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Room 101

Fad, fraud and folly in 'dyslexia' and the teaching of reading.

''There is an established, and very rewarding, dyslexia industry. There is considerable academic and commercial vested interest. There seem to be as many aetiologies for (causes for or origins of) dyslexia as there are researchers into it, give or take, and as many wonderfully special assessment methods, remedial schemes, dedicated schools and distinguished gurus as the market will carry''(Kerr p89)

''(T)he word "dyslexia" has taken on a variety of interpretations over the years, and it has provided a vehicle for people who want to make a quick buck from distraught parents'' (Prof. Tymms. TES.04/11/05)

''(W)hen a child has problems, parents often feel guilty, and they can to some extent assuage that guilt by doing something. So alternative interventions are especially likely to be taken up in situations where the mainstream options are seen as ineffective and parents feel powerless to make a difference'' (Prof. Bishop. BDA 2008 ppt)

''It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write'', says Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, Manchester (Stringer.12/01/08)

Alternative therapies for reading difficulties, ''generally have a weak (or non-existent) evidence base and poor efficacy, and often rely on the superficial attractiveness of a promised instant (and comparatively effortless) ‘cure’' (Singleton p22)

''If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion'' Robert A. Heinlein.

''If you think you know the truth without having to collect any data, that saves a lot of time'' Stanovich p382

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence C. Hitchens.

Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware!

Controversial dyslexia therapies

Vision therapies:

Irlen Syndrome

''Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities..Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended''

''It is important, therefore, that parents understand that dyslexia and other learning disabilities are not disorders of vision and so visual therapy is misdirected. Scientific evidence shows that behavioural optometry treatments such as eye tracking exercises, vision therapy, weak glasses to relax the focus, and coloured lenses/overlays do not help children read any better.''

“Despite Irlen Syndrome being first described in the early 1980s, there is still no sound theoretical basis or evidence that the condition actually exists. A diagnosis of Irlen Syndrome is based solely on symptoms with no quantitative physiological correlation.”

Questioning the benefits that coloured overlays can have for reading...

''Teams from Bristol and Newcastle universities carried out eye tests on more than 5,800 children and did not find any differences in the vision of those with dyslexia...Where there were dyslexic children with eye problems, the occurrence was no more likely than for non-dyslexics, the study found. And a large majority of dyslexic children were defined as having "perfect vision" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32836733

The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of coloured filters for reading disability: A systematic review

''There are a lot of abnormalities of the eyes that normal readers have as well, so tinted lenses and overlays have no foundation as a bona fide treatment for reading problems in any research that I'm aware of'' (Prof. Vellutino quote in Mills. The Dyslexia Myth)

''(T)here is no evidence supporting a causal link between visual stress and dyslexia...assessment of visual stress and response to treatment is usually by subjective report'' (Rose 2009. p115)

NLP Magical Spelling

NLP Magical Spelling is based on the ideas of NLP practitioner Robert Dilts http://nlpu.com/Articles/artic10.htm
''A remarkable quick way to improve your spelling, reading, memory and dyslexic symptoms, in any language...the way that nature intended, by being able to visualise''. It was promoted by the Arkell Dyslexia Centre in the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust's spring/summer 2014 newsletter.

More nonsense for teachers to avoid: ''here’s a whirlwind tour of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and a brief explanation for why it’s utterly misleading nonsense''

01/14: NLP Magical Spelling was endorsed by the DfE in training materials they commissioned for teaching children with SpLD Dyslexia: see http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/ -> http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/module4/M04U15.html

NLP Magical Spelling is incorporated into Sunflower Therapy: ''After just a few sessions, Carolina says she can get dyslexic children to spell eight-letter words backwards. "Kids are often taught to learn through writing, left to right, and that doesn't often help dyslexic kids, so we use the whole body to learn through movement," she said. Carolina will show a child a word and tell him to visualise it. Then, she teaches him to spell using the whole body, often jumping or waving an arm to each letter, or spelling the word from the outside in, rather than from left to right'' http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/features/Carolina-helping-challenged-children-overcome-problems/

ttp://www.sunflowertrust.com/index.php Sunflower therapy consists of applied kinesiology, physical manipulation, massage, homeopathy and herbal remedies, plus 'Magical Spelling' which is based on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)  A randomised, controlled trial of Sunflower therapy, (Bull, L. 2007), for children with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia), found that there were similar gains in test scores for clinical and control children.

''(C)ontrolled trials show that the claims of applied kinesiology have no basis in reality'' (Singh/Ernst. p164)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

 APD: Where commercial and clinical interests collide: ''Given the lack of agreement on diagnostic criteria and lack of recognition in formal guidelines, it’s impossible to find sensible epidemiological data on APD''

Primitive reflexes / Patterning

Son of Brain Gym: Dancing to Nursery Rhymes Boosts A-Levels or something

www.inpp.org.uk/ According to the INPP ''Primitive reflexes develop during uterine life. They should be fully present at birth and are gradually inhibited by higher centres in the brain during the first 6 to12 months of post-natal life. If they are activated by minor stimuli in the environment at a later age, they can interfere with the development of more complex skills.''

Quack Watch examines Doman and Delacato's 'patterning' theory.

Psychomotor Patterning =pseudoscience

''(I)t is still a concern that there has been a failure on the part of advocates of primitive reflex therapy to establish any convincing connection between infant motor reflexes and the complex process of learning to read'' (Muter p 181)


According to a 2017 article ''The [Dore] program is currently operating in over 30 schools in the United Kingdom''

BadScience on Dore

Miracles Take a Little Longer: Science, Commercialisation, Cures and the Dore Program

STEP Physical Literacy

The STEP Physical Literacy programme: have we been here before?

Brain Gym


DavisŪ Dyslexia Correction Programme

''The Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme was developed by Ronald Davis to overcome his own learning difficulties. Davis sees dyslexia as a talent...The Programme helps the individual to discover his innate gift, and to apply it to the learning difficulty. In this way the blockages to effective learning are removed. Clients are shown how to clear up confusions regarding letters, numbers, words and language symbols and are aided in the process by the use of clay''

Blog posts discussing the Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme



Specialist dyslexia teaching and Orton-Gillingham programmes

The dyslexia lobby suggest that the qualifications they endorse and for which they provide training (see O-G below) come at the very top of a 'training pyramid of expertise'. Nevertheless, a teacher who got to the top of the 'dyslexia training pyramid' reported that the particular course of study that she followed to gain AMBDA status ''was next to useless'' as far as enabling her to teach anyone to actually read and write.

Professor Julian Elliott asked on twitter ''Claims that O-G and multisensory approaches are the 'gold standard' for dyslexics. Where is the scientific evidence?''

The majority of so-called 'specialist dyslexia teachers' are trained, solely, in programmes based on the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach. For many decades O-G was the recommended form of reading intervention with far more phonics content than would be encountered in the average classroom, and for that it should be given credit. Unfortunately, it remains mired in the theories and beliefs from the time it was first devised, early in the 20th century. The O-G programmes have failed to incorporate the best of recent, research-based practice or eliminated content which is now known to be unnecessary and ineffective. Many common O-G procedures, such as the laying out wooden alphabet letter shapes in an arc whilst naming the letters, have no research base and are simply time-wasting. Several O-G practices are actually detrimental to the effective teaching of reading, such as syllable-type rules (see research below), 'finding little words in big words' and the use of sound units larger than the phoneme such as onset and rime - see 'what not to do'. Additionally, many specialist dyslexia teachers remain in thrall to the myths of learning styles, multiple intelligences and left brain/right brain dominance theories, which have no credence except in pop psychology circles.

The inadequacy of specialist dyslexia teaching was confirmed in Singleton's 2009 Dyslexia Review; ''Brooks (2007) has described ratio gains of between 1.4 and 2.0 as having ‘small impact’ and being ‘of modest educational significance’; ratio gains less than 1.4 he classes as being of ‘very small impact’ and ‘of doubtful educational significance’. On this basis all the results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether), since the largest ratio gain was only 2.0 (except at Moon Hall School [which uses a linguistic phonics programme similar to the Sound Reading System]'' (Singleton p74)

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA: formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society) is the umbrella organisation for Orton-Gillingham teaching programmes in the USA. The British Dyslexia Association is its UK partner. In a past article on its website requesting donations to carry out research, the IDA admitted that, ''there is no substantial body of scientific research supporting the efficacy of the multisensory component in structured-language reading instruction'' i.e. O-G specialist dyslexia teaching. In the same article, the IDA acknowledged that, in an ''era of evidence-based instruction, citing clinical intuition and testimony may not suffice, even when authoritative and compelling'' and, as a result, they risked ''criticism of the sort directed at whole-language and other unfounded or discredited approaches''. In 2014 the IDA decided to start describing all O-G programmes as 'Structured Literacy' for marketing purposes saying, "Structured Literacy" will help us sell what we do so well'' (http://www.interdys.org/IDA_Approach.htm) Both this new description and the previous 'multisensory' one apply equally well to many non-OG reading intervention programmes, including those based on synthetic phonics principles, so are of limited usefulness and very misleading.

In 2006, Ritchey & Goeke published a review of the literature of O-G based instruction. They argued that these types of programs are simply accepted from one convinced educator to the next, rather than on empirical evidence. They described its ready acceptance as “fueled by anecdotal evidence and personal experience. ... Despite widespread use by teachers in a variety of settings for more than 5 decades, O-G instruction has yet to be comprehensively studied and reported in peer-refereed journals. The small number of existing studies lack methodological rigor that would be required for publication in current peer-referred journals. ...There is insufficient evidence to conclude that OG and OG-based reading instruction meet the requirements of scientifically-based reading instruction (p. 172, 182). http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00224669060400030501

‘'Despite the enthusiasm for multisensory approaches held by many specialist dyslexia teachers (Kelly and Phillips, 2011), the theoretical grounds and scientific rationale for their use are questionable (Moats and Farrell, 2005)'’  (See page 150 in Elliott and Grigorenko, The Dyslexia Debate)

Report on British Dyslexia Association Courses for Reading and Spelling -includes comparison with synthetic phonics course content: http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Report%20BDA%20Training%202012.pdf

Discussion on the evidence for teaching Open/Closed syllable-type rules as used in Orton Gillingham programmes

Greif 1981. The Utility of the "Vowels in Open Syllable" and "Vowels in Closed Syllable" Phonic Rules When Pronouncing Two-Syllable Words: ''Results indicated that [only] 44.9% of the open syllable words and 56% of the closed syllable words could be pronounced correctly...the utility of the two phonics rules is probably considerably lower than the percentages reported, and the rules should not be taught to children.''

''No relationship exists between knowledge of syllabication rules and successful reading'' (Canney & Schreiner, 1977).

''Students don't need to know syllable types or rules and should stay right away from dictionary syllables.''

SNIP Literacy Programme.

A literacy intervention programme written by a couple who describe themselves as ‘qualified dyslexia tutors’
''The programme is aimed at increasing reading and spelling and uses the primary high frequency words (HFW).These words are grouped by selecting those that visually look different to each other...The programme approaches literacy acquisition at the word level and addresses the gaps in phonics knowledge through the application of analytic phonics''
Part 1 (KS1/2) http://www.snip-newsletter.co.uk/pdfs/downloads/literacy_programme_1.pdf

Lexia software


Independent schools for 'dyslexics'

Maple Hayes: ''The Maple Hayes technique sorts words into morphemes (units of meaning). These are either spelt conventionally by a combination of letters, or represented by simple images called icons. The approach uses only one sense at a time, to block out distractions. Reading is visual rather than aural (early lessons are almost silent), while writing practice is by touch, using cursive script where the pen stays on the paper. To help pupils concentrate, they will be blindfolded at first.'' (TES artcle)

Fairley House: 'Multi-Sensory Approach: To help learn words beginning with "squ", pupils squeeze oranges. For "shr", they shred paper'.
''A pupil at Fairley House, Pimlico has used his mouth to retrive a raisin from a bowl of flour. The 'what have you found in the mound of flour?' reinforces the use of the vowels o and u'' (Times article)

For a list of unnecessary and unhelpful content to avoid in any dyslexia / literacy intervention / basic skills programme -see What NOT to do

"The true believer is never swayed by evidence, and will continue to believe despite any amount or strength of evidence. And remember, the believer not only wants the delusion to be true, but in most cases desperately needs it to be true.'' James Randi.

Non-systematic, multi-cueing reading schemes and reading intervention programmes:

Oxford Reading Tree 'Biff, Chip and Kipper' Classic readers. Pub. OUP. Despite embracing synthetic phonics through the Read Write Inc. (RWI) and Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters programmes, OUP continue to publish the Biff, Chip and Kipper 'Classic' whole language reading scheme, the early levels of which will counteract any synthetic phonics teaching.

Reading Recovery (RR)
Reading Recovery is a 1-1 (Wave 3) intervention programme which uses ''word memorisation and other teaching practices from the 'whole language theory of reading'' (HoC Sci/Tech committee). It is taught by extensively (and very expensively) trained teachers and used with a very narrow age group; children in Y1. Note that, ''(T)eacher judgement of need determines entry to the programme'' (Rose 2009 p63). In an article for the Independent, National Co-ordinator for RR, Julia Douetil, claimed that, "These are children for whom, for some reason, phonics hasn't worked" (Independent 30/10/08).

Over the course of a year the school's RR teacher will give a handful of children individual tutoring for half-an-hour daily; around 90-100 sessions for each child. Despite this massive input, a significant number (23% RR's own figures) of children are failed by the programme and are 'referred on' i.e. need further intervention. Documents on the then DCSF's RR 'Toolkit' webpage revealed that it cost a school £82,830 to employ an RR teacher part-time (0.5) for 4 years. Using RR's own figures which have each teacher tutoring 9 pupils a year, RR costs over £2,600 per child. Independent researchers put the cost closer to £5,000. Because of the extremely high cost of implementing Reading Recovery, many cheaper copies have appeared which are based on exactly the same principles -see below.

Lyn Stone observed a Reading Recovery lesson.

Karina McLachlain's letter about Reading Recovery appeared in the LDA Bulletin May 2014 p40.
''The scheme does not have high aspirations. It is only intended to bring the poorest readers up to ‘average’ for their class. In order to make the scheme look more effective than it is, in practice, the RR teacher in the UK does not select children for the scheme if they have any sort of learning difficulties and those who make no progress are discontinued from the scheme early and eliminated from the stats as if they never took part''

Dr.Singleton was a key contributor to the now archived, DCSF-commissioned, Rose report on Dyslexia (Rose. 2009). On the subject of Reading Recovery, he said, ''Only 12%–15% of Reading Recovery children completing their programmes between 2003 and 2007 achieved a Level 2a or above in Key Stage 1 Reading National Curriculum assessments, the level at which children can tackle unfamiliar words and have therefore developed a self-sustaining word recognition system'' (Singleton 2009 p11)

Singleton also pointed out that Reading Recovery measured children's progress using the BAS-II word reading test; 6yrs.7mths ''was the average reading age of only those children who responded well to Reading Recovery''. Singleton added that a child can achieve a RA of 6.7 on BAS-II ''with knowledge of only a few words'' as ''only 21 words on the test have to be read correctly, which can be easily achieved by a child who has memorised some very high frequency common words (e.g.the,up,you,at,said,out) and knows and can use single letter sounds, plus the simple digraphs 'sh' and 'th'' (Singleton p117)

''Many ways of teaching reading rely on children learning to ‘sound out’ words they don’t know, but in Reading Recovery we are sceptical of the usefulness of this approach'' (Running Record. Dec. '04 p8)

In one sentence, the problem caused by teaching reading through sight word memorising and multi-cue guessing: A Reading Recovery teacher commented that one of her boys was at ‘level 17’ in reading books but did not reach the benchmark for the phonics check.

Reading Recovery is ''a multi-cueing, non-systematic approach'' (Sir Jim Rose SPELD conference AU)

''Several years ago, a letter* was sent to members of the U.S. Congress with 31 signatures of the top researchers in the field of reading urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect. It is extremely costly to implement, re teacher training, tutoring time, and materials. Not only this, but RR "research" is notorious for misrepresenting the data. In a recent publication by the Institute of Education, the same problems appear. 1. Nearly half of the children from the 145 strong "RR-tutoring group" were dropped from the study at post-testing, while the control group remained intact. (Barely a mention of this, and no attempt to solve the problem this creates.) 2. The RR group received individual tutoring, the control group got none. One could go on. The published paper bears the hallmarks of a bona fide "scientific" journal, until a closer inspection reveals it is published by Reading Recovery. No chance for an impartial peer review process here''
(D. Mcguinness. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/evchlint/me1302.htm)

* Letter from top researchers ''urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect''

Tom Burkard's 2009 paper on ECaR: Reading Recovery

To find out more about the discredited Reading Recovery programme

Two positive reports on Reading Recovery® (RR) produced by the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)
http://t.co/gkQy2C7Tay are often used to claim that RR is an effective intervention. Professors James W. Chapman and William E. Tunmer examined the claims: Reading Recovery®: Does It Work?

Professor Pamela Snow: Reading Recovery and Cassandra's Curse

Comprehensive review of UK Reading Recovery. 2007.

2019. Reading Recovery: A Failed Investment

2019. READING RECOVERY BOILED DOWN by James Chapman, Professor of Educational Psychology, Massey University chng.it/VtsktnMC

July 2013. WHY THE NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL LITERACY STRATEGY HAS FAILED AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT: Evidence from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 and Reading Recovery Monitoring Reports.


OUP's Project X CODE intervention programme for Y2-4 Wave 2 or ''lighter touch’ Wave 3 support''.
With its superficial and 'embedded' phonics content, miscue analysis assessment, inclusion of pseudo words (some with illegal spellings) and text-lite readers, CODE, cynics would say, seems to have been designed from its inception to appeal to SENCos and teachers who are reluctant to change from the mixed method-style interventions with which they are familiar. A synthetic phonics expert said that in Project X CODE, ''the phonics is much too simple and slowly taught and loads of time is wasted on comprehension for children whose language comprehension is fine''.
CODE was NOT included in the DfE's synthetic phonics match-funding catalogue, perhaps because it didn't meet the criteria for a systematic synthetic phonics programme. Caution -don't confuse Project X CODE with Project X Phonics, which WAS in the DfE catalogue.
In a publicity flyer for the programme, OUP said, ''Project X CODE was trialled with 61 children in Years 1 to 4 in 11 schools in 8 local authorities in 2012. After only 2½ months of support, they had made an average of 8 months of progress on a standardised reading test'' The test used was Hodder's Phonics and Early Reading Assessment (PERA), standardised for ''Reception, Years 1 and 2''. The actual report says that some children in the trial, ''fell outside the age range within which standardised scores could be calculated''. The figures given in the report show that nearly half (29) of the children in the trial were in Years 3 and 4.
The researcher, who analysed the results and wrote the report, dismissed the trial's lack of a randomised control design because she says an RCT would not, ''give sufficient detail of local conditions or give information about how the intervention worked'' (p5) Hence the reason why the majority of the report consists of non-scientific qualitative data (description, views and opinions).
For Prof.Diane McGuinness's damning critique of the CODE research

The Catch up Literacy programme is recommended as a Wave 2 literacy intervention to 'layer' with Reading Recovery. http://www.catchup.org.uk/CatchUpLiteracy/IntroducingCatchUpLiteracy.aspx ''(T)he clearest evidence of the success of the Catch Up Programme is the marked improvement in attitude to reading shown by the children''. Catch Up Literacy is based on the same multi-cueing principles as Reading Recovery. A comparison of the recommendations of the Rose Report and Catch Up programme training: http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=185&n_issueNumber=60

BRP (originally 'Better Reading Partnership', now 'Boosting Reading Potential') was ''developed by Bradford Local Education Authority (LEA) in 1996 and is based on the Reading Recovery Programme'... ''The reading partner notes the child's use of the three BRP reading strategies: grapho-phonic (visual), syntactic (structure) and semantic (meaning). Weaknesses are addressed through prompts: "Does that look right?", "Does that sound right?", and "Does that make sense?" (Dunford. LiteracyTrust). This Wave 2 intervention programme is recommended for 'layering' with Reading Recovery. BRP has now been rebranded and significantly updated. There are now two versions of the programme: boostingreading@primary (BR@P) and boostingreading@secondary (BR@S)'' BRP is a Wave 2 non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. ''BoostingReading@Primary is recognised as an effective intervention by the European Centre for Reading Recovery at the Institute of Education, University of London, and is included in Every Child a Reader''

Pearson-Heinemann 'Rapid Reading' KS2 Wave 3 intervention http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/Primary/Literacy/AllLiteracyresources/RapidReading/RapidReading.aspx
The series editors, Dee Reid and Diana Bentley, also devised the 'Catch Up' programme -see above.
Pearson publish packs of Reading Recovery whole language readers through their Heinemann imprint

R + P interventions (reading instruction based on Reading Recovery methodology + phonological awareness training)

Sound Linkage. Peter Hatcher. A 'phonological awareness training' programme where children are trained to manipulate sounds in words orally without the use of letters (see method 3 for discussion of phonological awareness training) and designed to be used alongside reading instruction based on the Reading Recovery approach. ''In Hatcher's own work, he has incorporated Sound Linkage into the Marie Clay Reading Recovery framework'' (The Study of Dyslexia. p120)

The North Yorks Reading Intervention Project: ''In the R+P intervention study reported here, 28% of the 20-week and 21% of the 10-week Intervention group had standard scores below 80 at the end of the intervention.. Moreover, children varied in their responsiveness to the teaching they received and about a quarter could be defined as treatment 'non-responders''

Phonology with Reading programme (Nuffield Foundation.Language4Reading) was a research project using an R+P intervention with at-risk children. It combined Jolly Phonics materials (for teaching 36 GPCs over 20 weeks) with 'oral phonological awareness' exercises (Hatcher's Sound Linkage), plus 'direct teaching in [global] sight word recognition' and immediate reading practice using real books, levelled using Hatcher's whole language banding system. ''The Teaching Assistant monitored the child’s reading ability by taking a running record of the child reading a book at the instructional level in each individual session. One new book was introduced per session, which the child attempted to read independently, before finishing off with guided reading of the new book''. The resulting research paper by Bowyer-Crane et al (2007) revealed that, 'At the end of the intervention, more than 50% of at-risk children remain in need of literacy support'
N.B. the actual Jolly Phonics programme teaches a Basic Code of 42 GPCs over 7 weeks -> 1 term, with phonically decodable words and sentences provided for reading practice in order to avoid needing multiple decoding strategies and global sight word memorisation.

A version of the R+P Phonology with Reading programme -see above, was used in a study for children with Down Syndrome (Kelly Burgoyne et al) ‘'The Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome combines reading and language instruction in daily teaching sessions that are designed to meet the particular learning needs of children with Down syndrome. It incorporates work on letter knowledge, phonological awareness, whole word and book reading''.
''After 40 weeks of intervention, the intervention group remained numerically ahead of the control group on most key outcome measures; but these differences were not significant''
In contrast, as a result of her own extensive experience and research, a highly experienced educational psychologist recommends using a systematic synthetic phonics programme with children with Down syndrome. This EP comments, ''Of course we would not deny oral language development work with any children with global learning difficulties, but where we differ would be that we would start with phonics and try to establish phonics as primary strategy for reading, whereas this new initiative seems to be just a re-hash of oral language with a searchlights type approach''.

Undaunted by the lack of good results when using an intervention in which the 'reading strand' consists of an R+P approach , researchers used this style of intervention again in a study with children 'at risk for dyslexia'. In the description of the intervention it says: ‘’In all reading activities, phonic decoding is encouraged as the primary strategy for reading unknown words; other strategies (e.g. use of context and pictures) are also taught’’ (italics added)
Study's conclusion ''This new intervention was theoretically motivated and based on previous successful interventions [sic], yet failed to show reliable effects on language and literacy measures following a rigorous evaluation''.

For a list of unnecessary and unhelpful content to avoid in any dyslexia / reading intervention / basic skills programme -See What NOT to do

THRASS  http://www.thrass.co.uk/
Programme developer Alan Davies stated that ''(T)here is no need to look for a new model of early reading to replace the ‘Searchlights’ model...It is wrong to believe that synthetic phonics is the ‘best route to becoming skilled readers’, as stated in Jim’s report'... 'Parents need to understand and use four 'searchlights' for reading with their children: a 'Word Recognition Searchlight', a 'Phonics Searchlight', a 'Context Searchlight' and a 'Grammar Searchlight', as set out in the National Literacy Strategy that the UK Government abandoned in 2005. The Government's new synthetic phonics programme, 'Letters and Sounds', focuses on the 'Phonics Searchlight', an approach which is inadequate for both parents and young children’' (THRASS press release Jan 08) ''The best phonics method is not solely Synthetic Phonics (as championed by British Prime Minister David Cameron) but Analytic AND Synthetic phonics, AnaSynth Phonics (a.k.a. Keyword Phonics), starting with pre-school children discussing the pictures, words and text in books, with their parents, grandparents and nursery teachers, giving them the opportunity to read more and more words by sight before they start formal schooling'' (H. Davies)

For details of high quality synthetic phonics programmes see- Resources  


'Book Bands for Guided Reading' produced by the UK Reading Recovery National Network. ''Designed to help teachers to audit, organise and supplement a school's existing sets of reading materials at Key Stage 1'. Reading Recovery's Bookbands / Cliff Moon's Individualised Reading / Hatcher's Graded booklist / Nelson Thornes PM Books and the Catch Up Literacy booklist are all book leveling schemes based on the whole language notion of early reading - that is, beginners, or those requiring remedial intervention, need to use globally memorised sight words, initial letter/s, pictures and context clues to 'read'. In these schemes, books are leveled according to number of words on a line, the number of lines on a page, number of high frequency words used and the degree of repetition, NOT on the decodability of the text. For example, books in Pink Bookband (recommended for children aged 4-5), 'usually have no more than 10 pages with up to 5 words on a page' (ReadingChest/bookbands) ''At level 1 children master a growing number of high frequency words and look for meaning from a close match of words and pictures'' (PM Books)

Book: What works for pupils with literacy difficulties: the effectiveness of intervention schemes.
Greg Brooks. Pub. The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust. 5th edition 2016.
Caution. This publication, ''is a comparison of a collection of self reported studies on programmes used to remediate reading difficulties. There is no control over the quality of the research or the accuracy of the data. Inclusion of 'studies' is completely random, depending as it does, on the right people seeing the right 'evidence call' in the right publications, at the right moment'' (maizieD)

Kumon English programme. www.kumon.co.uk ''Kumon’s English programme has a strong emphasis on phonics in the early levels, with an initial focus on the ‘synthetic’ learning of individual letter sounds and then the sounds of combinations of letters to make words. But Kumon doesn’t do this in isolation, successfully combining that approach with what is basically pretty close to an analytic element, together with a range of other strategies.The students move on from letter sounds to looking at common letter combinations and using rhyming skills to read and spell by analogy.'' (Kumon press release March 2006)

Steiner Waldorf education

Along with 18th century Romantic developmentalism, many early years academics' anti-phonics beliefs are influenced by the philosophy behind Steiner Waldorf education. ''Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner'' (The Observer. 13/05/12). ''Steiner was very clear about why delayed reading was a good idea – not because older children can learn to read better, but because memorising and reading interfered with the incarnation of the etheric body. It could damage a spiritual protective sheath around the child leading to illness and spiritual degeneration. ’Developmental needs’ in the Steiner world are to do with the incarnation of spiritual entities. Only after adult teeth have appeared is a child spiritually ready to learn to read''

What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools

Dr. Richard House was a leading figure in the Open EYE early years anti-phonics campaign. He is a Steiner-trained teacher. Steiner educationalists believe that the early development of intellectual abilities ''is a ‘negative development …a tragedy’'. They say that teaching reading and writing before the 'cutting of teeth' around the age of seven, ''damages the etheric body'', and triggers, ''cristallization processes, leading to eventual precocious sclerosis processes later on in life’' Dr. House appears to agree with this nonsense. On the subject of children starting 'formal schooling' before the age of six, he says, ''(T)he evidence is now quite overwhelming that such an early introduction to institutional learning is not only quite unnecessary for the vast majority of children, but can actually cause major developmental harm, and at worst a shortened life-span....Young children's "runaway" intellect actually needs to be slowed down in the early years if they are not to risk growing up in an intellectually unbalanced way, with possible life-long negative health effects" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18084204

Research by Steiner advocate Dr.Sebastian Suggate claims to show, ''that teaching children to read from age five is not likely to make that child any more successful at reading than a child who learns reading later, from age seven'. http://www.otago.ac.nz/news/news/otago006408.html

UK educational psychologist, John Noble, commented on Suggate's study: ''All state educated children in NZ are first taught by the language based methods of Marie Clay which are akin to Reading Recovery Methods used here. Using a picture vocabulary test to assess 'receptive vocabulary' as one of his 'controls', the study compared the later reading comprehension scores of about 50 children at 11 and 12 attending Steiner Schools (which also stress the importance of language methods) and State Schools. No differences were found at 11 and 12. This study has absolutely no implications whatsoever for the first teaching of reading in the UK using synthetic phonics, because no such comparison was included in the Otago study. After working in NZ a couple of streets away from Otago University and having assessed some dreadful cases of all round literacy skills failure in the 2 Steiner Schools sampled in this study, as well as witnessed similarly appalling cases of reading and spelling failure in NZ state schools, I think we need to advise great caution in this country about proposals about precipitous changes in the timing of first literacy teaching derivable from this amateurish bit of research nonsense from NZ''

Blogger, Simon Webb, also commented on Suggate's research: ''Another point to remember is that this is not exactly an unbiased piece of work. Sebastian Sugatte was for years a leading light in the students' Anthroposophical Society at the university. He has always been a dedicated supporter of Rudolf Steiner's theories about education. In other words, he did not embark on this research in order to test whether children did better if they delayed learning to read until seven. Rather, he believed this firmly and went looking for evidence to support the hypothesis. That this is so can be seen from the wording he uses. He talks of the age at which children are, "forced to start reading"! How's that for objective, academic language? There is a lack of candour on the part of the man, as can be seen in this quotation from the New Zealand Herald. He is speaking of the apparent discovery that children learning later were not disadvantaged, "Dr Suggate said he was surprised by his own findings that this was not the case." For a dedicated anthroposophist to make such a statement with a straight face suggests strongly that there is an element of deliberate deception involved''.

And, finally:

'There’s a psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance which is the tendency to filter out information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one's beliefs. In the context of intervention, it is uncomfortable to conclude that one put in a lot of time and money into a treatment that has not worked. There is likely, therefore, to be a cognitive bias to paint as bright a picture as possible. This seems supported by studies that find a mismatch between people’s perceptions of efficacy and objective evidence.'' (Prof Bishop.BDA 2008. ppt)