GUIDELINES FOR SEEKING HELP FOR DYSLEXIC STUDENTS
These guidelines were developed by The International Dyslexia Association (formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society) as a service to members, parents, and other interested persons. The Association does not recommend specific individuals or programs. However, members of the Association’s many branches may provide the names of persons and institutions who have demonstrated competence in diagnosis and/or treatment of dyslexia.
The first step in helping a child with learning problems is to obtain a careful diagnosis of these problems. When the diagnosis indicates that treatment is in order, the parent should lose no time in finding a suitable teacher, therapist, or tutor. Often the diagnostician can suggest people qualified to provide remedial treatment. Other referral sources may include the local school, nearby universities, and private reading clinics. It is important to select carefully, for treatment is expensive, and your child will be investing his time and his faith in the person selected.
Evaluating the qualifications and performance of tutors and therapists is not easy. Be sure to inquire about the background, special training, and experience of service providers. You may want to request references from professionals, parents, and former students. Remember, however, that the most experienced, well- qualified person may not be the most suitable for your child. Excellent work is often done by young professionals, especially those who work under the supervision of a master teacher or therapist.
Tutors and therapists generally prefer to work with a particular age group, since the needs of primary-age children and those of the adolescent and adult differ. Occasionally group instruction is recommended although progress is usually most rapid with individual work. A child who has experienced failure may feel safer in a one-to-one setting.
If therapy or tutoring is to be effective, it should occur when the child is alert. Transporting a young child any distance at the end of a school day is not recommended. Sometimes arrangements can be made for instruction or treatment during the school day and in the school. Vacations provide the opportunity for concentrated work, since the child faces no other academic pressures. Young children require at least three sessions each week, usually an hour long; older students may be able to manage with fewer but longer sessions.
Fees vary with geography and with the qualifications of the tutors and therapists; the current range is from fifteen to forty dollars an hour. Some professionals charge by the month or for a specific series of sessions. Some will come to your home, but usually you will have to transport your child to the sessions. Make sure you understand the terms of payment, including conditions for missed sessions. Many professionals charge for cancellations with less than 24 hours notice. Instructional materials may be covered in the fee; often they are an extra charge. The cost of tutoring or therapy may be covered by your medical insurance or be deductible as a medical expense. Check with your insurance company and your tax advisor.
In most cases, you should expect therapists and tutors to hold periodic conferences to discuss student progress, to share student work samples and test results, and to plan for the future. It may be useful to have a written report to share with school personnel or to arrange for a conference between the therapist or tutor and the classroom teacher or other appropriate school personnel. Be sure, in any case, to keep the school informed about the private treatment program.
Although the student may complain about the difficulty of the work demanded in therapy or tutoring sessions, he is often the best judge of the effectiveness of the program, for he should begin to see improvement and growth.
Treatment or instruction should continue until the student is functioning effectively at a level commensurate with his ability. For some this will mean grade-level achievement; for the academically able, it will mean achieving above grade-level on tests of reading and writing; for a severely dyslectic student, particularly if treatment does not begin until adolescence, it may mean achieving a literacy level useful to him. Occasionally a young child is dismissed from treatment after a year or two only to require further support when he reaches the more complex demands of secondary school. Elementary school phonics, for example, may be insufficient for the decoding required by foreign languages. No matter how long he receives support, he is likely to be a slow reader and poor speller.
The relationship between student and tutor or therapist is crucial, and it can become a mutually dependent one. The student may be reluctant to give up the security which the professional provides, or the professional may be inclined to hang onto a student who is ready to stand alone.
Often a trial period will ease the process of termination. Experienced professionals usually recognize when and how to end the relationship. If the program has been a good one, the student will face the future with confidence.
WARNING: Research shows that teaching machines, coordination exercises, and courses in speed reading are generally ineffective for dyslexic students, except as supplements to basic instruction. Claims for their effectiveness are often made without proof and may be motivated by profit considerations. Be concerned if the diagnostician or the service provider arbitrarily rejects the idea of teaching spelling and writing as part of the treatment. Studies show that most of the language disabled population respond well to the concurrent teaching of reading, writing, and spelling. Whatever program is prescribed it should reflect sensitivity to the needs of the individual; preprogrammed instructional materials and systems may not take these needs into account.
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