How does a parent or teacher decide where to get help for dyslexic children? How do you sort effective treatments from those that make confident claims to cure dyslexia?
LearnFast asked Devon Barnes, speech pathologist and dyslexia specialist for her advice.
Key points from the interview included:
- Remedial teachers, educational psychologists, and speech pathologists may be able to help.
- Neuroscience programs, such as Fast ForWord, can treat underlying processing deficiencies in the child’s brain.
- Best to combine neuroscience programs with good one to one therapy and instruction.
Watch the video interview:
Prefer to read the video transcript? Here it is.
Dyslexia – Where to Get Help
Interviewer: Turning now to how to get help with dyslexia. If I was to Google getting help with dyslexia, I am sure there would be thousands, perhaps millions of results. How do I sort out the good help from the bad? And why should I even be listening to you?
Devon: I think that's a dilemma for all people, and parents of children who might suspect their child has dyslexia. My personal story is, I've been a speech-language pathologist now for 40 years. In the early years of my profession, we thought our job was done when we had the child...we developed their oral language. They might have come to us because they were slow to learn to talk, or had difficulty in making speech sounds. And we thought our job was done when they were five or six, and they were speaking well.
But we came to realize that many of these children with language difficulties go on to have dyslexia, because in essence, dyslexia is a language skill. And so, speech pathologists then became much more involved in treating dyslexia because it's just a natural flow on from developing a child's oral language. So, we have a lot of expertise now, where we can assess and manage children with all kinds of reading impairment.
Interviewer: And so, your profession has been accumulating this knowledge now for decades?
Devon: 30; I'd say 30 or 40 years. And I myself have specialized in the last 25 years in the assessment and management of children with reading disability and in dyslexia. And so, I have immersed myself in the knowledge. I've gone to conferences. I read very widely -- journal articles, text books. I'm ever trying to understand how to manage these kids better and get the best outcomes for them.
Interviewer: If I was talking to someone who I thought could help me with a dyslexia issue, what would be a couple of key indicators that might make me a bit wary?
Devon: Well, you'd want to know what their background, experience and knowledge is, would be one thing. There are some systems out there that claim to cure dyslexia, but anyone can train in those systems. You can be anyone really, and just do a little bit of training and then reportedly treat dyslexia. That's very concerning to me, because someone like that would not have the background knowledge about all the processing difficulties that are there in a person with dyslexia. So, you want to find out what the person's background knowledge is.
People who have a background in teaching, particularly remedial teaching, educational psychologists, and speech pathologists, are usually the best informed people to manage and treat dyslexia. But that being said, you also need to find out what the person's experience is in assessing and treating dyslexia.
Interviewer: What about the family GP? Is that maybe a starting point?
Devon: Well, my understanding is that many GP's don't really have a lot of understanding about dyslexia. But they certainly may know of people that they can refer a family to for help. And again, it could be a local educational psychologist or remedial teacher, or a speech pathologist.
Interviewer: In our discussions so far, you've talked a lot about technology and how technology can help. Have you come across computer-based or software technology that can help with dyslexia? Or is it still very much a person to person method of treatment?
Devon: Very much, children do need that one on one intervention. But that being said, there are now some very effective computer programs that can treat the underlying processing issues in dyslexia programs. Like the Fast ForWord program specifically works on fine tuning the brain's ability to distinguish those speech sounds that I talked about earlier, and it's very effective in treating the underlying processing difficulties.
It's not necessarily teaching the child to read. They will still need good one on one instruction, but the neuroscience based programs like Fast ForWord really get to the core processing issues. So then, when the child goes and has one on one intervention, they'll get a lot more out of that intervention, because we've primed their brain. Now their brain's more ready to receive that instruction.
Interviewer: Devon, thanks for your time.
Devon: My pleasure.