What type of student can you help?

We increase the skills and improve the self-concept of students who are having difficulty learning to read well, and also help students who can read to a degree, but are reading below their potential. Most students, who are identified at risk by the school, are in truth inefficient readers, spellers, and writers, even though reading skills may not have been identified as the underlying cause of their struggle.

Most students with reading difficulty have poor reading fluency, which refers to inaccurate reading and/or slow reading speed. You can usually hear the struggle when the student reads aloud. Some will read laboriously, frequently stopping and repeating words. Others will read fast with errors. Sometimes you can hear the student attempt to sound-out words; sometimes you can’t. Many students with reading difficulty will change small words or word endings, skip words, or even add in words that aren’t there. Some students attempt to correct their own mistakes, and others just keep going.

Poor reading fluency is characteristic to most poor readers. Rather than sound-out words automatically and unconsciously, they rely on remembering the shapes of words, the beginning and ending letters, and guess at words based on context. These inefficient readers tire easily, and accuracy typically declines over time. They may succeed on weekly spelling tests, but their spontaneous writing is riddled with spelling errors; even short high frequency words are often spelled incorrectly. In upper elementary grades, difficulty with written composition and reading comprehension overlays foundational decoding/reading and encoding/spelling weakness.

How can I be confident that your program will work for my child when others I’ve tried haven’t worked?

We identify and target the underlying cause of your child’s difficulty. Students are screened with the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP). This test measures three critical phonological skills that children need to become proficient readers: phonemic awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming. A weakness in any one of these areas puts a child at risk for reading achievement. If a student lacks sufficient phonemic awareness, we directly develop this skill to sufficient levels, followed by systematic phonics. This is where most remedial reading programs fail. They may attempt to develop phonics in students who lack age-appropriate phonemic awareness… and when it doesn’t work, the student has no recourse but to attempt to read by memorizing and guessing. Our programs result in significant, permanent improvement because they target and develop the underlying phonological skills needed for success in phonics and language learning.

Research shows that students who have deficits in the phonological component of language can become proficient readers if they have access to Orton-Gillingham or Multisensory Structured Language (MSL), such as the Barton System of Reading and Spelling. We have more than 20 years of experience teaching the Barton System of Reading and Spelling, and effectively adapting it to the individual needs of our students.

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Sufficient levels of phonemic awareness must exist before a student can benefit from phonics, which relates sounds to letters. A student must be able to break a spoken word into individual sounds and conversely, blend spoken sounds into a word before he can benefit from phonics instruction.

You say most at-risk readers are not able to use phonics, but my child can sound out some words when he really tries. Anyway… hasn’t my child already received phonics instruction at school?

A student who does not have sufficient phonemic awareness will be unable to benefit from the phonics instruction at school. Our program directly develops phonemic awareness in students for whom classroom instruction was not effective. Once your child has readiness, we teach phonics through direct, explicit, multisensory instruction.

How will I know if my child is improving?

We use DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) to monitor your child’s progress bi-monthly. DIBELS are a standardized set of measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade. The Gray Oral Reading Test-4 is administered to compare your child’s reading rate, accuracy, and comprehension to other students his same age. In addition, we check for mastery using pre and post-tests for each level of the Barton Reading System.

What kind of student improvement can be expected and how long does it take?

The biggest difference immediately observed is that the student becomes more engaged in school. He holds his head a bit higher and starts to concentrate on succeeding instead of avoiding. He feels happier about himself and school. The classroom teacher may notice that the student is finishing more work, using time more appropriately. The yard duty supervisor may notice positive behavioral changes on the playground. Parents often report that their child has stopped complaining about having to go to school.

Growth in reading, spelling, and writing is noted, and this success spills over into other academic areas. Sometimes the growth is seen in small steady steps, other times there is a large “jump” in performance. Whatever the shape of the individual learning curve, teachers and parents can expect real growth over time.

Since students are learning to read and spell by learning concepts, rules, and strategies rather than trying to memorize, the typical “short-lived” improvement and inconsistent performance of “come and go” phonics programs that claim almost “overnight” success are replaced by permanent change. In one to three years, most poor readers WILL catch up to their “normal” reading peers.

I’ve heard that learning to read is developmental, so at what point should I become concerned? I think my child is probably a late bloomer.

One of the most compelling findings from recent reading research is that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up. As numerous studies have now documented, the poor first-grade reader almost invariably continues to be a poor reader and the consequences of a slow start in reading become monumental as they accumulate exponentially over time. (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996; Torgesen & Burgess, 1998)

The longer you wait to get help for your child with reading difficulties, the harder it will be for him/her to catch up. “If help is given in fourth grade (rather than in late kindergarten), it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount.”—Susan Hall

Can kids who get good grades be dyslexic?

Yes, even kids with good grades can be dyslexic. Usually these students are moderate to mildly dyslexic, and work very hard for hours beyond what the average student needs in order to get good grades.

My child has been in the Reading Specialist program, received private after school tutoring, and is now in Special Education. Do you offer anything that would be different?

If your child demonstrates three or more of the warning signs/symptoms, then they do need an Orton Gillingham program that is generally not provided in the school setting. If you are fortunate in that your school does offer an Orton-Gillingham program, be sure it is used with fidelity, meaning that your child receives the instruction as it was designed and proven to be effective. For example, it is critical that the teacher use the entire curriculum, rather than pick and choose pieces of the program. Also keep in mind that in order for your child to catch up to grade level, he needs to receive at least 100 minutes of one-on-one tutoring per week.

Is it normal for my daughter to use pictures and guess at words when she reads?

Many children who are unable to distinguish individual sounds within words do try to figure out what the words say by looking at pictures and guessing at words. This is not an efficient way to read and is highly likely to lead to future reading difficulties. These strategies simply will not work once the pictures go away, and the student is presented with longer words and many more words.

Why is it important for my child to read decodable text?

Decodable text refers to the child reading words that follow the phonics rules he/she has already learned. It’s important for beginning readers to read decodable text in order to practice what they’ve learned, rather than rely on guessing and picture clues. To become a proficient reader, every student must become efficient at sounding out words fluently and accurately. It makes sense to teach phonics explicitly, and then give the student reading practice filled with words he can successfully sound out. In addition, it is important that you read aloud to your child on a regular basis in order to expose him to more advanced authentic literature.

“The prudent limits on the material the child practices reading are temporary restrictions to help the child learn. Having the child read decodable text is similar to teaching a child to play the piano. A beginner does not play advanced pieces of music. The beginner starts with individual notes, and simple songs such as Mary Had a Little Lamb. As the child acquires skills, they are able to play more and more songs correctly. Similarly, as the child learns more sounds, the material that is decodable rapidly expands. Before long, the child is able to pick up and read any appropriate book.” (www.righttrackreading.com Copyright 2007 Miscese.Gagen)

Should I have my child practice reading other books in addition to decodable text?

It’s recommended that you focus your child’s reading practice on only decodable text in early reading stages to establish correct print to sound phonological processing pathways. However, you definitely should read a wide range of books and authentic literature to your child for enjoyment, and also to expand his developing language and vocabulary.

I know that you can help dyslexic students. Does my child have to be dyslexic to benefit from your program?

No, your child does not have to be dyslexic, nor have a diagnosis of any type. We will screen your child and determine if his/her profile and learning style will be effectively helped by our program.

How can my child be so bright yet struggle with reading?

Most reading disabilities, including dyslexia, have nothing to do with intelligence. These children can learn, and do learn just fine, if the material presented to them is oral. However, due to an inherited brain difference, some children need to be taught differently to read. First, phonological awareness needs to be taught, followed by multi-sensory, explicit, systematic phonics instruction. The programs we use do teach this sequence with enough intensity to bring a struggling child up to grade level and beyond.

Wouldn’t I know it if my child were dyslexic? Don’t schools test for dyslexia?

Rarely do public schools identify the symptoms of dyslexia with the label “dyslexia.”  Although the National Institutes of Health has studied dyslexia for at least four decades, and genetic research in the last two decades has led to significant advances in the understanding of this learning difference, schools have been slow to acquire and embrace this knowledge.  

As of September 2023, 40 states require dyslexia screenings in early education.  California is set to begin screening for Kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders for symptoms of reading disability/dyslexia in the fall of the 2025-2026 school year.  This is a step forward, however legal requirements for parent notification and effective intervention generally remain an obstacle.

My son understands everything I read to him. Why is his silent reading comprehension so low?

If a student cannot sound out enough words correctly, at a sufficient speed, he will not understand what he reads. It is imperative to test a child with this symptom to see if the student has adequate underlying phonological skills. A lack of adequate phonological foundation is the number one reason why a child will not learn to read to his potential.

Should my child be retained so he can catch up to his classmates?

There is no evidence that retention will help improve academic struggles. Being taught the same way twice is not what most kids need. Most children who struggle with reading need to be taught differently in order to become proficient readers. The following organizations are against retention:

The National Association of School Psychologists report:
“Through many years of research, the practice of retaining children has been shown to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children who are academically delayed.”

The American Federation of Teachers:
“Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to an educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they give to preventing failure in the first place.”

The U.S. Department of Education:
“Neither social promotion nor retention is appropriate for students who do not meet high academic standards.”

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD):
“The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does NOT produce higher achievement.”

Links to these studies can be found on www.wrightslaw.com/info/retain.index.htm.

How can I tell if my child is working to her true potential?

All children begin their school careers wanting to please their parents and be successful. When a child doesn’t feel successful, she will try to deflect the shame she feels by either not trying, becoming a behavior problem or class clown, or she may simply try to disappear and remain unnoticed. When children believe they can do what is being asked of them, and are given the tools they need to be successful – they will work up to their potential

Is spelling related to reading difficulties?

Yes, in fact, it is spelling that separates those who are dyslexic from those who struggle with reading for other reasons. Sometimes students who work very hard and study for long hours can do okay on spelling tests with lists of 20 or more words, but they cannot retain those spelling words from one week to the next. In fact, if you look at their writing samples, you will see that they often misspell the same words they were previously tested on, as well as high frequency words like because, friend, they, does. That is why extreme difficulty with spelling is considered a classic sign of dyslexia.

What is systematic instruction?

Systematic instruction is a carefully planned out sequence of instruction. It is a plan based on what research tells us is the best order to introduce concepts and it is developed before any lessons are created. It is similar to how a math curriculum is developed. You do not teach long division before you have introduced number sense, addition, subtraction and multiplication. Lessons always build on the previously taught lesson, and move from simple concepts to more complex. There are clear, concise objectives that are driven by ongoing assessment.

What is direct instruction?

Direct instruction is a model for teaching that utilizes well-developed, carefully planned and articulated lessons around small learning increments that are clearly defined and practiced until mastery is achieved. Clear instruction eliminates misinterpretations and guided practice ensures success. Together these two principles can accelerate learning.

How commonly do students need specialized reading intervention like the Barton System?

Research confirms that 17-20% of our students require instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics that is more direct, more explicit, more sequential, more intense, and of a longer duration than is sufficient for the other 80% of the students in the classroom. That means approximately 4 students in a typical first through third grade classroom of 20 students, as well as 6 or 7 students per fourth or fifth grade classroom need intervention in order to gain access to the core curriculum through reading. Not all students need a program as intense as the Barton System of Reading and Spelling, but it is a valuable option for students who do not respond sufficiently to less intense instruction.

My child’s teacher said he has difficulty with reading comprehension. Is that something you can help with?

Yes we can help. It’s important that your child be tested to determine the underlying cause of her difficulty with reading comprehension.

If a child cannot read enough words correctly on a page, she will not be able to understand what she just read. Although this may be reported as a comprehension problem, you can see that it is truly a word identification problem.

Comprehension depends on reading the words on the page accurately. For example, reading that a boy is “in” the horse instead of “on” the horse, changes your mental picture even though only one word was read incorrectly. Likewise, changing “can” to “can’t” completely reverses the meaning.

There is also a strong correlation between reading rate and comprehension. This is because faster readers are more skilled at automatically recognizing many words, and thus able to devote attention and concentration to understanding.

There are a small number of students who truly read fluently, but still do not understand what they read. This indicates a need for intervention in the area of language comprehension.

My child attends an excellent school district and comes from a highly literate home. How could he be struggling?

Highly educated parents and a world-class school district do not prevent reading and spelling difficulty due to inherited differences in brain structure and modified language/sensory systems. For 16-20% of our students, “…the cortical language network of the brain is a network distinctly different in appearance, organization, and function…” making direct instruction in phonological processing and alphabetic skills a necessity . These genetic brain differences cut across socio-economic lines. Furthermore, this difference is not related to intelligence, and affects our gifted students, as well as our more average ability students.

(Dr. Gordon Sherman, http://schwablearning.org/Articles.asp?r=428&g=3&d=8)

How is a “multisensory” program different from what my child has already received in the classroom?

When the term “multisensory” is used in reference to reading intervention, it means more than including things to see hear and touch in your lesson. It means that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile learning pathways are integrated in every lesson, throughout a program that is also explicit and systematic. This methodology is known as “The Science of Reading”  or “Multisensory Structured Language” or “Orton-Gillingham” instruction, and it incorporates other critical principles that are proven to reach at-risk students.

My child was tested by the school, and he didn’t qualify for any special services. He doesn’t have dyslexia or a learning disability. I guess he’s just not that motivated in working hard for grades. Is there a chance you could still help?

Yes, it’s highly likely we can help. Many of our students do not qualify for special services at school, but DO still benefit tremendously from specialized instruction. If your gut tells you that your child is not working to his true potential, there is a reason… and it’s not that he’s lazy or unmotivated. Please schedule him for an assessment and let’s find out what’s going on.

Phone: 925-425-0652
4713 First St., Ste 254
Pleasanton, CA, 94566-7398