'In the case of five-syllable words he could not say them, let alone spell them'

13th October 2006 at 01:00
Having tested 10-year-old Brenda and nine-year-old Michael at the Bangor child guidance clinic, Tim Miles went on to teach both of them privately, focusing on spelling "rules" connected with the way they made speech sounds, so they did not have to face "the formidable task of having to remember every word in the language". He recalls in his book:

"Even in the case of three-letter words, Brenda would say hesitantly, 'Is it right?' Progress was by no means uniform. One of my reports, six months from the start, reads: 'Evening of despair. Brenda had a cold, which may account for some of it. Even so she showed remarkable disability. Starting with "point?" she could not even make the "oi" noise. We went laboriously through other words I had put on a list, with Brenda guessing wildly.

Definite relapse. We shall never get far at this rate.' The report for the next week, however, is more encouraging: 'Brenda much brighter. Went through last time's list without much trouble'.

"During a dictation test Michael produced the following: 'Mi deg cet his lug on an open ten' and 'I sra har ran bie in the wet'.

"He had a similar programme to Brenda, being gradually introduced to the 'noises' made by different vowel sounds. In later sessions, when he was aged about 11 and I could ask him to spell long words such as 'discrimination', I found that in the case of four or five-syllable words he could not even say them without confusion, let alone spell them... "It was not until many years later that I realised becoming 'tied up' when saying certain long words could be an indicator of dyslexia. Looking back, I am now aware that there were many interesting points about Brenda's and Michael's spelling errors whose significance I did not appreciate at the time.

"The commonly accepted view nowadays is that dyslexics have a deficit in the area of phonology, that is in the recognising, remembering and ordering of speech sounds. That idea had not yet come to the fore; nor had the concept of multisensory teaching. But in so far as I trained Michael and Brenda to pay attention to their tongue, lip and mouth movements as they said the words, I was in a sense giving them multisensory teaching without realising it."

Copyright Tim Miles, from Fifty Years in Dyslexia Research

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