Posts Tagged ‘Phonetic Dyslexia’

Phonetic Dyslexia

Treat Reading Problem Symptoms

Treat the Symptoms of Reading Problems

Let’s get straight to the point on this one: Phonetic Dyslexia? Phony Bologna. Oh, by the way… Don’t buy ocean front property in Kansas, either. Just a public service announcement.

As an M.A. reading specialist, diagnostician, reading intervention teacher, and educational author, my Pennington Publishing Blog reaches quite a diverse audience. My target audience is teachers, because I use the blog to market my assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources to my colleagues. However, I often get article comments and questions from parents (and even students). I try to respond to those which pertain to an educational trend, which I find baffling; to those which have a dubious research base; to those which I consider to be educational malpractice; and to those which defy common sense. The following question posted by a parent on my “Teaching Your Child to Read Well” article hit the quadfecta… all four criteria for my response.

Following are the parent’s questions and my response:June 30th, 2018 at 05:42

My son was diagnosed with a phonetic dyslexia? I have no experience with dyslexia of any kind. Can you suggest some reading exercises that we can use at home to help children with this issue? The school system was ill-equipped to teach on a case by case basis. Is this something that will follow him into his adult years? Are there any tools you know of available to help him?

Melania (I couldn’t resist),

I’m sure you are doing everything possible to help your child learn to read well. When children have reading difficulties which do not seem to be addressed by their teachers and site specialists, parents often seek outside help by so-called experts. A bit of advice for you, your son, and for other parents in the same general boat:

  1. Always take advantage of public school resources. Even those of you who have placed your kids in charter or private schools. Your tax dollars support public schools, and you and your children should benefit from their expertise. Start with your local school.
  2. Don’t fully trust experts (even me!). Reading is complicated stuff; we know some practical matters about reading instruction, such as how and what to teach, but we really don’t yet understand why students haven’t learned it. Maybe someday we will understand, but brain research is in its infancy. Think you’ll be interested in my article, “Dyslexia Is Not Real.” I would certainly be interested in the qualifications and experience of the diagnostician.
  3. Don’t ditch your common sense. If a reading therapy (there are plenty out there) sounds weird or counter-intuitive, don’t explore the approach. I liken some reading approaches to fad diets. If your child’s educational psychologist is treating your son’s reading problems by having him practice crawling on the floor, because he never learned to crawl as a baby, and because a statistical correlation exists in the literature between children who never crawled and children who experience reading problems, this reading therapy is akin to a grapefruit only diet. Yes, both were real approaches to reading and weight problems back in the early 1970s.
  4. Be practical: Treat the symptoms, not the cause. While it may be to your long-term advantage to understand what is causing your stress headaches, it is always in your short-term advantage to take a pain reliever. Again, we don’t fully understand the causes of your son’s reading challenges, but we can certainly identify and treat the symptoms. Following are user-friendly reading assessments to identify the symptoms. Free to use!
  5. The problem with the term, dyslexia, is that the International Dyslexia Association defines the symptoms (phonics deficits, perhaps) as a learning disability. From the IDA website:

The International Dyslexia Association offers a variety of definitions regarding dyslexia (bolded terms mine):

“Dyslexia is a neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain. There is no cure for dyslexia and individuals with this condition must learn coping strategies” (

In other words, your son’s reading problems would be a lifelong challenge “that will follow him into his adult years.” Don’t buy into that way of thinking. Treat the problems; don’t add on a label to your child.

Now, I’m guessing that your diagnostician is probably right about your son’s phonetic deficits. Phonics challenges are usually the culprits (or phonological awareness) when students are reading significantly below grade level. However, this diagnosis offers no cure. To find the proper course of treatment, properly identify the patient’s specific symptoms (the individual phonics deficits) and target your treatment (teaching and practice) accordingly.

Make sense? Take care, Mark

Yes, you’ll need resources to teach to these diagnostic deficits. For your child’s “Phonetic Dyslexia,” the corresponding teaching resources are found in my Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Books.


Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. My own snake oil to sell 🙂 Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops (explicit, systematic phonics instruction) with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

I just visited your website and, oh my, I actually felt my heart leap with joy! I am working with one class of ESL students and two classes of Read 180 students with behavior issues and have been struggling to find methods to address their specific areas of weakness. I am also teaching three senior level English classes and have found them to have serious deficits in many critical areas that may impact their success if they are attending college level courses in a year’s time. I have been trying to find a way to help all of them in specific and measurable ways – and I found you! I just wanted to thank you for creating these explicit and extensive resources for students in need. Thank you!

Cathy Ford

By the way, I got Sam and Friends a few weeks ago, and I love it. I teach ESL in S Korea. Phonics is poorly taught here, so teaching phonics means going back to square one. Fortunately, Sam and Friends does that and speeds up pretty quickly. I also like that I can send it home and not charge the parents – we all love that.  I like it a lot! It’s also not about something stupid, like cats and dogs. 

Joseph Curd

I work with a large ELL population at my school.Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students. 


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