* YDCD: Cool site on dyslexia

It’s no surprise that Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz have founded one of the best sites around for info on dyslexia.  The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (YCDC) provides terrific resources for educators, families, and kids.  As the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” and a leading figure in ongoing research on dyslexia, Sally Shaywitz focuses on both the strengths and challenges experienced by folks with dyslexia.

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This wonderful site features:

  • Research on dyslexia, including the rationale for calling dyslexia an “unexpected difficulty” in reading by individuals who have the intelligence and motivation to read.
  • A powerful section of resources for kids, parents, educators, and policy makers.  You’ll find terrific student tips and poignant stories featuring young people from a wide range of backgrounds- and all of it is printable!
  • Success stories of folks who have used used their unique learning style for good (and no, they are not all actors!).
  • Advocacy tools for parents and educators, including helpful strategies for raising awareness of dyslexia, social media suggestions, and more.
  • A news and press section with summaries of current news articles on dyslexia and newsletters from YDCD.

I highly recommend this site as a starting point for learning more about dyslexia.  YDCD is also a place where educators and families can find support in their dyslexia journey, which can be tough but oh, so rewarding!



* What nonsense!

NonsensicalSilly UselessImpediment to instructionUnnecessary.  I’ve heard all these expressions, and more, to describe the use of nonsense words in teaching phonics.  A recent opinion column argued that there are enough unfamiliar words to go around, so why would teachers make up words?  An interesting volume is available through Heinemann Publishers, which decries the use of DIBELS in assessing and driving reading instruction. Anti DIBELS pdf

This is not a post about the merits or “demerits” of DIBELS for assessment; the majority of students will learn to read fairly easily without ever seeing a nonsense word.  Unless they read Dr. Seuss, of course.  I am writing to say that nonsense words play an important role  in reading instruction for kids with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.  These kids struggle with the alphabetic code.  They struggle to manipulate sounds.  They can’t read chapter books in second grade.  They feel stupid no matter how bright they are.  (Check out this article on Forward which concludes: People with dyslexia tend to be creative and out-of-the-box thinkers, the very characteristics that can mask the fact that a child is having a tough time reading.)  It is unfair to paint reading instruction for all kids with the same brush.  And that’s where nonsense words come into play.

For those reading disabled students who must learn phonics systematically and sequentially, nonsense words allow them to practice phonics skills on words they have not already memorized.  These pseudo-words, as they are also described, allow intervention-resistant students to get the extensive practice they require.  Without the use of these words for both practice and monitoring progress of their skill acquisition, these kids may not get adequate instruction.   Refer to Sally Shaywitz’s terrific book, “Overcoming Dyslexia” or read her online discussion with folks from Reading Rockets for more details.

Let’s not undermine effective instruction for struggling readers by tossing nonsense words under the DIBELS bus.