Assistive Technology Dyslexia IPAD APPS SEND Phonics Reading Specific Learning Difficulties

The Last Post (on this anyway)

I’m responding to this where @thinkreadtweet replies to a blog I wrote about dysteachia.

We’re in danger of playing ping pong at who is the most successful at teaching children to read I know. But @thinkreadtweet says children with low intelligence cannot be taught to read and I vehemently disagree.  I’ve taught lots of students with SEN to read in special schools, FE college and in mainstream. To imagine children of a lower IQ can’t learn to read would be dreadful – I’d definitely be marching to a different tune if this were the case.

The trouble is when you attempt to highlight the exception rather than the rule you can get backed into a corner with a seemingly ridiculous stance:

‘No-one can read, there is nothing we can do for the poor loves’

The other side, the ones who insist everyone (who is clever enough) can read and dyslexia does not exist, become the do gooders.
‘I am challenging the low expectations of teachers who refuse to help these poor souls, this soft bigotry is why there’s an achievement gap between rich and poor – it’s not dyslexia it’s dysteachia bla bla’

I’ve had similar discussions regarding synthetic phonics. 

Me: ‘obviously phonics is an evidenced base route to reading but it’s not so simple – reading is complex, 50% of early vocabulary is irregular, oral language is key, analytic phonics really helps many children and we need familiarity of exception words. Creating a high stakes phonics check for year 1 teachers where the success of it is linked to their pay may mean a disproportionate amount of time is spent on learning how to decode ‘jound’ rather than immersing children into a language rich environment surrounded by real books (OK I went on a bit there).

Them: “Heretic – phonic denialist – you and your soft bigotry is why this country is riddled with illiteracy – it’s teachers like you who have caused the massive gap between the rich and poor’.

And so it goes on…

Progressive = Blob

Traditionalist = Tory 

Knowledge curriculum = Rows and Rote

Discovery Learning = chucked in a swimming pool when you can’t swim

I know we are getting into a cyclical argument of doom here so, I will correct a few inaccuracies in @thinkreadtweet’s post, watch Monty Python, then go to bed.  I’ve no doubt we will have to agree to disagree after this.

Firstly, my post where this all started suggested (for an articulate boy with dyslexia) a 1:1 systematic and cumulative reading programme alongside being taught with his typically developing peers in a mainstream English class. I did not say he wouldn’t learn to read but implied that putting him in a bottom set for English with students who, although read better than him, did not understand as well as him, was not addressing his specific needs.  

Secondly, Professor Julian Elliot never said discrepancy does not exist; he argues that using this as the sole marker for dyslexia, as a model, is unscientific and discriminatory. The Rose report showed that dyslexia can affect students across the ability range and cannot be identified via a pure discrepancy model but by deficits in phonological awareness, short term memory and rapid automatic naming. This does not however mean that there are no students who will have a disparity between their cognitive ability and reading/spelling. Of course these students exist! (And I imagine these are the ones Andrew was referring to when discussing non-responders).

Thirdly – Assistive Technology is not just for the physically disabled – what nonsense. There are many students (and lecturers) with specific learning difficulties at university using equipment such as Dragon Dictate.

Fourthly – when I write a post encouraging people to go to university despite having difficulties with reading and writing, how can that be low expectations? Especially when the other student I used as an example was going to be excluded because his dyslexia was ignored. 

As I repeatedly say, reading can be taught but many with dyslexia will still suffer from a lack of fluency or poor spelling – it is a life long condition. We try our hardest nevertheless to remediate the deficits. 

8 thoughts on “The Last Post (on this anyway)”

  1. Jules, the point is that this claim:

    “But @thinkreadtweet says children with low intelligence cannot be taught to read and I vehemently disagree.”

    is just not true.

    You really should apologise for this.

    1. Really? As I understood it @thinkreadyweet said Andrew’s comments regarding non responders were irrelevant as he was talking about people who were had low intelligence – I checked with Andrew specifically about this assertion and he told me that he hadn’t solely meant this category – and in my experience most students at special school learn to read – this was our debate. Our disagreemet comes from the fact that she thinks only people of low intelligence have reading difficulties – I argue that it can affect students across the ability range. if I have misrepresented @thinkreadtweet I will happily apologise.

  2. I appreciate you must feel offended, but I don’t think that makes the misrepresentation acceptable. The post you are referring to clearly doesn’t say that children of low intelligence can’t learn to read. In fact the examples given show the opposite. Just one question really: if dyslexia is a lifelong condition, and I teach a dyslexic to read, have I cured the condition or did they not have it in the first place?

    1. I would say that they may still struggle with one or all of the following: spelling, word retrieval, speed of phonological processing, organisation of thought, auditory sequential memory, reading out loud fluently.

      1. Take it how you want – I’ve answered your question. I’ll take that as you not having a clue about dyslexia and the impact it has on adults.

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