Saturday, 13 October 2012

Phonological processing/ Phonics

Phonological processing
What I am about to write makes me feel quite fearful. I am unsure who I am about to annoy; who I am about to even anger or even who will have the courage to stand up for what they  know.  Over the years I have met many of the ‘leading people’ in the world of dyslexia. Not one has ever openly opposed the logic of my work. Many are initially positive but then go into a state of denial or silence as if there is a fear of being tainted by the ideas.
I started working in this field with the sole purpose of enabling young people, my students, to succeed more at school.
In  2000 it became clear that Microsoft Word was an important tool which allowed the personalisation of text, that you could measure/could calculate exactly what a person needed to help them the most (Optimal settings). We did not worry about what mechanism was being blamed for their difficulties, or what the latest theory / hypothesis was. What mattered is  what worked.
What was agreed in the first decade of the new century was that people who got diagnosed as ‘dyslexic’ often seem to have a problem with phonological processing. But that difficulty only seems to be associated with reading, not talking. Or when they have to visualise the positions of ‘letters’ within ‘spellings’ or the spellings themselves.  This appears to be about the visual representations of sound. Not the sounds themselves.
Indeed the ‘Phonics’ based approaches that have been developed are concerned with visual representations of sounds, and the way strings of sounds are then blended together in to words.
So if slow reading/reading difficulties are ‘avoided/solved by ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ then there will be no problems in reading for those 9 or 10 year olds who have been properly ‘processed’ sorry ! I mean educated.  Ok SENCO’s speak out please. Is this true are all of the children who have gone through these schemes now a fluent reader. In Clackmannanshire where the game began in the UK, what did happen to those children? They took external examinations the other year at the age of 16. Why aren’t the researchers shouting about how well they did?  How well did they do? It should have been spectacular.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps they did. Then someone please tell us. 
Ok perhaps there was a fault in the phonics argument. Perhaps they should get the visuals correct as well. Put the two together.
Last week, I worked with a very clever 17 yr old. Her reading speed was less than 40 words a minute; with no fluency. She had been identified as dyslexic, thousands of pounds spent on her in the education industry. NO ONE had looked at the easy stuff.
A month ago she got her first pair of corrective glasses. I used an eye tracker with her to find out what her eyes were doing when she read.  We used the size of font which was ‘best for her. FONT 22.. which she said was much easier to see than anything bigger or smaller.
On a normal computer screen her eyes had to stop and look at virtually EACH letter in turn. Even on the simplest words.
When the screen is correct for her she is taking pictures of groups of three letters.

This resulted in her reading around three times faster and when reading aloud the beginning of fluency, sounding out separate  phrases.

How come she could blend sounds and start being fluent without phonological training. Had this part of her brain been ‘cured’!   If you cannot see groups of letters and are putting such huge demands on your working memory then you cannot develop phonological skills.
What we did on Friday cannot be true if the orthodox model is correct.
If the orthodox model is not correct how will the education industry respond?

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