DYSLEXIA DEFINED BY POINTING Ė A FIELD TRIP [HOME]
ExWyZee REMEDIAL READING PROGRAM Monograph No. 4
While the content of this monograph might be of some interest to reading-instruction
professionals, it's written for semi-pros, the parents.
When beginning a lesson on deciduous trees and conifers you could start with definitions of those
two classes of plants, and talk about their attributes. Or you might begin with a field trip and
define-by-pointing, pointing to examples of pines, oaks, spruce, and maples. Start with the field trip.
Of course, just as pointing to a tree with acorns on it, and to another tree with sap buckets doesnít fully
define deciduous trees, pointing to one or two dyslexics doesnít fully define dyslexia. But the dyslexics
Iíll point to here were chosen to give you examples of extreme and debilitating symptoms of dyslexia.
PART 1: THE STATE OF A-LAS-KA AND THE STATE OF DYSLEXIC DISORIENTATION
For this discussion of dyslexia, you will meet two students, Alpha and Beta. Alpha is a hypothetical Russian
student. Beta is not hypothetical. Heís a bright Michigan student, a sixth-grader at this writing.
Hereís Alpha Ė the hypothetical Russian student.
Our hypothetical Alpha lives in Moscow, and is studying English as a second language. She has mastered
English phonics to the extent that she can read aloud any of these word-parts in the word Alaska: Al, Ala, Alas,
la, las, lask, laska, as, ask, aska, ska, ka.
In a tutorial session on decoding English words by parts she was directed to separate Alaska, and to say the
parts in her separation. She separated it as A-las-ka. She pronounced the three parts with long-a (A-lace-kay)
and was told by her coach to say the parts not with a-as-in-lace, but to try it with a-as-in-Russia. Having become
proficient with English vowel sounds, she then said the parts as directed by her coach.
At that point, anyone passing by the classroom and hearing her blend the parts, would think she was saying
the name of the state of Alaska, saying it with a slight accent. But Alpha had not yet progressed far enough in
her study of English to learn that Alaska is what Americans call that land Northwest of Canada that they
purchased from her country in that 1867 yard sale. So she was, in fact, not saying the word Alaska. It was not a
word to her. She was merely blending three meaningless word-parts: AĖlasĖka.
Now meet Beta Ė a real tree in the dyslexia forest
Beta is a bright eleven year-old sixth-grader. Over several months of working with Beta I have quizzed him on
vocabulary. Here, for example, are questions on five words and his responses.
Whatís the building where they take sick people? Hospital
What is a red truck with ladders and hoses on it. Fire engine
Whatís a post office? Where you mail letters
Whatís a continent? A really big country
What is Alaska? The biggest state
Thereís nothing remarkable about his responses. Betaís vocabulary is what we would expect in an intelligent
kid his age. In a tutorial session where he was separating words on the computer to learn to decode words by
parts, he came to Alaska in the list.* It was not presented in the context of a list of states, nor was it in a
geography lesson. was imbedded in a list along with other not-related words. He separated it as A-las-ka, just
as our Russian student Alpha did in her study of English.
*In ExWyZee Remedial Reading Computer Program SepCom drill.
When directed to say the parts, he said A Ė las Ė ka. As with Alpha, he needed coaching on the vowel sound
(A-as-in-pa, a-as-in-ask, and a-as-in-baa). Then he blended the parts, and said the word so that you, passing
by in the hallway, would think he was saying the name of the state of Alaska. But he was not. When asked what
the word he just pronounced means, he could not tell me. While a listener in the hallway would think Beta was
saying the name of the state, he was not, in fact, saying that word. As with our Russian student,
Beta was merely blending three meaningless word-parts: AĖlasĖka.
After rapidly reciting those word-parts several times, blending them perfectly, and struggling to make sense of
them, Beta entered a state of extreme anxiety Ė almost a state of panic. If he were connected to a polygraph
machine, Iím sure we would have seen a spike in readings. So I touched his arm to calm him, and said, "Itís the
name of a state." Beta tilted his head back, clenched his teeth, and his fists, and said, "Oh, yeah, Alaska!"
His face and body-language reflected the frustration he feels so often after finally realizing the meaning of a
familiar word he has named after decoding it by parts.
Among the many words for which Beta has made the same dyslexic response are: hospital, office, Africa,
America, Benjamin, ceremony, Colorado, comfortable, continent, Delaware, department, education, evaporate,
Japan, Nevada. Again, we are not looking at a vocabulary problem here. Before Beta encountered those
words in decoding-by-separation drills, if you had roused him from a sound sleep, and asked him to use any
of them in a sentence, he would have used the word in a way to clearly indicate that it was in his vocabulary.
(He was not quite correct when asked to use continent in a sentence, saying itís a really big country.)
So whatís going on here? How to make sense of it?
Whatís going on (not going on) in Betaís brain, when he has broken the reading code for a word that is in his
vocabulary, and has heard himself say it, but canít identify it? Whatís going on is severe dyslexia-in-action.
Or, for a play on words, dyslexic inaction. In trying to comprehend Betaís struggle, weíll look at some ways
that you access the rich store of words you have in your vocabulary Ė in your word bank. You have the word
Alaska stored there. Here are some cues that bring words to mind from our vocabulary banks.
(1) It can be a kind of mental reflex. If I have you look at a map on which names of lands have been erased,
and I point to an extension of land at the Northwest corner of Canada, probably I would not even have to ask
you what that chunk of land is called for you to bring the word Alaska from your word bank Ė to think the word.
That reflex would take no more thought than the reflex of scratching an itch.
(2) It can be triggered by a question for which Alaska is the answer. (Where is Mt. McKinley?) A substantive
word is stored as a sort of package in the bank, containing all the stuff you know about that thing. You might
know how to spell Alaska, know Mt. McKinley is there, even know the year of its purchase from Russia.
(Crossword puzzle addicts can become cranky if they donít have their daily fix of retrieving words when given
obscure bits of information about them.)
(3) And, to state the obvious, hearing the sound of a word Ė somebody saying it Ė will bring it into your
Why state the obvious?
Why state the obvious, that hearing a word spoken will bring it to mind? Because, if you are dyslexic, and the
somebody who is saying the word is you Ė and your saying it was the result of breaking its phonetic code
during a word-part decoding session Ė your brain might not bring the meaning of the word from your vocabulary
bank into consciousness. How can it be? How can Betaís word-meaning vault stay locked when he repeatedly
voices a word he has decoded Ė a word that has been in his vocabulary for years Ė a word he understands
It appears as a dyslexic mental block, something like, yet profoundly different from, another sort of mental block.
You see a friend approaching at Krogerís, someone you had not expected to see today, and you block on her
name. Call it dysnamia. The closer the friend comes, the greater the dysnamia panic, and you couldnít come up
with her name if winning the lottery depended on it. You have a thing in mind (a person) right there in front of you,
and your name-vault is locked up. But the dyslexic lockup of the meaning-vault differs profoundly from dysnamia
in that dyslexia is not a quirky and occasional brain malfunction at Krogerís. Dyslexia is chronic. Betaís case is
acute and chronic. NOTE: The meaning-vault lockup described here is not an unusual symptom of dyslexia.
You will see it often among dyslexics.
PART 2: THE EMOTIONAL DIMENSION OF DYSLEXIA
Pointing to Ward, an adult male, a failed attempt to overcome emotional trauma.
Ward, a severely-dyslexic, intelligent, adult male was seated in a room where the temperature was about
70 degrees and the humidity not overly high. When in his teens, after dropping from high school, he had a
string of private well-meaning tutors, and he attended a summer reading clinic at a university. Now, in his
forties, and illiterate, I introduced him to exercises on computer to assess his ability to take mental snapshots
of letter combinations. Letter-triples were flashed on the screen one triple at a time (eg: PCM, DOP, ZAD).
The task was to type the three flashed-letters into the computer. In no more than two minutes into this activity
beads of sweat appeared on Wardís forehead, and his fingers nervously drummed on the desk in front of the
computer. He pushed his chair back saying "I canít do this." The years of failure and embarrassment had
made any attempt to deal with letters emotionally draining for him. This was a man who when sent to a supply
room on his job, to get a case of string beans, might bring to the cook a case of kidney beans because there
was only printing Ė not a picture Ė on the side of the carton.
Pointing to PZ, a third-grade girl, a successful attempt to deal with emotional trauma.
PZ knew at least one letter-sound for each letter A to Z. Common four-letter words were a challenge for her.
She might read "sent" as a sight word, but then attempt to read "bent" by sounding it out (bu-ent). She was
put to the task of reading lists of rhyming words (eg: rent, sent, bent, went). The procedure was for me to say
the first word in the list and she was to read the rest of the list. The task was simply to read the items in the
sound-family by changing the initial sound for each word. She was unable to do that. With each attempt she
grimaced, closed her eyes, and pounded her right fist into the palm of her left hand, saying "itís too hard."
In our third session, after two sessions of working with her on those rhyming lists, and seeing her get increasingly
frustrated and agitated, I told her we were going to do some easier stuff. I put her on the ExWyZee snapshot
sequence, at a level where a three-letter combination flashes on the screen for three seconds. The task is to
pick that combination from a multiple-choice list. (eg: "mot" flashes, and the multiple-choice list is mot, mat, not,
nat. She was reluctant to participate at first, but her first score was 60% on ten exercises. She perked up
considerably when the computer showed her that score, and she saw the red dot on the graph the computer
presents. As I usually do, I had her run the same set several times. With the second run, seeing the red graph
dot higher than the first dot, she was ecstatic, and instead of pounding her fist into her palm, she clapped her hands.
On the 4th or 5th run of the set her graph dot was at 100%. With that she not only clapped her hands, but bounced
up and down in the chair. I printed the graph for her to take home, and she clutched it to her chest as she went
back to her classroom. BUT, Iím not pointing to PZís case to suggest dramatic improvement in her ability to read.
After several sessions with PZ there is no discernable improvement. But what is discernable now is a little more
willingness to take reading risks. At each session I have her do some "easy stuff" (flash exercises) and a little
"hard stuff." While one of the things taught early in any teacher school is the common sense dictum that you donít
tell a student that something is hard. But PZ has the thrill of (graphic) success, and now is willing to take reading
risks. She is making some progress in the phonics sequence. She doesnít clap hands at her small increments
of improvement in reading the rhyming lists, but neither does she pound her fist into her palm and make a pained
face. THE POINT IS: A remedial reading program has scant chance at doing much for a severely impaired
student until that student comes to the chair with a smile.
9; 9; 9; 9; PART 3:DEFINITIONS OF DYSLEXIA (other than by pointing) AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
The street definition of dyslexia:Even to begin to comprehend the neurological dysfunction, dyslexia, we
must dispose of the definition that dyslexia is a condition of faulty visual perception, seeing letters and words
backward or in some other distorted way. It isnít. Yes, kids who have trouble learning to read often confuse the
letter-d with the letter-b. But, while it doesnít seem to be as noticeable, they also confuse the pairs u-v, j-i, m-n,
t-f, p-q, a-e. And, yes, the dyslexic might read "saw" as "was," but that doesnít mean he saw-saw-as-was.
When you got a phone number wrong because you transposed two digits it was not because you saw them in
the wrong order. *(See Shaywitz pp100-101)
(NOTE: That doesnít mean that faulty vision wonít affect ability to read. A retired friend, Corwin, got a high school diploma in Ohio,
perhaps because he was a good boy and was, as they say, passed-on through school. He was virtually functionally illiterate. Some
thought he was not too bright. On the same day that he could test 20-20 for each eye on an optometristís wall chart, his eyes would
ache after spending an hour trying to read a half-page in an auto mechanics magazine. After high school graduation a girl friend
suggested that he see an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist found that Corkyís eyes were out of focus. As I recall, one eye
focused on reading matter at eight inches, the other at fourteen. He was put on an eye exercise program. After some months
on that program, Corky enrolled in college. He got a BA, an MA, and is now retired from a successful teaching career.)
If you see any hints of a vision problem (squinting at the screen, getting the face very close to the screen,
frequent rubbing of the eyes, signs of headache when reading), itís a good idea to see an ophthalmologist.
And remember my friend Corwin. Scoring 20-20 for each eye doesnít mean the eyes are focusing together.
MRI definition: Technically, perhaps this should be referred to as MRI observation instead of a definition.
But whatever we call it, MRI scans of the brain show graphic differences between dyslexic brain activity and
that of non-impaired readers. Viewing MRI scans is like looking inside an old wind-up clock to see how it
works, instead of inferring its inner workings from observing movement of the hands and hearing it tick.
(See Overcoming Dysexia by Sally Shaywitz, about $15 paperback, recommended reading for all parents of reading impaired kids.)
MRI scans shown in the Shaywitz book provide a peek inside the brain at the neurobiological reading
mechanism at work.(See Shaywitz pp82-84.) And, while Dr. Shaywitz does not infer causes, or fixes, for
dyslexia from those peeks, those images are better than at least a thousand words to make some sense of the
next definition, by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), that labels dyslexia as a neurological condition.
The International Dyslexia Associationís definition: The IDAís definition (see Appendix) says some fairly
well-known things about dyslexics Ė that they have trouble with spelling, word recognition, and word decoding.
And, as a secondary consequence, they have problems with reading comprehension. Secondary consequence?
But sarcasm aside, the IDAís definition says two important things about dyslexia that are not commonly understood.
(1) It says dyslexia is a neurobiological condition. And, while the IDA doesnít put it quite this way, that makes
it a no-fault affliction (as are stuttering and Tourette syndrome). Itís not the kidís fault. Itís not his parentsí fault.
Dyslexia does run in families, but thatís no more a parentís fault than passing on curly hair.
(2) The IDA definition says the reading impairment is unexpected given a studentís other abilities, and
given that he has had reading instruction known to be effective for most students. That is, there are not obvious
reasons for the problem. Itís not retardation, and the neurobiological condition is not caused by inadequate teaching.
BUT: The IDA would have done us a favor if it had added a copyright condition Ė that its definition was not to
be cited without the following caveat: While it appears to be true that the dyslexic is going to have reading
problems even with the best reading instruction, it is certainly true that dyslexic impairment is made worse by
two features seen in some reading programs:
Feature 1: A Wait To Fail policy, where, instead of routine and rigorous early screening, starting in semester-one
of grade-one, and providing extra attention for at-risk children, a child might be eight or nine years old before the
reading impairment is seen as serious enough to merit referral for remedial help. By that age weíve lost prime
time, when the brain is most receptive to learning skills for which it is not hard wired, like playing the violin,
learning a foreign language Ė and reading. (See Joseph Torgesenís Catch Them Before They Fall.)
Feature 2: Incidental Remedial Instruction, where skill deficits are treated only when incidents of those deficits
occur during oral reading sessions Ė instead of providing Focused Remedial Exercises. By focused exercises I
mean exercises and drills designed to concentrate a studentís attention on specific phonics and sub-skill deficits,
with that focused attention to go on for as long as the deficit is a handicap to reading. See the appendix for
Examples of Focused Drills.
9; 9; 9; 9; PART 4:THE SOUNDING-OUT PROBLEM
Letter-by-letter sounding out of words is considered by most people Ė including me Ė to be essential in primary
reading instruction. But a common deficit in the mid-elementary-and-up reading-impaired student is failure to
make adequate transition from that letter-by-letter sounding-out to word-part-decoding. When Beta (see Part 1)
started in the ExWyZee program his deficit in making that transition was severe. Not only did this sixth-grader
attack multi-syllable words letter-by-letter
(computer = c-o-mm-p-uu-t-e-rr, somnambulist = ss-o-mm-nn-a-mm-bu-uu-ll-i-ss-t), he attacked
three and four-letter words letter-by-letter, (tan = tu-an, gent = guh-ent).
The term "habitual response" is not strong enough to describe his approach to reading unfamiliar words, even
in reading familiar words when reading them aloud. His letter-by-letter procedure was a compulsion. Beta is by
no means an unusual case for this deficit. It is seen, to varying degrees, in most of the students who have been
evaluated for work in the ExWyZee program and found to be reading-impaired. But he was one of the most
severe cases Iíve seen.
After a few sessions with Beta I advised his parents that he should never again hear the words "sound it out"
from any of us. I said that we were not faced simply with teaching him to read the word somnambulist as
som-nam-bu-list, or somnam-bu-list, or som-nambu-list, but that we must intervene in his inclination to read it as
ss-o-mm-nn-aa-b-u-ll-i-ss-t. (I like somnambulist to make this point because it is so phonetically well-behaved.
And, since itís not in most kids' vocabulary, they canít read it as a sight-word.)
When telling a parent that we have to break a student of sounding-out words Iíve never had any of them actually
roll their eyes, but sometimes I detect a little tilt of the head or a pursing of the lips that suggests I have a selling
job to do. (I seldom suggest something so kinky on a first date.)
We, his parents and I, put Beta on focused exercises, exercises designed to make him aware of how he was
trying to read words, and to break him of that compulsive decoding behavior. I worked with him at weekly intervals,
and his parents worked on it between my sessions with him. See ExWyZee monograph, Separation of Words
on the Computer. We have pretty well broken him of the compulsion. It took most of a yearís work to do it.
It is most satisfying now Ė to see Beta backslide and begin to verbally sound out a word, then slap himself on
the face and recite "separate, separate, separate."
But what of phonics?
Making the case that we have to break a reader of trying to read multi-syllable words as sounding-out chores
doesnít mean that the reading-impaired student doesnít need phonics work. Almost all of them do. Not only had
Beta not made the transition to word-part decoding, but he had a serious deficit in reading three and four-letter
word parts (eg: abo, abot . . . zam, zema). Yes, he could sound-out zoro (zz-o-rr-o), but could not instantly blend
those four letter sounds (phonemes) and spit out zoro.
Here, then, is a quandary. When asking Beta to read zoro aloud, and hearing him begin by saying zz-o, we would
halt him and tell him that we didnít want to hear his brain working on the letters, that all we wanted to hear was
what his brain decided the word was. The quandary lies in the fact that itís not possible to intervene in a studentís
letter-by-letter sounding when he reads silently. Nevertheless, we believe that therapy had an important impact.
Today Beta will read four-letter words upon seeing them flashed on the computer screen for one or two seconds
(eg: sand, more, jump, July). On one hand, that could be depressing in view of the fact that the fluent reader
reads words at the rate of a few milliseconds. On the other hand, we donít expect Beta ever to read at that rate.
So we gladly settle for the remarkable improvement he has made in reading speed and comprehension.
What phonics exercises?
Hereís one kind. Given a list of rhyming words (and/or non-word letter-blends) and given the first word, the student
is directed to read the rest of the words in the list (eg: bent, dent, jent, kent, lent, ment, pent, rent, sent, tent, vent).
In case you think that such a simple exercise is trivial, you should see how difficult that task is for some
mid-elementary reading-impaired students. And reading such a list where the terminal letter of the words in the
list changes (bent, bend, benk, benz) is even more difficult. Reading non-rhyming words with internal-changes
(bell, ball, bull, bill, boll) is still more difficult. In severe cases what you hear at first is not a rhythmic recitation
of the rhyming words. What you will hear is the habitual sounding-out of each word, as if they are not even
Reading fluency will not be attained as long as a student is reading "Donís dog bit his left hand" as six
sounding-out-chores. The job we have is to turn the words, Don, bit, his, dog, left, hand into sight words Ė to
make them as instantly recognizable as the studentís own name on the paper. How can I make that assertion
with a straight face, when it would take several pounds of typing paper to print all 3 and 4-letter words
(and word-like letter combinations) in the English language? Itís not as outrageous as it appears. When a
student can instantly recognize, and pronounce, the words bent, dent, and fent, she is in position also to
pronounce gent, hent, jent, kent, lent, ment, nent, pent, rent, sent, tent, vent, went, yent, and zent. And instant
recognition of the members of that family puts her in position to decode the words in this family: cement,
intent, cogent, gentle, invent, relent, resent, rental. All of this raises the question: Will the fact that a student
can recite the members of that rhyming fent-gent list above mean he will instantly recognize the word Gents
painted on a door? Not necessarily. But we can be pretty sure he wonít recognize the members of that list
painted anywhere if he can not recite them in that rhyming list.
Two questions arise
(1) How much drilling is necessary to break the sounding-out compulsion? Answer: Short sessions, of ten or
fifteen minutes, eight days a week. (2) How long might it take to see satisfying results? Answer: It depends on
how long the student has been hearing the three words sound it out, when he should have been hearing the two
words, separate it. But for the kid with the serious deficit donít think in terms of a few lessons. Think in terms
of months. We saw remarkable improvement with Beta after a yearís work on ExWyZee SepCom drills.
It would be a mistake to think that, for the seriously-impaired student, drilling eight or nine days a week on
instantly recognizing word-parts will result in quick and painless transition from letter-by-letter sounding-out to
decoding by parts. It wonít. What those drills provide is an essential word-decoding tool Ė but not the inclination
to use it. By the time a student has spent two or three years stuck on the sounding-out level, habitual
letter-by-letter word-reading can be deeply ingrained in his brain. It can take months of word-part decoding
practice to train the brain to attack the word computation as com-puta-tion, or comp-u-tation, or com-pu-ta-tion,
or compu-ta-tion. We have to provide forced word-separation drills. So see ExWyZee SepCom Monograph
No. 2, Separation of Words on the Computer.
WHAT OF BETA NOW?
When we started with Beta he could not, on his best day, score better than 20% on reading 20 four-letter words
from the ExWyZee file of about 500 of them. He read july as julee, june as junee, gent as gu-ent, bone as bon.
Of course, he bombed on bomb, dumb, debt, goat, and coat. And that 20%-best was in drills where the words
stayed on the screen as he tried to read them. Today he will score 80 to 90% on reading 20 words from that
list as each word is flashed on the screen for one
or two seconds. How did we (his parents mostly) accomplish that? By rote drilling, drilling, and more drilling on
reading from the 500-word list. (The word-parts mort, lort and gort are not on that list, but he can now handle
them fairly well as spin-offs because fort, sort, and port are on the list.)
Beta will struggle all his life at reading words. But itís very satisfying now, and a bit funny, to see him regress,
and begin to read an unfamiliar word by sounding-out (eg: attacking salutation as ss-aa . . . ), then to look
sheepishly at me, slap himself on the face, and say, "Oh, yeah, separate, separate, separate," and then to
recite the parts sal-uta-tion.
9; 9;PART 5: A TROUBLING QUESTION: TO WHAT EXTENT MIGHT DYSLEXIA BE INDUCED?
First an analogy. Think of a hypothetical physical problem in your body caused by inability of your gut to absorb
vitamin DYS (DYS Deficiency Syndrome). If your body was born unable to absorb vitamin DYS, then your DYS
Deficiency Syndrome is a no-fault illness. But if your gut is okay, and vitamin DYS was routinely withheld from
your school lunch tray, then we might consider DYS-DS to be an induced illness. The question of induced
dyslexia comes to mind through data in a study by the Shaywitz team, Bennett and Sally. (Biological Psychology.
Bennet A. Shaywitz. Development of left occipitotemporal systems for skilled reading in children after a
A troubling scenario:
The Shaywitz team took reading-impaired students ages 6 to 9, made MRI brain scans of them and found those
scans to be typical dyslexic brain pictures of the sort shown in Sally Shaywitzí book, Overcoming Dyslexia. The
scans depict inadequate activation in dyslexics of certain left-brain regions involved in fluent reading. Then those
students were treated to phonologically-based (think phonics-based) concentrated reading instruction. After a
year of that instruction, for an hour a day, five days a week, MRI pictures were again taken. left-brain activity in
post-treatment scans was more like the typical pictures of the brains of fluent readers.
And the reading ability of the 37 students in the Experimental Intervention group improved commensurately.
The same scanning and pre and post-testing was done with reading-impaired control groups (40 students)
who received their schoolsí regular-classroom and regular-special-ed instruction. That groupís left brain activity
did not increase, and their average reading scores did not improve.
So what happened? While referring to those results as "brain repair" would be inappropriate, implying that brain
damage caused the studentís reading problem, "brain revision" does seem appropriate. Whatís so troubling
about it is the question of what the teachers in the study did to restructure those dyslexic brains. Did they invent
some innovative cutting-edge methodology for teaching reading? Or did they simply do things that should have
been done earlier and in a more focused instructional mode? As best I can tell from reading the research report,
and reading what has been written about it in the dyslexia literature, they used readily available teaching materials.
Since nothing in the report on the study suggests that the instructional materials were anything other than
materials readily available in the education marketplace, the implication appears to be that at least part of the
reading impairment in the students was due to insufficient prior reading instruction. If it is not quite fair to refer
to that as induced dyslexia, it might not be too harsh to refer to it as negligently aggravated dyslexia. In what
ways might those studentsí reading instruction have been insufficient? Two ways come to mind: See
Features 1 and 2 in Part 3 above.
Examples of focused drills:
1. ExWyZee SepCom exercises. Word-separation drills to promote the transition from letter-by-letter
decoding by parts. (Not to be confused with the common exercises of separating familiar words by syllables,
where decoding of words is the not the immediate objective of such drills.)
2. ExWyZee vowel-sounds exercises to develop facility at experimenting with vowel sounds in decoding
unfamiliar words. Including the two g-sounds (gorge) and the two c-sounds (cancer).
3. ExWyZee E-rule drills. (eg: What do these words become when the letter-e is attached to them, sit, ban,
dam, cot, zen, but?)
4. ExWyZee rote-reading snapshot drills. (eg: Seeing the word sister flashed for one second, and choosing
it from a multiple-choice list: sister, mister, sistern. Seeing the sentence "My motherís car is blue." flashed for two
seconds and choosing it from a list: My motherís car is blue. My motherís car is new. My fatherís car is blue.
5. Dumb-ending word-separation drills. Separating smart-part from dumb-part in words with absurd English
spellings (eg: con-scious, atten-tion, bro-ught, thor-ough). And then finding the more-or-less phonetic spelling of
those monstrosities in a list of them (tion=shun, scious=shuss, gue=g).
An adhesive tape remedy for the infamous b-d confusion.
JC was a dyslexic sixth-grader. When I met with him and his parents, to explore putting him in the ExWyZee
program, I had him read some isolated words on the computer. When seeing a word with the letter-b or the
letter-d, he immediately turned to one of his parents and asked "is-it-b-or-d?" And he was told which letter it was.
Later, in a diagnostic session with JC and his father, I put adhesive tape on the backs of JCís hands, printed
small-d on the left and small-b on the right, oriented so that when he held his hands with fingers pointed away,
he could see the letters. I told him that from now on nobody would tell him whether a letter was b-or-d, and that
he should look at the backs of his hands.
Also, I had him print cap-B on paper, had him erase the top loop, and pointed out that small-b is cap-B with
the top loop erased. He said, "Oh yeah, and d goes the other way." After that, when coming to a word containing
b-or-d, he raised both hands, looked at the tapes, and made the correct decision of whether the letter was b-or-d.
After two or three sessions with tape on his hands JC no longer needed that aid, and he chose not to have it
there. But I would sometimes see him look at the backs of his hands when confused by a word containing
b-or-d, even though there was no tape on his hands, and always make the correct decision about the
letter-b or the letter-d.
The International Dyslexic Associationís 2002 definition of dyslexia . . .
. . . a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate
and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from
a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive
abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems
in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and
PC Filename: Alaskan Dyslexia 4.