Approximately 15-20% of the general population has difficulty acquiring language and literacy skills, including the processes of receptive and expressive language, reading, writing, and spelling. Within this 15-20% of the population, variations occur in the severity and the scope of literacy and language acquisition. Students who struggle with the development of language, reading, spelling, and writing skills often flounder in the general school setting, and many miss early developmental milestones that are critically related to the development of language and literacy skills.
When important developmental milestones related to literacy are missed, students fail to build the foundational skills necessary for the next stage of development. They are unprepared for the next level of instruction, and so the cascade of a language-based learning disability takes root.
It is not uncommon for both parents and teachers to overlook missed or delayed developmental milestones related to literacy. As parents, we can be blinded to our child’s deviant development, and as teachers, we can be focused on curriculum requirements and teaching standards, and fail to recognize the impact of a few students who perform a bit behind the target mark. The ultimate goal and mission of the Lil’ Reading Scientists TM curriculum is to catch children before they begin to fail.
Teacher’s colleges and universities who educate general elementary teachers generally offer and require only one or two classes in the discipline of literacy. It is unfortunate that teachers in the certification process are not more submerged into the science and research of literacy development. Pull-out literacy remediation programs in schools often provide the students who qualify with “more of the same” instruction that is going on in the regular classrooms setting. Even in graduate level reading specialist degree programs, the course focus relies heavily on literature and comprehension skills, while paying little attention to research-based strategies related to phonemic awareness, decoding, encoding, and blending. Additionally, the curriculum publishing houses follow suit with the teacher education institutions, by producing reading and literacy programs targeted to students who have strong language systems and, therefore, have the ability to extrapolate phonics skills from curriculum which is largely literature-base focused.
Thus, often, a student with a language-based learning disability continues to receive inappropriate and ineffective literacy instruction throughout his schooling career, which serves to create a secondary emotional cascade of frustration, low self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy.
The International Dyslexia Association remains committed to the use of the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction, and has made great strides in promoting scientifically-based reading methodology. The IDA has worked at the legislative, school, teacher, and parent levels, to disseminate information regarding the importance of multisensory structured language education (MSLE). Their commitment to MSLE is supported by The National Reading Panel, The National Research Council on Reading, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Former IDA President Margaret Byrd Rawson states:
“Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language – the sounds and the letters which represent them – and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for conscious organization and retention of their learning.”
The time has come for all students to have access to appropriate literacy education, regardless of the source. More multisensory language education teachers are needed to meet the needs of a relatively large sector of the general population. By committing yourself to multisensory structured language education, you are touching the lives of many struggling children, and perhaps changing their lives forever!