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Effective Supports and Approaches Related to Dyslexia

 I have been using two main approaches to help  learners who struggle with de-coding in my class this year 2013.

  The Davis Approach is whole word learning.  It teaches the learner how to focus attention using a visual technique.  This approach uses the strengths of the learner.

 Multi-lit,which is a phonics, sound based learning approach.  It spends time building up the weakest area of the learner teaching them to hear and identify sounds in words.

 When I asked my 9 learners which method they preferred, seven choose the Davis Method and 2 the Multi-lit.  

 Details of the Davis Approach that I used in Class

 Firstly, I taught each child to gain attention through one of two methods.  Either “Hands on Shoulders” or “Minds eye on dot”  (both these are explained in the book).   Plus Release which is like deep breathing and Dial, which is like energy levels  up or down - being in control of being more awake and energized or the opposite - calm and slowed down.  These 3 things are called “Focus Tools”.

Secondly, we learnt the alphabet both lower and upper case by making each letter out of clay and mastering it.  To master a letter the student uses their focus tools.  They say the letter’s name plus something beginning with the letter.  Time is spent on letters which appear similar making sure that the learner can identify each one.

Thirdly, we started learning Trigger Words.  These are 219 words which are similar to the Essential Spelling Words.  They are all words which do not have pictures with them. For example,  if I say “House”  you will get a picture of a house in your brain.  If I say “the”  you probably do not have a picture.  The students make out of clay, a picture of the word they are learning.  They then make the word out of clay.  They then master it.

 So far this year, we have clayed (made) 90 Trigger words.  We clay one per day.  

This approach has helped the students who are over 8 years old the most.   

It takes time (15 mins?)  and it  helps the learner remember the word. All my over 8 year olds remember over 90% of the 90 words we have mastered this year.

It does not labor on phonics but on a visual and tactile learning method, although sound is included.  “The word says....”

It is fun and uses creativity.  

It does not produce stress for the student.

It is success based. 

It is dependent on the teacher being able to explain the method so the learner can understand and this does take skill.


For more information -  http://bit.ly/18O2yGn  

“The Gift of Learning”  by Ronald D. Davis and Eldon M. Braun or 

“The Gift of Dyslexia - Why some of the Smartest People Can’t Read... and How They Can Learn”  by Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M. Braun.   

 Details of the Multi-lit Approach that I used in Class

 Each student has a 10 - 15 min lesson each day.  They work through a workbook which has ordered certain sounds to be learnt.  They achieve mastery of the sound and work towards fluency where the sound becomes automatic.  They spend time practicing the sounds to achieve this alone and in words.  At the end of each Level, the student reads through a made up story to show their mastery of the sounds.  It also has a spelling component where the students learn to spell the word.

This approach is set up so it is easy for anyone to teach this method.  It is easy for the a teacher or teacher aide to use.

 For more information - http://www.multilit.com  

   I have found benefit from both approaches, although I am convinced that the Davis Focus Tools has helped each student significantly.  It has helped the Phonics approach be more easily absorbed.   It has given each student success without stress.  

Alongside these approaches, each student has an I Pad and are being taught to read using text to speech techniques and have access to other Apps to help them express their learning.



  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 08 Nov 2013 7:50am ()

    This year, I have learnt with 9 students.  I had an interest in dyslexia and trialling methods to help learning to de-code, and the school had 9 students who were struggling to learn to read. There ages range from Year 2 to Year 6.   We met up this year.  We have had a fabulous year together.  

    Conclusions?   Both methods work well together but the Davis Programme needs to go first.  Most students choose the Davis Clay Learning over the phonics based programme.  

    Did they improve?  All are still on Stanine 1 but here are the results of 3 students STAR (reading) scale scores.  Student 1:  Increase of 31.5  Average Increase for their year level is 8.9.   Student 2:  Increase of 52.1  Average Increase for their year level is 11.4.   Student 3:  Increase of 41.5  Average Increase for their year level is 11.4.

    Will I continue next year?  We all move back into a mainstream situation in large modern learning spaces.  

    Yes, my first priority is using the Davis Programme Clay Word Procedure and the Focus Tools.  I will teach this procedure to other teachers.  Yes, I believe it can be used by any one who wants to learn what a word looks like, what a word means and what a word sound likes.  Very easy to integrate into the classroom.  However, like anything new, takes time to learn the method.

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 08 Nov 2013 7:59am ()

    How cool is this!

  • Tara O'Neill (View all users posts) 13 Nov 2013 3:11am ()

    I also have a son with dyslexia so the advice I give is personal.  He is now 13 years old.  I have two other children with special learning needs too.  

    1.  A love for learning must come first before reading or writing skills.  Passion for learning is everything and must be protected.

    2.  Labels are helpful in that they offer guidance to those who teach and advocacy for parents in getting the right help.   There are two paths that I know of getting diagnosed - Education or Health.  On all three occasions for my children,  I have found the Health road the most helpful and encouarging.  You can always go privately. 

    3.  Finding the right specialised help is cruicial, but finding an intervention and support that gives the child self esteem for me has been the key.   Eg.  My son did all the extra intervention that his Primary School could offer including Specialist teachers but in the end "The Davis Programme"  was the breakthrough for him and the right fit.  There are many interventions and programmes available.

    4.  I believe in inclusion because it protects the learners self esteem and encourages them to learn with passion.  No excuses of age, or ability or disability or sex.  Holding learners back a class hoping this will improve their reading is not inclusion and not logical. Timely, appropriate and targetted interventions and supports that help the child learn are helpful and can happen in the context of any age group.   


    5.  My research and experience has led me to believe that some children with dyslexia may not get beyond a fluency of 9 - 9.5 years old in de-coding.  This may be a realstic expectation however, it doesn't mean their learning will stop at 9 -9.5 years.  We can provide them with rich de-coding learning opportunities, and help them to learn concepts at and above their age.  My son used to sit in with his appropriate "comprehension levelled reading group" and while he couldn't de-code at this level, he certainly could comprehend.  This site is good for schools to read www.4d.org.nz.   

    6.  There are so many technology helps out there for learners with dyslexia.  Text to speech, predictive text, voice recording.  Investigate which platform will best help your child and get them started.  I don't believe that technology every stopped someone from learning to de-code, it only supported their learning.  

    Finally, this is my experience, obviously everyone is different.  Believe the best of your learner, provide them with as much support as necessary but take heart, struggle can be helpful.  My son is not great at de-coding, actually he is terrible, but he loves to read using his kindle, he loves to learn and finds ways to learn all the time with his I Pad.  Recently, he got had his first paying job - teaching some adults how to use a website and facebook and got paid $25 an hour.  They said, they felt he was able to explain how to learn in a non-threatening and understandable way - could this be because he has had to struggle and knows what helped him to learn?

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