Success Stories

Mrs. Sharp is the best! It was hard work but worth it. I feel better about my reading and I have good work habits because of the tutoring. And I went from a kindergarten level to a high third grade level in one year.

- James, 10

...My son, who had dyslexia, was struggling with reading. He was starting third grade and I worried that if we didn't find something to help soon, he would struggle not only with reading but also with his self esteem for the rest of his life. Ann worked with him an hour a day and brought him up to a third grade level. He developed great work habits, found a tremendous increase in confidence, and discovered what it feels like to accomplish something great.

- Patti, mother of a son with dyslexia

I think Dr. Sharp is really fun and positive. She helped me learn to read and made me feel so proud of myself! Now I am not embarrassed when I have to read out loud in a group.

- Curtis, 12

Kryptonite Corner

Did you know that given the high prevalence of reading disabilities, it is more likely that your child will have a reading problem than any other physical problem? It is true. (Shaywitz, 2003) So what causes reading difficulties? For 80% of those who struggle with learning to read the culprit is something reading experts call a phonological weakness. A phonological weakness will range anywhere from mild to severe.

Just as Superman was left helpless when Kryptonite was around, a phonological weakness can be devastating to any superhero trying to learn to read. A phonological weakness is a malfunction in the communication area of the brain. A good reader's brain lights up in several places when he reads.

These areas of the brain are highly activated when a good reader is reading.

Most dyslexic's brain lights up in only one area when he reads. The language center of the brain remains dark.

When struggling readers are reading, most of the activity takes place in the frontal portion of the brain. They do not utilize the part of their brain that makes visual and auditory connections in language. This lack of usage is the physiological reason that they are not phonologically aware.

Phonological awareness is being aware of sounds in speech. The largest sound units are words, so being able to discern and manipulate rhymes and syllables is the beginning level of phonological awareness. The next most complicated level of phonological awareness is the onset and rime level. This is when children can pull apart the initial sound of a word from the rest of the word. The most complicated level is phonemic awareness. Phonemes are the smallest sound unit in speech. Because our alphabetic system based on associating phonemes (small sound units) with letters, it is critical for a reader to be able to hear these sounds separately. Phonemic awareness allows a reader to map letters to their sounds, and then blend those letter sounds into words. All novice readers must learn to do this.

Dr. Sally Shaywitz in her book Overcoming Dyslexia has identified some common symptoms of a person who is phonologically unaware. You will notice that a phonological weakness affects not only a person's ability to read but also a person's ability to communicate when speaking.

Don't worry if your child demonstrates some of these problems occasionally. However, if your child demonstrates a cluster of these problems and they are persistent then it is most likely a sign that your child will have or does have a reading problem.

Preschool

  • Has trouble learning nursery rhymes
  • Doesn't really enjoy rhymes
  • Mispronounces words
  • Has difficulty remembering names of letters
  • Does not know the letters in his or her own name

Kindergarten/1st Grade

  • Does not recognize that words can come a part
    • Batboy = bat + boy
    • Bat = b aaa t
  • Can't associate letters with their sounds
    • Forgets that the letter Mm makes the /m/ sound
  • Makes the type of reading error in which they do not connect letters to their sounds
    • Big is read as goat
  • Is unable to read common one-syllable words or to sound out even the simplest of words
    • mat, hop, net
  • Doesn't want to read, complains about reading, runs away
  • Comes from a family with a history of reading problems

2nd Grade and on

Speaking

  • Uses imprecise language
  • Pauses or hesitates often when speaking
  • Mispronounces long, unfamiliar words
  • Is unable to make a quick verbal response
  • Is often unable to find the exact word needed
  • Has trouble with memory for dates, names, telephone numbers

Reading

  • Makes very slow progress in acquiring reading skills
  • Lacks strategies to read new words
  • Guesses at unfamiliar words
  • Is unable to read small words lik "that", "an", "in"”
  • Omits parts of words when reading
  • Shows terrific fear of reading out loud
  • Oral reading is choppy and labored
  • Makes disastrous spelling errors
  • Has messy handwriting
  • Shows extreme difficulty in learning a foreign language

Adults

Speaking

  • Mispronounces names of places
  • Trips over words
  • Has difficulty remembering names
  • Struggles to retrieve words
  • Lacks glibness, especially if put on the spot
  • Has smaller spoken vocabulary than listening vocabulary

Reading

  • Has persistent reading problems
  • Becomes fatigued when reading
  • Reads slowly using subvocalization
  • Frequently sacrifices social life for studying
  • Is disinclined to read for pleasure
  • Continues to make disastrous spelling errors
 
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