I have worked with many dyslexic kids over the years, there are never any decent resources or help that actually works. Sight words seem to set them back. I want to get certified to teach a program that works really well for kids and learn to assess and train teachers. I was thinking Orton-Gillingham, however the priority is my grade 7 boy at barely a grade 2 reading level that needs help. What program is the best for him? What is the best for me to get certified to help train other teachers to teach kids how to read and assess them early?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

There are many programs that exist that are based on structured literacy, the term coined by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) in 2014 to describe the intervention that is needed to remediate dyslexia. I have many of these programs listed here .

The first order of business is a good comprehensive assessment of this student's language and literacy skills as that sets the stage for intervention. The challenge is that this student is now in 7th grade and we know the younger a student is the better the outcomes. The slope of the learning trajectory line begins to flatten out as students get older (i.e., change happens more slowly). This can be challenging in keeping the student motivated when success happens more slowly. According to Sally Shaywitz in her book ‘Overcoming Dyslexia,’ which I'd highly recommend you get a copy of, it takes a minimum of 300 hours of intervention to teach a student with dyslexia the skills he needs. And the more intensive, the better. Note that Dr. Shaywitz does not use the term structured literacy in her book as that wasn't coined until 2014, but the intervention she outlines IS indeed structured literacy.

My colleague, Karen Wasco, at my private practice is currently working her way through a certification program and, quite honestly, she is finding it more arduous that we'd have thought. Here are a couple of ideas for you.

She is having to run the gauntlet to get answers and find a mentor. Luckily, she has our office to support her as far as getting a client with whom she can work as she also needs to be observed. Fortunately, a colleague and friend of mine is an Orton Fellow and he lives here, so he has agreed to mentor her. I'd have thought that these organizations would be more forthcoming in helping people get certified given the need out there. I'm just telling you all of this, so you'll persevere.

Given that this student is in 7th grade, he needs accommodations in addition to intervention. I'm not sure, given his religion, what role tech plays for these people. Many of today's accommodations involve technology -- it is helping to level the playing field for these students. Regardless, he needs to have text read aloud to him. He should not be struggling to access grade-level text. And, he should be able to dictate his thoughts, ideas, understandings for someone to write down. He should be able to take his exams orally, for example. There are a number of options when a student can't read or write.