Going beyond phonics to help struggling readers

Liz Sedley is the creator of Dyslexia Gold. She has 3 children each with a combination of Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Aspergers. She spent 10 years researching these conditions; what caused them and how she could help. Using this research and her computer programming skills, Liz created Dyslexia Gold.

Dyslexia Gold is a suite of neuroscience-based computer programs. Together they help struggling reads read, write and spell. The programs are evidence-based and getting fantastic results.  Children make, on average, 12 months improvement for in a term.  You can find out more at www.dyslexiagold.co.uk and by visiting Dyslexia Gold on stand 83 at the Tes SEN Show. 

The following is an interview with Liz.

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Why do some pupils struggle to read, despite high-quality phonics teaching?

Phonics is, without a doubt, the best way to teach children to read, however it doesn’t work for everyone.

To read using phonics, you need to be able to hear the individual sounds in words, like g-oa-t.  Unfortunately, struggling readers can’t hear this.  They have something called poor phonological awareness.

Sally Shawyz MD researched the difference in children’s brains when reading, comparing fluent readers to struggling ones and found their brains worked differently.  The difference she found was phonological awareness.

How can you tell if a pupil has poor phonological awareness?

Other than struggling to read, they’ll have difficulty with rhymes.  They can’t hear that cat has the same ending sound as mat.  They’ll also find ‘eye spy’ hard for similar reasons, they can’t hear the ‘duh’ in door.

Why do some pupils skip words and lines, and lose their place when reading?

This is actually due to a vision problem.  Struggling readers make erratic eye movements and can’t track across the page.

A fluent reader will make 150 eye movements when they read, a struggling reader makes around 1,000.

The reason is that they have weak eye muscles.  Their eyes don’t focus at the same point on the page and jump around.  Their brain receives two different images and has to choose which one to use.

Our research found that 98% of struggling readers have this vision problem.

What can be done to help struggling readers?

Firstly, let’s help them focus their eyes, before anything else.  Reading will always be difficult if they can’t see the letters and words on the page.

Dyslexia Gold’s Engaging Eyes is the only online program where children play games to exercise their eyes.

It works using 3D, to see in 3D you have to focus both eyes on the same point.  It’s designed to be a daily intervention but only takes 10 minutes a day and children work independently.

Then, let’s start improving their phonological awareness so they can hear the sounds in words.  Fluency Builder is perfect for this. Unlike most other reading interventions, it’s not just a phonics intervention.

What improvements can be expected?

In our formal trials last year, we saw an average improvement in reading age of 12 months in a term.  While that’s brilliant, what was also great was even the poorest readers made progress.

Do you offer a free trial?

Yes, schools are welcome to try all our programs for free.  We have Engaging Eyes, Fluency Builder, Spelling Tutor (teaches all the words on the National Curriculum) and Times Table Tutor. 

You can register for a free trial at www.dyslexiagold.co.uk

Visit Dyslexia Gold and find out more about their programs at the Tes SEN Show. Free registration is now open! 

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