Guessing games are fun, and while reading is also fun and enjoyable, it should never be a guessing game. Students with a reading disability feel stressed when reading without learned phonetic skills. Many students are taught to read using redirection that relies heavily on memory. For example, a child is taught to identify the word “cat” using a picture of a cat. Later, while the child is reading, he or she may read the word “car” as “cat.” When the error is pointed out, the student may feel humiliated, while also feeling the pressure to learn the new word by memory. As other words are introduced, confusion and frustration grows. The child may see “cap” or another similar word while reading. This continual process becomes a guessing game, whereas the child relies solely on memory and guessing to read the correct word. As more words and more difficult vocabulary are introduced, embarrassment continues, leading to damaged self-esteem, panic, and frustrated guessing. At this point, reading the correct words is based solely on chance.
Public schools generally teach reading without utilizing strong phonetic programs, and often, students are learning to read at home or in preschool programs. The lack of phonetic programs leads to an increase in reading delays, far more in the United States than there should be. The method of “guess-pass” reading has been shown to create reading delays in children who are not dyslexic.
Approximately 20% of the U.S. population suffers from this disability. The reading process begins at birth when children hear sounds and learn to attach these sounds with the movement of the mouth and lips. Keen hearing is needed to develop adequate reading skills. A child who suffers from frequent colds or ear and throat infections during the first five years when sound discrimination is developing often loses some acuteness in hearing, which impacts reading preparedness. Ear infections due to food allergies, most notably milk allergies, may also be a culprit. In these cases, hearing may be impaired periodically. This is a common condition known as conductive learning loss, and it prevents the brain from making clear links between the sounds that are heard.
The inability to hear the detailed sounds in words can be a problem when phonemes are present, even when hearing tests appear normal. A delay in phonemic awareness becomes a reading disability known as dyslexia, although some educators do not recognize this disability. This leaves students feeling misunderstood when their disorientation leads to frustration.
At Sappo, an Orton-Gillingham-based reading program is used to strengthen symbol/sound correspondence. This program is designed to encourage reading through different methods, including:
Once these skills are taught and reinforced through mastery progression methods, a student’s self-esteem begins to improve. Sappo teachers are attentive to the student’s strengths throughout the program, highlighting the often unnoticed learning gifts of the dyslexic child, including creativity and empathy. These gifts can serve as a model for other students in areas of social awareness, humanism, and kindness. The Sappo trained educator takes notes of these strengths and ensures the student is aware of them. Through this program, each dyslexic student or delayed reader greatly improves in reading while also developing the confidence necessary to thrive academically and emotionally.