or may not lead to an IEP or 504 plan. So, assuming you begin the RTI process now, your child may have completed this entire process by spring break. It may take even longer, leaving your child struggling with sub-par instruction, at the very least, until the end of the school year. If your child does not qualify for special education services according to testing (as often happens with children with dyslexia), your school may suggest retention, a truly terrible intervention for a person with dyslexia.
This graphic illustrates the slow, bureaucratic (and often unsuccessful) process required to classify a child to receive a public school’s tax-supported special education services and/or accommodations.
Conclusion: RTI is not the way to go for a dyslexic student
Research tells us that children have a limited period of optimal literacy development. A warning sign now should not be followed by a year-long delay in providing appropriate instruction. If your child’s report card and/or anything you are seeing in his or her reading and spelling leave you wondering if he or she has dyslexia, we recommend you take our free screener and call us to talk about what does work for dyslexics: individualized, structured literacy treatment.
This is Part One of a two-part series about what report cards might mean (or might not mean) for the struggling reader and writer.
The school year’s first grade reporting and parent teacher conferences are coming up across the country. Often we find that parents of struggling readers and writers have outstanding questions and concerns as to how their child’s academic performance is being reported. Hearing your child’s teacher is satisfied with your son or daughter’s performance should feel great, but it can be extremely confusing if your gut is telling you the child is not reaching his or her full potential at school.
5 Reasons Why Good Grades Don’t Rule Out Dyslexia:
1. Reading is reported to be “on grade level,” which is confusing since you see your child struggle with reading and writing at home.
- Reading assessments used from school to school vary greatly around the country, and many do not give the full learning profile of your child.
- Children with dyslexia have great coping skills/strategies to help them read passages with accuracy (clues from the context, being able to successfully guess words, relying on a thorough vocabulary).
- Using these skills typically works for a while, but by 3rd and 4th grade dyslexic children’s underlying difficulties with decoding tend to surface and cause problems.
2. Your child’s strengths, such as having a strong vocabulary and high emotional intelligence, might make him or her “slip through the cracks.”
- Children with dyslexia learn early on to compensate for their areas of weakness, since they often have average/above-average intelligence and strong listening and speaking skills.
- Being bright and often borderline gifted with a learning disability (twice exceptional), present inconsistencies in academic performance and can make it very difficult for parents and teachers to pinpoint the underlying cause to their literacy difficulties.
- Teachers often have children with many different learning needs in their class and often are not well-trained in identifying learning differences.
3. You are wondering why you received a good report from school, when you see your child struggling at home.
- As a parent you might see more going on behind the scenes. Your child might be adapting and compensating at school, but comes home exhausted and emotionally deflated.
- Perhaps your child has started to open up about his or her feelings, like feeling as if he or she is not as smart as peers.
- Homework is becoming a daily battle. Your child is struggling to complete assignments that you know he/she can cognitively understand. It seems that he or she is held back due to reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
- You see your child becoming anxious and avoiding reading, writing and homework. Your child who was once excited and willing to try, no longer wants to make any effort.
4. The school dismisses the signs you are seeing of dyslexia and is not addressing them.
- Federal funds do not require public schools to test children for dyslexia. Schools test for eligibility for special education services which is not diagnostic testing.
- Since there is very little training and support in the area of dyslexia in schools, well-intentioned staff may not pick up on the signs of dyslexia.
- Even if the school does pick up on the signs of dyslexia, it is almost certain they do not have the training or staffing to provide your child with daily, individualized dyslexia intervention.
5. Another label such as “behavioral difficulties,” has been given to your child.
- Behaviors that commonly show themselves at school in children coping with dyslexia are likely to cause them to be called: immature, the “class clown” and/or a trouble maker.
- Students with dyslexia may also have challenges with executive functioning that make them appear disorganized, inattentive or careless. The teacher may assume that since your child is doing so well in other subject areas, the lack of growth in literacy or bad handwriting and spelling is due to lack of effort and may judge your child to be “lazy.”
Teachers may not recognize that dyslexia is at the root of these problems. And, if your child is doing well on graded assignments, teachers may not realize there is a problem at all!
Don’t let a good report card override your instinct if you are seeing other symptoms such as:
- Substituting words for other words that make sense in the sentence when reading aloud.
- Omitting or changing sounds in words for reading or spelling.
- Doing well on the spelling test but not being able to spell those words in other contexts, such as writing assignments.
It is important to have your child assessed and treated early. This gives you and your child a clear path forward to help him/her overcome any literacy difficulties and sets him/her up for academic success.
If you haven’t administered our online dyslexia screener yet, I strongly recommend it to all parents of struggling readers, writers and spellers. If you have completed the test, online diagnostic therapy from Lexercise is a great way to get children the help they need–even if school is unable to provide it.
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: Davis Dominici, Carlos Porto
Learning Ally recently published a terrific list of ten things parents of children with dyslexia wish others knew, which inspired me to come up with a list of my own: “10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew.”
1. People with dyslexia are born with dyslexia.
- Evidence suggests that people with dyslexia are born with neurological differences that show up when they begin to learn to read.
- Because it begins so early, its symptoms can be recognized and treatment can begin at the same time as literacy instruction.
2. The symptoms aren’t always what you think they are.
“I never saw her reverse b and d!”
“He loves listening to books and would sit and read along when he was young!”
Sometimes parents and teachers don’t recognize dyslexia because it doesn’t look like they expect it to. While some people with dyslexia really struggle with reversals of letters and numbers, not all do. Other signs your child might have dyslexia include:
- Substitutes words in sentences for other words that make sense
- Memorizes words but cannot sound them out
- Does well on spelling tests but struggles with the same words a week later
3. Even if a teacher says your child is reading on grade level, she still may have dyslexia.
Teachers use all kinds of assessments to determine a child’s grade level. Some of these tests have a stronger research base than others, and some miss identifying symptoms of dyslexia altogether because of the way they define “on grade level.”
Teaching kids with dyslexia to read sounds like it should be your school’s job. But time and time again we hear about the struggles parents have getting appropriate literacy services from school. While parents should advocate for improvements in the system, the wait time for that type of improvement can be precious years of your child’s life.
5. The school’s testing for learning disability is not the same as a dyslexia evaluation.
Even if you beat the odds and are able to get an evaluation from the school, it still may not help!
Schools typically administer two types of testing: (1) a broad achievement battery and (2) an intellectual battery. The problem is children with dyslexia who are also very bright may score in the “average” range on both of these assessments, so their dyslexia goes undetected.
What we are looking for with dyslexia, especially in lower elementary grades, is not just whether a child is able to read words on the page, but what strategies he or she is using. Kids who memorize words may appear to be average readers, but when the demands of reading increase (typically in upper elementary or middle school) the holes in their foundations cause them serious problems. Those kids need help too, even though they may not qualify for school services according to their assessment.
6. Accommodations are not the same thing as instruction.
Once you have a dyslexia diagnosis, your child may be eligible for a 504 plan. This plan is designed to improve your child’s access to the general education curriculum and may include accommodations such as extended time on tests or having test items read aloud. While such accommodations might improve your child’s grades, they are not a replacement for intervention! Accommodations will not teach your child to read or spell.
Have you ever read about how much easier it is to learn a second language when you are young? The same is true for reading!
If your school is resistant to providing the services your child needs, don’t wait for them to get on board. You may have to pay for the services now, but the cost of waiting may be far higher.
- First, the financial cost increases when children get older because it may take them longer to master the skills.
- More importantly, there is a deep emotional cost on your child of not learning to read at a young age. Ongoing struggles in school may lead your child to conclude that he or she is dumb, that school and reading are for other people and that there is no point in trying. This accounts for the increased rate of depression and anxiety in people with dyslexia.
8. The program is less important than the person delivering it.
Parents often ask, “What is a good curriculum for children with dyslexia?”—either so they can (a) purchase it and teach it themselves or (b) demand that their school purchase it.
Using research-based instruction materials is vital, but it is not enough. Each dyslexic has a different combination of literacy and emotional issues that need individual, expert attention. That means that even if a curriculum is delivered exactly as prescribed, this one-size-fits-all approach cannot meet the needs of all children.
9. The way a program is delivered is as important as the program itself.
Even if your school has purchased a high quality, Orton-Gillingham based, structured literacy program and trained teachers to deliver it, your child may not get his or her needs met. The following aspects of a treatment program are particularly critical and underserved:
- One-on-one attention: Schools rarely deliver instruction in very small groups or one-to-one, which research shows is how it’s most effective.
- Repetition: Students need repeated “at bats” to practice these skills, as well as immediate, specific error correction.
- Individualized pacing: Effective dyslexia intervention moves at a pace that is individualized for each student, and that is hard to do in a group setting. Schools often feel pressure to close the gap as swiftly as possible and thus move at a pace that is too fast for some children.
- Motivation: Intervention delivered during the school day often comes at the expense of another subject. When a child has to miss a subject she enjoys and is motivated by to attend reading intervention, the intervention is naturally resented and thus less effective.
Every time I deliver a diagnosis, I want to accompany it with a pep talk and a hug! By the time most kids are identified, both they and their parents have been through the ringer. I wish I could say it’s all smooth sailing from there, but for too many it’s just the start of the battle. Still, people with dyslexia are succeeding all the time in just about any and every profession you can think of. They are doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, innovators. All of the brilliance and potential you see in your child is exactly what our world needs, and there is no good reason to allow dyslexia to take that away. Your child has talents and strengths that run deeper than dyslexia, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it!
If you’d like more information about child’s reading difficulties, I’d recommend taking this free online dyslexia test our team built to help parents quickly identify if their child may be at risk for dyslexia.
Images courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net: Clare Bloomfield, Criminalatt, Stoonn, Stockimages
Guest Post by Hal Malchow, President of the International Dyslexia Association
Across America, parents of children with learning differences struggle to get “appropriate education” in their public schools. The law provides children with dyslexia the right to an IEP. But few schools have teachers qualified to teach reading in the right way.
The problem with reading instruction is not limited to children with dyslexia and other learning disorders. There is a mountain of research showing that the approach to reading that was developed to help children with dyslexia learn to read works best for all children as well. And because our schools are teaching reading in the wrong way, only 34% of third graders are reading at a proficient level and reading scores on the SAT have fallen to a 40 year low.
The International Dyslexia Association is preparing a major campaign to change how reading is taught in America. We have published standards showing what research demonstrates to be best practices in reading instruction. We are accrediting universities that prepare their graduates to teach reading in the right way. Now we are building a certification exam that will provide qualified teachers with credentials recognizing their ability to bring best practices into the classroom.
But the biggest part of our campaign lies ahead of us. One problem is that our approach to reading instruction goes by many names. So IDA, after surveying professionals, teachers and parents, has adopted “Structured Literacy” to describe the family of reading instruction that goes by many names (Orton-Gillingham, Multi-Sensory, Explicit Phonics and others). We are working to build a coalition that includes not just organizations like Lexercise that serve people who learn differently but organizations working for evidence-based reading instruction that will benefit all beginning readers.
In 2015 we will begin a marketing campaign to show educators the benefits of Structured Literacy. By bringing Structured Literacy into American classrooms, we will not only provide “appropriate education” for children with dyslexia. We will help all student gain better reading skills and greater academic success.
One of the primary reasons we remediate children faster than alternative therapy approaches is because we facilitate a strong partnership between the parent and clinician. Since we will only work with your child for a number of months, during therapy we need to teach you how to further support your child’s development throughout his/her academic career. To further support parents like you, we have just launched a new feature for our online therapy: Parent Resources.
Each time your child advances to a new level within the Lexercise curriculum, your teletherapist can send you a set of individualized materials that will help you work with your child between sessions so that s/he makes faster progress. These materials consist of word cards, sight words, vocabulary development, practice sentences and much more. These parent resources are customized to the level your child is working on and for his/her specific therapy needs.
By making these resources available to parents we hope to get even faster remediation times than the 3 to 5 months we are currently averaging for dyslexic children.
Guest Post by Asha Jaleel, Lexercise Teletherapy Partner
Note: this blog article is the first in a series about educational therapy and educational therapists and their role in helping struggling learners achieve academic success.
Do these statements describe your child?
- says he/she is not smart
- has low self-confidence about school work
- is discouraged about his/her academic progress
- hates school and/or resists going to school
- is unusually tired after school
- requires much longer than peers to complete homework and school work
- continues to struggle despite special help and tutoring
If this sound familiar your child might benefit from working with an educational therapist.
Educational therapy is dramatically different from traditional tutoring.
- Tutors typically use the same or very similar education methods as are used in classroom learning. In contrast, educational therapists use methods that are individualized and unique to the specific learner.
- Tutors typically focus on current class work, homework and tests while educational therapists address the causes of academic struggles.
- Tutors typically re-teach or review material that has been taught in the classroom whereas educational therapists focus on teaching clear and efficient ways of thinking and remembering that enable efficient learning for all academic subjects (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics).
- One educational therapist suggested an analogy to a struggling swimmer: Educational therapy teaches a person to swim while tutoring just works on keeping them afloat.
Educational therapists are trained to work with issues like:
- dyslexia and other reading disorders
- dysgraphia and other writing disorders
- dyscalculia and other math disorders
- attention deficit /hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)
- working memory problems
- auditory and visual processing problems
- executive functioning (e.g., organization and time management) problems
Educational therapists use the power of a personal relationship to encourage student motivation and to set-up a relaxing, safe and rewarding learning atmosphere.
Katrina de Hirsch, an early education therapy pioneer, said that the aim of educational therapy is to develop a “treatment alliance” with the student, fostering the student’s understanding of their learning patterns and teaching them how to manage them.
The next articles in this series will present some examples of how educational therapy has helped children and review some recent research on the effectiveness of educational therapy for specific types of difficulties.
- Association Educational Therapists Organization (2013). http: www.aetonline.org
- de Hirsch, K. (1973). Early language development and minimal brain dysfunction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 205, 158–163.
- NILD About Educational Therapy. Retrieved from www.nild.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Guest Post by Ruth Bevan and Jennifer Olachea, Lexercise Teletherapy Partners
As summer is winding down some families are already starting to dread homework. Children with language processing differences like dyslexia are typically stressed by school and by homework that they don’t have the skills to complete. But educational therapy can actually help in this situation. Of course, over time, therapy will build skills that will make homework easier, but also the therapist can suggest immediate strategies for managing school and homework tasks. Perhaps most importantly, an educational therapist can give the child and parent tools for dealing with the stress that often derails academic tasks and degrades the memory and learning that the homework is meant to support.
A colleague recently reported that she had seen one of our students and asked him how his Lexercise therapy was going. She said that she was struck by the huge, ear-to-ear smile that came over his face. We love to hear this kind of feedback! This is what educational therapy is all about– helping a child and his parents approach learning in a happy and joyful way. Having the opportunity to work with children anywhere in the world through Lexercise teletherapy makes our world a very happy place. The Lexercise Teletherapy Platform allows us to meet regularly with students and their parents, forming a trusting, stress-free working relationship that supports memory and learning.
It allows us to send customized practice like online games and offline, table-top activities. This model saves time and money over other therapeutic options and produces excellent reading, spelling and writing gains. Seeing your child smile when they are asked about homework? That’s priceless!
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Jennifer Olachea, B.A. and Lexercise Teletherapy Partner, also contributed to this article.
Certified Teacher, ACSI
Read for Life Therapist
Reading Masters Candidate
For dyslexic children, what begins as an educational problem can quickly descend into an emotional problem. School reading or writing assignments may serve as triggers for intensely negative emotions of fear, stress, and anxiety, which in turn lead to memory and attention disruptions, which lead to physiological manifestations of that unease—and in some cases, catastrophic thoughts. By considering these cascading effects, we can understand why depression and, sadly, suicide rates for dyslexic children are higher than for the general population.
This sort of cycle is well-known in psychology, with the “anxiety cascade” being taught over many decades, even in basic psychology courses. The diagram included in this article adapts that cycle to specifically address the pattern observed in dyslexic children.
Because of this “Vortex of Dyslexia,” early intervention for children is critical. Dyslexia is in many ways an invisible struggle. If dyslexic children are not properly evaluated and treated what may seem to outsiders as “simple” reading and writing difficulties can grow into far more significant psychological or physiological problems.
Unfortunately, many of the parents we hear from have learned this painful lesson firsthand. Many of them reach out to Lexercise months or years after they first detected signs of dyslexia in their child. Typically, these parents hoped and expected that their child’s public school would address the problem, but it didn’t–even after years of waiting. By then, children have often transitioned from enjoying school to dreading it, from being confident in their abilities to fearing they’re “dumb.” Attention and motivation problems often begin, as well.
That’s why we strongly advise parents whose child has failed the Lexercise Screener to get a professional evaluation done immediately—whether it’s with us or a local provider. Not only is therapy more effective the earlier in life it occurs, but the cost of delaying can be enormous.
Professional Education for Language-Literacy Interventionists
Therapy for dyslexia has come a long way from the days of Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. In the decades since the initial formulation of the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach, research has reached a consensus about the most effective way to teach reading and writing to students with language-processing differences. The initial O-G approach was focused primarily on letter-sound associations (phonics) but in a highly systematic, sequential and cumulative (aka structured) manner and with the understanding of the primary importance of speech sound processing.
The modern application of structured literacy intervention, informed by over a decade of neuroscience and brain imaging research, focuses on three aspects of word processing: speech sounds (phonology), spelling patterns (orthography), and meaning elements (morphology). While there is mounting scientific support for this “triple word form” model of the way the human brain has adapted its language centers for learning to read and write, there are very few professionals who can truly call themselves experts in the application of this approach to intervention with struggling readers and writers. In order to close this gap, language experts need access to professional education courses that share the latest methodologies and approaches to intervention.
Become a Certified Expert in Structured Literacy Therapy
Lexercise is pleased to announce that we are now offering a certification in Structured Literacy Therapy! This certification will demonstrate your knowledge of language structure and your understanding of research-backed intervention principles to clients, colleagues, and employers. Professionals who pass the Lexercise Qualification Exam with a score of 80% or higher will receive a certification symbol for their website, as well as a certificate that can be printed and displayed in an office. The examination takes about an hour to complete and costs $50.
Or, if you are feeling a little rusty in the area of language structure and would like to brush up this, as well as improve your understanding of research-backed interventions, we would welcome you to take our two course sequence:
- Course 1: The Structure of Written English - Course 2: Structured Literacy Intervention
If you pass the final exam in Course 2 with a score of at least 80% you will receive the Lexercise certification in structured literacy therapy, and we will provide you with course completion certificates, the certification symbol for your website, as well as the printable certificate in Structured Literacy Therapy.
Practitioners of structured literacy intervention and their students have a lot to look forward to! The National Institutes of Health BRAIN project (or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) is just getting underway. As science continues to reveal details of the brain’s circuitry for language and literacy and correlate it with behavioral data, we will be better and better able to align instruction to research and customize it for diverse learners. Join us! Start working toward your Certification in Structured Literacy Therapy here!
The Journey to This Point
When Chad and I started Lexercise 6 years ago, we assumed that the professionals who considered themselves experts in structured literacy intervention (aka O-G) shared a common vocabulary and understanding about the basic building blocks of language structure. With this assumption in mind we launched the Lexercise online games to allow these professionals to provide their clients with intensive, linguistically structured practice.
In the year that followed we learned that our assumption was naive. Professionals who had achieved certification in various structured literacy “programs” differed dramatically in how they defined even the most basic units of language structure (e.g., phoneme, grapheme, syllable, vowel, consonant, blend, digraph, morpheme), as well as in their ability to identify these essential units and in their understanding of how to teach these concepts. Using the Lexercise game software requires a professional who can confidently parse most words into their sub-lexical elements and who can use scientific inquiry methods to investigate word structure. We realized that there were not enough professionals who were prepared to do this, and all our efforts were on the verge of failure.
For Lexercise to survive we realized that we would need to establish consistency by employing our own therapists and requiring them to demonstrate their mastery of the terminology and the structured literacy procedures supported by an overwhelming body of research. And that is just what we did.
We recruited highly motivated clinical educators with a track record of commitment to the science of literacy to work with us. At the same time, we created a rigorous set of structured literacy courses with qualification exams designed to focus on the knowledge and skills that research has identified as important for language interventionists. We were guided in this task by the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. After a period of assessment and improvement we began offering these courses as professional development opportunities. We also offered the Lexercise Qualification Exam to professionals as a way of demonstrating and documenting their knowledge and expertise. As such this certification demonstrates what you actually know, not just what you have attended.