New methods will help challenged readers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Special area teachers Suzanne Fairley and Lindsey Cross, with Sonia Hines

When school starts back in August, Andalusia City Schools special area teachers Suzanne Fairley and Lindsey Cross will have a new tool with which to help students become successful readers.

The two will have ended a two-year quest and be licensed in multi-sensory education.

“That doesn’t mean that we can teach students to do jumping jacks while reciting math facts,” Cross said. “This course has taught us how to get those students who have phonological delays – which means they don’t make the relationship between letters and sounds – use their eyes and their ears at the same time to learn to read.”

Studies show multi-sensory approaches have been particularly valuable in literacy and language learning, for example, in relationships between sound and symbol, word recognition, and the use of tactile methods such as tracing on rough or soft surfaces.

ACS Special Education Coordinator Sonia Hines said the women have brought “quite an achievement” to the system.

The State Department of Education (SDE), Special Education Services, and the Alabama Reading Initiative offered the multi-sensory structured language education (MSLE) training course called “Take Flight.” The Shelton School in Dallas, Texas, provided the two-year training course. Participants were trained in the use of a multi-sensory structured language program for students with specific language disabilities. The course also addressed the specific written language skills of reading, spelling and writing.

“These women have worked very hard on this two-year endeavor to become nationally certified language therapists,” Hines said. “This will make us one of the few systems to have done this. I think the closest other school is Dothan.”

Hines said the training was provided by the state for free and the school system covered travel costs.

Cross said the program is not a dyslexia program; however, the system can benefit students diagnosed with dyslexia. She explained how a second grade, now third grade, student has gone through the program.

“When we started, she could only read six words,” Cross said. “She had a serious block of connecting the phonics. Now, she’s up to 40 words, and that is huge.”

Fairley said the program gave her a greater understanding of students with reading disabilities.

“There are students that we call non-readers,” she said. “They don’t seem to be progressing, and wouldn’t responding to any technique we have. Now, I think, we have what it takes to progress.”