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Multi-sensory approaches towards dyslexia – Dyslexia Friendly environment
Πολυαισθητηριακές προσεγγίσεις της δυσλεξίας – Φιλικό προς τη δυσλεξία περιβάλλον
Anastasios M. Georgiou
Αναστάσιος Μεν. Γεωργίου
Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific approach, whereby she taught adults how to respect individual differences. The Montessori approach is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability. As time passes, multi-sensory approaches become more and more powerful, since they are widely spread and scientists from different backgrounds tend to use more and more. The reliability of such approaches lies on their successful application. Dyslexia friendly environments where multi-sensory approaches are applied, comprises an imperative need.
Η Δρ. Μοntessori πρόσφερε στον κόσμο μια επιστημονική προσέγγιση, μέσω της οποίας δίδαξε ενήλικες πώς να σέβονται την ανθρώπινη διαφορετικότητα. Η μοντεσοριανή προσέγγιση είναι ένα μοντέλο, το οποίο υπηρετεί τις ανάγκες των παιδιών σε όλα τα επίπεδα νοητικών και σωματικών ικανοτήτων. Στο πέρασμα του χρόνου, οι πολυαισθητηριακές προσεγγίσεις αποκτούν ολοένα και περισσότερη ισχύ, καθώς είναι ευρέως διαδεδομένες και επιστήμονες με ποικίλο υπόβαθρο τείνουν να τις χρησιμοποιούν ολοένα και περισσότερο. Η αξιοπιστία τέτοιων προσεγγίσεων ανάγεται στην επιτυχή τους εφαρμογή. Τα φιλικά προς τη δυσλεξία περιβάλλοντα, όπου χρησιμοποιούνται πολυαισθητηριακές προσεγγίσεις, αποτελούν μια επιτακτική ανάγκη.
Deaf individuals have access to spoken language through written language. Although, when there is no sensory disability, readers and writers already speak the language. Floratu  argues that there are undoubtedly many factors which influence the comfortable learning of reading and writing, such as normal cognitive development, satisfactory concentration, etc. In junior school, teachers observe that very often children cannot cope with the “demands” of the school program. They cannot participate in class lessons, they face operational difficulties. These are the children who either did not work enough in the pre-reading prowess, or else they just needed a bit extra-time to fulfill their learning activities .
History attests that learning difficulties (including dyslexia)
comprises a topic of many scientific areas. The medical faculty has shown great
interest in some cases of learning difficulties. For instance, Dr.
Brief reference to different approaches –intervention
In many cases, regarding speech and language disorders (e.g. phonological errors, dysphasia, autism) specific approaches/intervention have been explored and therefore used. The purpose is not always the same. In some cases, the “remediation” or “treatment” is considered, whilst in other ones, compensation is the priority and sometimes the only target. As for dyslexia, different schools (i.e. different scientific areas) provide us with diverse approaches towards it.
Ø Neurolinguistic Intervention
One might think that, if dyslexia is
neurological in origin, how would we be able to treat it? Karpathiou 
argues that dyslexia is not a pedagogical problem. As he believes, if it would
be an issue for pedagogy, dyslexia would have been treated with one or another
pedagogical method. Karpathiou  states that: “dyslexia is a dysfunction in
a functional brain level” (author’s translation). Furthermore, he believes that
the term “dyslexia” should be used in plural, since each type of dyslexia
depends on its location in the brain system in the first place, and then, on
the type of the damage on a functional level. The method that Karpathiou and
his colleagues use and suggest is called “XEK-
Ø Neuropsychological Intervention
Robertson  argues that: “Neuropsychological theory can be explored as a medium for improving intervention for pupils with specific developmental dyslexia (SDD)”. Within the neuropsychological approaches, Bakker and associates  (1979, 2002; Licht, Bakker, Kok, & Bouma, 1988; Robertson & Bakker, 2002) have argued that there are two crucial and predominated phases in the learning to read process. Based on this principal there have been run many intervention programs  towards dyslexia.
Ø Educational Intervention
As mentioned above, dyslexia
comprises a topic of many scientific areas. Tuchman  argues that: “The most common and most accepted
treatment for learning disabilities has been educational intervention”. In the
educational field, there have been flourished a great deal of approaches such
as the phonics methods, the sight word method and the aspect which advocates
the whole language approach . In the
Ø The Role of Computers
Children with dyslexia are usually taught by manual systems consisting of worksheets. However, using computer technology might be an option that would possibly allow pupils access to the curriculum and provide a novel and probably appealing learning environment. This idea could possibly be suitable to people with dyslexia, since computer technology can provide support in areas to which dyslexia provokes problems. There are many computer programs (e.g. word processing programs, dictionaries, thesauri, and spell-checkers can aid work with text) . In addition, specialized CD-ROM software are available, such as “Nessy Learning Program” and “Hooked on Phonics” (Dyslexia Parent Resources, 2005) which provide multi-sensory phonics instruction through interactive games. Moreover, there might be other benefits that could arise through the use of computer technology. Self-confidence might be improved, memory problems might be assisted and technology skills would certainly be fostered. Computer technology usually, if not always, involves multi-sensory approaches to learning difficulties .
Ø The Multi-sensory Teaching Approach
What is a learning style? A coherent answer is that learning styles are preferred ways of acquiring knowledge and processing information. Learning style affects the way people learn and therefore participate in activities, solve problems etc . Most individuals have a dominant learning style. Some people are auditory learners, whilst there are others who need to use the whole-body approach to learn . This way of learning is called the kinesthetic style . The tactile way of learning is part of the kinesthetic learning style. To illustrate, Lamarche-Bisson  discusses how different learning styles work. Auditory learners love to talk and listen and are encouraged to work with others. Visual learners think in pictures and words. Kinaesthetic learners need to get involved to learn. Discovering each learning style is essential to distributing group roles and tasks.
o Pioneers of the Multi-Sensory Approach
Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific approach, whereby she taught adults how to respect individual differences . She believed in promoting the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge. Her approach aims at creating environments which may foster the fulfillment of childrens’ highest potential. The Montessori educational approach is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability . Today Montessori teacher training centers and schools exist on most continents. There are also Montessori parenting classes and programs for children with developmental disabilities of all kinds. Many parents use Dr. Montessori's discoveries in order to educate their children at home. Maria Montessori believed that the more the senses of the learner are involved, the better the learning .
Dr. Orton was influenced by the kinesthetic method described by Grace Fernald and Helen Keller when he and his colleagues began using multisensory techniques in the mid - 1920's. Orton argued that kinesthetic-tactile reinforcement of visual and auditory associations could correct the tendency of reversing letters and transposing letters while reading and writing.
views comprised the corner-stone for Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman
original teaching manual (1936) for the "alphabetic method".
The phrase "Orton-Gillingham approach" refers to the structured, sequential, multisensory techniques established by Dr. Orton and Ms. Gillingham and their colleagues (IDA, 2006).
o Philosophy of multi-sensory approach – major components – benefits
Preparative to conceptualise information people need to see, touch and hear. This way memory and learning are enhanced. A multi-sensory teaching approach facilitates this by using all the learning pathways (i.e. visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic-tactile) simultaneously . Margaret Byrd Rawson, a former President of The Orton Dyslexia Society stated her view: "Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language -- the sounds and the letters which represent them -- and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for the conscious organization and retention of their learning."
The Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach (the term approach is used instead of the term method) is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive and flexible.
The understanding of the nature of human language is a great priority of the approach. The Multi-Sensory approach focuses on the way people process language. It analyses the mechanisms involved in acquiring language and the knowledge of this procedure is applied to teaching reading and writing.
Reinforcement of learning through multiple channels
is well proved through study data. Tiene (2000) argued that hearing
information, presented simultaneously with iconic visual input, is the most
effective means of instructing. Using two channels of processing simultaneously
allows the brain to process all at once and improves recall pathways through
one channel or the other. Orton-Gillingham teaching sessions are geared towards simultaneous
presentation to the auditory, kinesthetic, visual and tactile modes of
learning. This way, all the above elements reinforce for optimal learning. The
student learns spelling simultaneously with reading.
Structured, Sequential, Cumulative
The Orton-Gillingham approach focuses on the automaticity of specific sub skills. The O-G (Orton-Gillingham approach) introduces the elements of the language systematically. The skills learned from students, become progressively more complex. In the first place, phonemes are presented in isolation. Then it follows the phoneme-grapheme correspondence. Afterwards, it follows the blend of the sounds into syllables and words. Students learn the elements of language, e.g., consonants, vowels, in an orderly fashion. Syllable types, roots, and affixes comprise the next step. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity. Educators address vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative way.
Students learn about the structure of the language. Grammatical and syntactic rules are introduced via the paths referred above. They also learn how they can best learn and apply the language knowledge necessary for achieving reading and writing competencies.
Educators are not inexorable on the point of teaching. They always try to understand the procedures of learning and to devise appropriate teaching strategies.
Reward is a byword for learning. Learning must be a happy experience. Consequently, in every lesson, the student experiences a high degree of success. Efforts are rewarded and therefore, confidence is built and skills are gained.
Educators acknowledge the value of such approaches and may try to design practical exercises incorporating good academic content in order that pupils with dyslexia could learn primarily from practical work. O-G approach is especially useful for students with dyslexia since through this path every concept is taught in a multi-sensory way. Additionally, teachers who base their instruction on the O-G approach never assume a student already knows how to do something. Students with dyslexia should be explicitly instructed in each new concept, and Orton-Gillingham does an excellent job of explaining and reviewing each skill until the concept is understood.
o Criticism of the approach
reports that the multi-sensory approach has been criticized. Some critics blame
the approach for being elitist and too rigid. There are others which fault the
approach with the lack of emphasis on fantasy and creativity. Stewart, Pollacks
Ø The Greek reality
The framework of the
comprehensive program of Special Education in
In Greek ordinary nursery and
primary schools, dyslexic children may receive learning support on a part-time,
withdrawal basis. In
As for secondary level no support is available for pupils with dyslexia. However, oral examinations are a legally and educationally recognized provision offered to pupils with dyslexia according to the Law 2525 of 1997.
Ø Developing a Dyslexia-Friendly Learning Environment – Benefits
Current psychology vociferates that many educational difficulties have their foundations in emotional problems. Rutter  had a strong belief regarding the association of specific reading retardation with emotional or behavioral disorder. He argued  that: “reading difficulties and antisocial behavior are both relatively common problems in childhood”. More recently, Manzo  (1987) believed that perhaps 15% to 20% of the problems subsumed under the term dyslexia are rooted in emotional difficulties.
In the case of dyslexia, someone might assume that various factors (e.g. anxiety, lack of motivation) might lead to underachievement and vice versa. That is, underachievement might yield emotional disturbance. If this is true, then we are talking about a vicious cycle, a cyclone, where emotional problems and dyslexia blend and the cause of one become the result of the other. Here is where a dyslexia-friendly environment is necessary and quite crucial.
o “Dyslexia friendly” environment
What makes a school “dyslexia friendly”? Dyslexia friendly schools should not only acknowledge that dyslexia exists. They should go further and make additional provision to ensure a child's needs are met. A dyslexia friendly school recognizes that children with dyslexia can experience significantly higher stress levels than their non-dyslexic peers and this may impact on academic performance as well as socially and emotionally.
Dyslexia friendly schools carry a different approach-philosophy of perceiving the instructional reality. In dyslexia friendly schools any failure of pupils to learn is attributed to failure of teaching programs, methodologies, bad/insufficient material etc. Under no circumstances should teachers blame students for their incompetence. Usually, this is where skepticism of teachers takes place.
In order to succeed, a dyslexia friendly school should give the matter careful consideration. For instance, the school must have a written dyslexia policy and this policy should be agreed by all members of staff.
o Practical policies
There are also practical policies that must be established in these schools. For instance, altering format options onscreen or on an interactive whiteboard
(e.g. background colour) . Furthermore, speech support to existing programs might be a good application. Moreover, Portable Writing Aids might be quite helpful. This offers pupils word processing facilities anywhere at school (e.g. Portable word processors, tablets palmtop devices). Another policy should deal with the amount of time a pupil should be expected to spend on a particular learning activity. Additionally, special arrangements should be made for assessing pupils’ work by means other than written tests and examinations! This would be a great challenge.
Dyslexia Friendly Schools are expected to have a specialist teacher of children with dyslexia and should ensure that the other class school teachers receive on-going training in the teaching of children with dyslexia. Screening and early dyslexia-detection programs should be in place. It is very important that in dyslexia friendly schools, dyslexic pupils are not underestimated and there must be high expectations from both dyslexic and/or non-dyslexic students who underachieve.
o Parental participation
Another crucial issue refers to communication between schools and parents . Do schools communicate effectively with parents? Do schools offer practical guidance to parents of pupils with dyslexia in helping their children?
If we want to make dyslexia-friendly schools work, we must recognize that pupils with dyslexia have special educational needs and that these needs have to be met to the best of our ability and resources. No child should have to grow up feeling undermined and inferior. We must recognize that these pupils have skills and talents which should be assisted, nurtured, developed.
“Dyslexia friendly” environment in
It might sound
oxymoron but it is not: Greek secondary education is mainly provided by public
schools. However, the contemporary Greek educational system (all grades) is
systematically supported by private tutoring schools called “frontistiria” . Since the role of
frontistiria is the additional
support of weak students, someone might think that there would be special
provisions for students with dyslexia. However, the competition in the frontistiria sector is really
intense. Therefore, in most cases the special educational needs of children
with dyslexia are not met, since frontistiria, wanting to be promoted, instruct
strong students . We could say that, finally, they have disorientated. In
In public schools the only provision for children with learning difficulties are inclusion classrooms and oral examinations. Inclusion classrooms are not specialized. Special educators who teach in those workplaces offer their help to children with all kind of learning difficulties (e.g. pupils with autism, dyslexia, AD/HD). Much worse, as for the inclusion classrooms, this provision, only concerns nursery and primary schools.
Kokkalia and Smagkis  mention that frontistiria need to adopt an open and flexible approach encouraging communication between all parties (teachers, family, specialists, pupils). It is believed that their policies and alternative methods will help students to gain their self-esteem that has been lost through the traditional methodologies of the Greek educational system that seems to have many problems -still- to face .
However, looking at the bright side, in
Multi-sensory approach is a successful and potent approach which is time-resistant. As time passes, it becomes more and more powerful, since it is widely spread and scientists from different backgrounds tend to use more and more. The reliability of the approach lies on its successful application. Running an era where human rights are established and respect of heterogeneity is a first priority, the construction of dyslexia - friendly environments ,  where multi-sensory approach is applied, comprises an imperative need.
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