Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention | Spelfabet

Nice article explaining why some leveled texts might not be as useful as they seem.

Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention | Spelfabet.

Leveled book

Dyslexics and Letter Reversals

Many people think that the hallmark of dyslexia is letter reversals, writing letters or words upside or backwards.  Although many people with dyslexia have this problem, not all of them do.  It is by no means the hallmark of dyslexia that many people believe it is.  ALL children have trouble with letter reversals at a young age.  Dyslexic children may do it more frequently and until older ages.  Some will always struggle.  However, the problem has more to do with directionality issues and the special way that the brains of dyslexics work. It has nothing to do with eyesight!

Research has shown that a person with dyslexia will generally have a larger right brain hemisphere than a person without dyslexia.  Dyslexics tend to be strong right-brain thinkers.  This is part of why they have reading problems – reading occurs in the left hemisphere.  The right-brain is where we process a lot of creative and visual-spatial thinking.

When a child with dyslexia sees a letter, he often interprets it in three dimensions.  Thus, a stick and a ball are always a stick and a ball, no matter how you look at them.

bat and ball
To a dyslexic, b, d, p and q are all just different arrangements of the same thing.

And a letter S is just a snake.

A snake is a snake is a snake...
A snake is a snake is a snake…

It is easy to see how any young child can reverse letters, but easier to see how a child with particularly strong visual-spatial skills might not be able to understand why it matters which way you put the “objects” that make up a letter.

But have no fear, it is usually fairly easy to teach them some tricks to keep those letters straight!

To read a great article about this, check out The Gift of Three-Dimensionality We Call Dyslexia (

Dyslexia and Visual Problems

letter reversals
letter reversals

There is a lot of confusion about dyslexia and eye problems.  Dyslexia is NOT an eye issue.  Most children with dyslexia have completely normal vision.  Some do have a problem with letter reversals, particularly at younger ages, but that is due to directional confusion rather than eye issues.  (See Dyslexics and Letter Reversals.)  Most of these students can be taught not to reverse letters with some simple techniques.

Text may be blurry or appear to jump around
Text may be blurry or appear to jump around

However, some people may have an eye issue which is known by several names such as: Visual Stress, Scotopic Sensitivity, Asfedia, or Irlen Syndrome.  Irlen Syndrome is thought to be related to the interaction of the central nervous system and the eyes at a physiological level with light.  For example, a person may say that the text seems to jump around on a page.  A person with visual problems may be misdiagnosed as dyslexic because of a vision problem that makes reading difficult. It is also possible that someone with dyslexia may suffer from visual issues in addition to dyslexia.

It is important to note that there is great disagreement about the existence of Irlen Syndrome and its treatment.  Researchers say that there are other known eye problems that case these problems, not a separate syndrome.  They worry that people are spending money on highly advertised solutions like colored lenses and overlays without being evaluated and treated for appropriate underlying causes.  In 2004, the American Optometric Association released the following statement:

There is evidence that the underlying symptoms associated with the Irlen Syndrome are related to identifiable vision anomalies, e.g., accommodative, binocular, and ocular motor dysfunctions, in many patients seeking help from colored lenses. Furthermore, such conditions return to normal function when appropriately treated with lenses, prisms, or vision therapy. When patients exhibiting the Irlen Syndrome were treated with vision therapy, their symptoms were relieved. These patients were no longer classified as exhibiting this syndrome, and therefore did not demonstrate a need for the colored overlays or tinted lenses.

On the other hand, many people feel that colored lenses and overlays are very helpful.  Placebo effect?  A lot more research needs to be done.  It certainly will not hurt to use colored paper and colored overlays.  In fact I try to print student work on blue paper just in case there is an undiagnosed eye problem.  It may even be useful to use overlays while undergoing treatment if you find it cuts down on eye strain.  I would stop short of investing in colored glasses without first visiting a qualified ophthalmologist.  An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor.  Please do not substitute a visit to the optometrist at your local glasses store!

Orthography and Dyslexia

Matrix for base word "act"
Matrix for base word “act”

I was going to write an article about my new-found love of working with orthography that Kelli Sandman-Hurley (of the Dyslexia Training Institute) introduced me to, but Kelli says it better.

I now use these techniques with all of my students to supplement the Orton-Gillingham program (Barton Reading and Spelling System).  I continue to attend seminars and classes to learn more about linguistics and orthography.  I attended a weekend seminar with Pete Bowers (The Word Works Literacy Center) and Gina Cooke (Linguist Educator Exchange) whom Kelli talks about in this article.  Mind blown!  World rocked!  Soon I begin working with Michel Rameau of Real Spelling who started it all!

Please read about it here:

Dyslexia: When Spelling Matters.


What are dyslexia and dyscalculia, and how do they affect our lives?Brain with gears

Very briefly, they are both specific learning disabilities in which a person has a discrepancy between what they are achieving in a specific area and their overall intelligence.  Generally their IQ in all other areas is average or above average.  People with dyslexia are intelligent people who have trouble with language.  People with dyscalculia are intelligent people who have trouble with numeracy and mathematics.  In both cases, there generally seems to be a genetic link.

CavemanDyslexia research has shown us specific areas of the brain that seem to be wired differently.  People are now beginning to think of it more as a cognitive difference than a cognitive defect.  People are born with a natural ability to speak and understand language.  Reading and spelling, however, are not innate.  Some people have brains that are just designed to process written language more efficiently.  Some people call it “word blindness.”  If you can imagine, throughout most of human history, written language was not necessary to live or thrive.  People with dyslexia did not have a disadvantage, in fact, their strong visual-spatial skills may have put them at an advantage.  It is our use of written language in society that has changed over time, making it more important to be able to read and write.

Count the dots

While there has been a lot of research on dyslexia, the research on dyscalculia is much more sparse.  There is still a lot to learn here.  Dyscalculia is sometimes called “math dyslexia,” or “number blindness.”  People with dyscalculia have trouble with basic numeracy.  Again, while people have an innate ability to understand larger or smaller quantities based on visual assessment, numbers themselves are an abstract concept, and the mathematics we do with numbers is even more abstract.  These are skills that must be learned and are not innate.  Some people have brains that are structured so that this is harder for them to learn.  Again, this was not so important while trying to hunt large animals, so what is now perceived as a problem is a very recent phenomenon.  People with dyscalculia can have trouble with math in different ways, but very often it is the abstract qualities of numbers that underlie the problem.

Multisensory - I can!So, how do we help?  In both cases, we must help develop new connections in the brain.  In some ways, we have to think about how a child learns since this is how we first make those connections.  Children learn by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, feeling, hearing — using their senses.  This is how we have to teach people with dyscalculia and dyslexia.  We must use multi-sensory learning to retrain the brain.  Then we can move to more abstract ways of thinking.

Multi-sensory learning is at the heart of what we do at DYScover learning.

I hope you will explore our website more to learn more about us!