A neighbor recently asked me if I had any means of assisting her dyslexic child with improving his reading skills. I mentioned that I had no experience working with dyslexia, but that everything I had seen online indicated that some sort of intensive phonics program should be used. The neighbor disagreed with me, stating that phonics produces people who can’t comprehend what they are reading and that whole language is better. This was news to me since English is a phonetic language and not a hieroglyphic language as whole language programs generally teach. Every child I know who has been taught to read using a phonics method can both decode and comprehend what he is reading. Here are a couple good sources I found online regarding dyslexia and phonics:
Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness….
Research evidence does not support the use of “whole language” reading approaches to teach dyslexic children…
Disabled readers must be provided highly structured programs that explicitly teach application of phonologic rules to print. Longitudinal data (studies that follow children over time) indicate that explicit systematic phonics instruction results in more favorable outcomes for disabled readers than does a context-emphasis (whole-language) approach.
The above is from: “What We Now Know About Dyslexia” from Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, Inc., Sharing the latest research with those who need to know
And from Samuel L. Blumenfeld in “Dyslexia: Man-Made Disease“:
In other words, there are two ways of looking at our printed or written words: holistically or phonetically. If you are taught to read phonetically from the start, you will never become dyslexic, for dyslexia by definition is a block against viewing words phonetically. Phonetic readers become good, independent readers because they have developed a phonetic reflex. To them literacy is as natural and effortless as breathing. A holistic, sight reader, on the other hand, must rely on memorization of individual word forms and use all sorts of contextual strategies to get the word right…
Holistic readers are indeed handicapped by the way they are taught to read. They are taught to look at words as whole pictures, which means that they are not bound to look at a word from left to right. They simply look for something in the word-picture that will remind them of what the word is. Thus they may actually look at a word from right to left, which accounts for the tendency of dyslexics to reverse letters and read words backwards. Also, holistic readers are encouraged by their teachers to substitute words, as explained by a whole-language advocate quoted in the Washington Post of Nov. 29, 1986. The headline reads, “Reading Method Lets Pupils Guess; Whole-Language Approach Riles Advocates of Phonics.” The article states:
The most controversial aspect of whole language is the de-emphasis on accuracy. American Reading Council President Juli a Palmer, an advocate of the approach, said it is acceptable if a young child reads the word house for home, or subtitutes the word pony for horse. “It’s not very serious because she understands the meaning,” said Palmer. “Accuracy is not the name of the game.”