One of the most commonly asked questions is in regard to “How do I teach my child? He has dyslexia.” While teaching a child to read is another issue requiring an altogether different explanation, teaching a child who can’t read well does require instruction aside from typical books and papers.
Multi-Sensory instruction is the best means for teaching anyone. There are several good reasons to avoid focusing on one “style” when teaching persons with dyslexia, and any person for that matter, but the number one factor is that people with dyslexia are often intelligent and quite capable of learning all kinds of content when taught using audio-visuals, hands-on activities, demonstrations, etc.
There is also the Irlen Syndrome, which is a sensitivity to certain portions of the light spectrum making it difficult to read the written word on certain color papers and/or under certain lighting conditions. These problems are treated with color-spectrum altering lenses or overlays. This condition is also “medical” in nature, not a neurological processing issue, but sometimes labeled as “dyslexia”.
One issue with reading for learning can be found in ocular motor deficiencies (difficulty with smooth eye tracking) and scotopic sensitivity (sensitivity to glaring pages or some colors in the spectrum), sometimes inaccurately labeled as “dyslexia.” These are both visual problems, in which case the person MAY actually be a strong auditory learner, rather than learning well visually. These persons may be auditory learners, so teaching them strictly through a “visual” style would be detrimental their ability to learn.
“True” dyslexia as defined by the International Dyslexia Association, shows most persons with true dyslexia are “visual” learners because problems with phonemic awareness are linguistic in nature. Persons with true dyslexia are not strong in processing language/phonemes, so they are seldom auditory learners. Their primary and secondary learning styles are generally, but not necessarily always, visual and kinesthetic. This factor alone makes it better to teach a child with dyslexia through multiple learning channels.
A multisensory teaching study by M. Martini revealed that “all students had significantly better achievements with multisensory approaches than with either auditory or visual approaches,” (“Effects of Traditional Versus Learning-Styles Instructional Methods in Middle School Students”, Rhonda Dawn Farkus, 2003, The Journal of Educational Research, Vol 97, No. 1). In her learning styles, multisensory study, Rhonda Farkus states, “The power of evidence supporting the benefits of learning-style methodology is compelling,” (Farkus, 2003).
“Achievement scores of students who were taught with instructional resources that matched their preferred modalities were statistically higher than were the scores attained by students who were not taught with learning-styles methods. Moreover, when students were taught with multisensory instructional resources, although initially through their most preferred modality, and then received reinforcement through their secondary or tertiary modality, scores further increased,” (Farkus, 2003).
So, Multi-Sensory instruction is best.. Reinforcement of learning through multiple channels is well proved through study data. The most compelling study I’ve read to date on simultaneous multisensory teaching is “Sensory Mode and ‘Information Load”; Examining the Effects of Timing on Multisensory Processing” by Drew Tiene, Kent State University, International Journal of Instructional Media, Vol 27(2), 2000. This study shows clearly that hearing information, presented simultaneously with iconic visual input, is the most effective means of instructing. Using two channels of processing simultaneously allows the brain to process all at once and improves recall pathways through one channel or the other.
As far as teaching a person with dyslexia goes, the most effective methods are based upon Orton-Gillingham multisensory instruction geared towards simultaneous presentation to the auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile modes of learning. You might find the study “Teaching Reading in an Inner City School through a Multisensory Teaching Approach” (2002, Bouware-Gooden, Dahlgren, & Joshi, Annals of Dyslexia, Vol 52), interesting to read. Or perhaps, “Reflections. Teaching the secondary language functions of writing, spelling, and reading” (2003, Post, Y.V., Annals of Dyslexia, Vol 53).
One of my favorite studies is “Effects of Traditional Versus Learning-Styles Instructional Methods on Middle School Students” (2003, Farkus, R.D., The Journal of Educational Research, Vol.97 No 1). Farkus conveys, “Achievement scores of students who were taught with instructional resources that matched their preferred modalities were statistically higher than were the scores attained by students who were not taught with learning-styles methods. Moreover, when students were taught with multisensory instructional resources, although initially through their most preferred modality, and then received reinforcement through their secondary or tertiary modality, scores further increased,” (Farkus, 2003).
You can go through the Learning Abled Kids’ Multi-Sensory Training module to learn more about teaching your child with Multi-Sensory methods. Specifically for teaching persons with dyslexia, you might also want to look for the Orton-Gillingham Manual and other Orton-Gillingham related resources will help you find information on teaching reading via learning styles based instruction.
So, I hope this information helps you further reach your focus in determining how best to teach persons with any variety of learning disability. By using multiple means of teaching and input, most learners will be better able to retain the instruction they receive. One of the GREAT things about homeschooling is that you have the freedom and ability to use teaching DVDs, manipulatives, science kits, reenactments, hands-on projects, etc. for teaching your child and you don’t have to rely solely on traditional, classroom-style teaching and learning. You can serve your child’s needs well by using multisensory instruction on a daily basis!
Best Wishes! Sandy