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Double Dipping: Why More Is Not Always Better for a Dyslexic Student

How many times have I heard a school tell a parent, “We are so excited! We got extra funding, so we can get [Riley] into another intervention a couple more days per week. So now she has 4 different great phonics programs that we are exposing her to! All this great language exposure!”

Have you heard this before? Sometimes, it’s referred to as double dipping. Just say NO!!!

  • MORE is not always better, especially for someone with dyslexia!

  • A structured systematic approach to teaching literacy is what is recommended based on research. 

The IDA, International Dyslexia Association, explains some of the important components of Structured Literacy, also known as Orton Gillingham, in the article below:

One of the key tenets of this type of teaching is that it must be systematic and cumulative, which is where Instruction follows a planned scope and sequence of skills that progresses from easier to more difficult. One concept builds on another.” 

Throwing multiple programs at a student is not effective for someone who has dyslexia! Each program will have its own Scope and Sequence, meaning that each program has an order of when each skill is taught. For example, the Barton system that we use at our center doesn’t teach the silent-e concept until about halfway through the program, compared to a different curriculum that might teach silent-e at the beginning. 

Now, it can be perfectly appropriate to have one program for comprehension and another for vocabulary and another for phonics. But when we get into trouble is when we are teaching the child the basics of phonics and how to read and spell with multiple programs! This is too cognitively demanding for our students, and it goes against what researchers have found to be effective, which is structured, systematic, sequential, cumulative teaching. 

Tips for parents:

  • Ask the school what phonics program(s) your child is receiving. Get them to tell you very specific information about WHAT, WHEN, and HOW OFTEN. A dyslexic student needs at least 2-3 hours per week of intense phonics and phonological awareness instruction.

  • Ask for only ONE program to be given to your child. Be warned that the school may ask you to sign paperwork stating that you are declining services and that you will not hold the school liable for if your child does not make adequate progress.

  • If the student is receiving good structured literacy instruction at school (like on an IEP), they should not be receiving another separate program in tutoring too. And vice versa. Pick one or the other. Your child WILL make better progress and get to reading mastery quicker if they can cognitively focus on ONE program.

Success is achieved when a student can master each concept before moving on to the next. This is much easier to do when only one concept from one program is being taught slowly, systematically, and methodically. 


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