Book Excerpt: 'Overcoming Dyslexia'

Yes, and in general, public school programs for children with reading disability are failures. As it was for Sam, the designation special education per se is insufficient. Parents of a reading-disabled child must carefully examine the specifics of their child's reading intervention. Special-education programs tend to stabilize the degree of reading failure rather than close the gap between a dyslexic student and his classmates. The evidence is overwhelming. One study that examined children's reading before and after they spent three years in a resource room as part of special education found no changes in word reading scores relative to their peers and a significant decline in their performance on measures of reading comprehension. Findings from another study echoed these results; fourth and fifth graders receiving special education showed virtually no change in their rate of reading growth compared to their rate of growth when attending regular classes previously. It is not surprising to learn, therefore, that researchers observing the daily activities in resource rooms confirmed that the reading programs the children were receiving lacked essential elements found in effective interventions, such as intensity and small size (groups were from five to nineteen children). Furthermore, there was minimal individualization even though the children varied widely in their reading skills. To make matters worse, since such children are pulled out of their regular classroom instruction, they often miss the language arts teaching taking place in their absence. The result is that the most needy students tend to receive the least reading and language instruction. Studies examining "inclusion classrooms," where children receive special reading help within their own regular classes, show similar findings: Children demonstrate little change in their reading ability relative to their classmates. On the other hand, studies show that children receiving the new scientifically based programs made large and lasting reading gains, far surpassing their previous rate of growth. With the implementation of the Reading First legislation, I am optimistic that far fewer children will require special education and those who do will benefit from the scientifically based programs that I have recommended.

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