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The Best Kept Secret in Special Education

by Wrightslaw

Most college special education masters programs do not include comprehensive instruction in reading for dyslexics.

Yet, dyslexics or children with reading disorders make up 70-80% of the special education students. Is there any wonder why special education reading scores are so low?

How does this happen?

Robin Hansen explains in the San Francisco Special Education Examiner

At best, most potential teachers will get just an overview in reading, Few colleges, if any teach one of the few methodologies proven by the International Dyslexia Association. These methodologies are taught by private companies or certified individuals, not colleges.

The owners of the methodologies are not big text book publishers like Harcourt, SRA, etc that can afford lobbyists to push state politicians and administrators to approve their curriculum. Publishers make money by selling hundreds of thousands of text books.

True research based proven methodologies for dyslexics are multi-sensory based. The original is Orton Gillingham. The rest are based on the theories of Orton Gillingham are Wilson, Slingerland and Spaulding.

The exception to the rule is Lindamood Bell LiPS (Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing) which is a proven multi-sensory methodology.

In order to use these methodologies properly, teachers must have intensive instruction, consistent mentoring and follow up. Teachers cannot go to a two day or one week workshop and then come back and teach the rest of the staff. Unfortunately, this is the current model in SFUSD. Last years professional development calendar did not include a single workshop in reading instruction for dyslexics.

For the last 90 years nationwide, college teacher training programs and public schools have ignored the fact that Orton Gillingham (O-G) methodology works for dyslexic children, to the detriments of millions of children and society as a whole. Famous dyslexic Special Education attorney Pete Wright had a very hard time in school and was taught to read using Orton Gillingham methodology.

Ironically, Pete would advocate for a dyslexic girl named Shannon Carter in front of the supreme court. He would win a unanimous decision in 1993. The court ruled that the public school did not provide Shannon Carter with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The court ruled to reimburse the parents who found an adequate private school which taught Shannon via the Orton Gillingham method.

There have been cases all over the country where the few parents who do fight back win when it comes to poor reading instruction. Even the dimmest hearing officer recognizes a child that can’t read! With so much evidence available, one would think public schools would get the message, but they don’t. Right now the deck is very much stacked against parents with the Office of Administrative Hearings in California. School districts win about 90% of the time. But even in that poisonous climate, a San Francisco Unified School District’s “legal expert consultant” took a reading case to Court and lost. This student won 200 hours of Lindamood Bell tutoring.
Read decision here:

Is this how we spend money from the “rainy day” education fund? How much did this trial cost? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to teach children how to read?

While politicians, educators,and administrators argue over reading, few listen to the sound, well researched International Dyslexia Association. With the advent of MRI’s, whole new waves of understanding and research about how well these methodologies work have been published. There have been articles in Newsweek, great documentaries of powerful evidence of neuroscience but the public school officials and college special education departments still don’t pay attention.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) demanded evidence based reading programs with research behind them. Great idea. Except all kinds of educational publishers eager to get their piece of the money pie, came up with watered down text books and programs claiming to have O-G traits pushed their wares on gullible public school administrators who do not have the knowledge to be educated consumers. Publishers were just interested in just making money. School district administrators do not understand the difference between the “at risk” population vs Specific Learning Disabled population.

Neuroscience has proven beyond a doubt over and over that these are the methodologies that work.

It’s a local and national shame.

Originally published March 29, 2009, San Francisco Special Education Examiner

Read more articles on Special Education from Robin Hansen.

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26 Comments on "The Best Kept Secret in Special Education"


Davis Method – Karen S, this is interesting. I agree. My son was taught to read via a one on one tutor that the school paid for & learned to read via the Alphabetic Phonics method. There is a great book that you can get at the library “Understanding Dyslexia” by Sally Shaywitz. This helped me find a path for my son.

Karen S

The Davis Method hasn’t been mentioned. It’s the only one that has worked for my son. It has brought him up in reading and math within a short period of time compared to other methods. There is no phonics or phonemic awareness in the method, but it works. I think it is not catching on bc there has not been much research conducted to support the great outcome the program provides. It is very intensive and not cheap, but my son learned the alphabet forwards and backwards within a week. Before that special ed in the public school only did Wilson Fundations with him–a total waste of his time and tax payers’ money. Why programs that work are not funded bc of “lack of research” is beyond me. Often enough the schoolbook publishing corporations are the ones behind the “research” that supposedly works. Not very objective IMO. Do what works!


Just as the article states the public school system is only using traits of Orton-Gillingham and sometimes. The article clearly explains lack of training on methodologies in universities. The disconnect is understanding the undeniable importance it plays in 100% reading success. Once an educator receives the trainings and certifications in approved methods they have a life changing experience as they view reading in different light. A child can not receive a quality education without a strong literacy foundation. Texas is the leader in dyslexia laws, the most successful districts use Take Flight & DuBard. The s&l paths use LMB.


Addressing a few previous statements below. Lindamood-Bell is an evidenced based method most often used by speech & language pathologists as it is for language remediation and phoneme identification. Phonemes precede phonics in the reading process. Dyslexia is a language based learning dissability that affects the process of language, acquisition of reading, and writing. A dyslexic must be taught to read using an evidenced based methodology. It will be directly, explicitly, systematically, cumulatively, and with a multi-sensory approach such as Orton-Gillingham. Orton-Gillingham is not a method, it is simply the approach to a method. All the elements are to be followed with fidelity by a reading therapist certified in the a method. IT WORKS!! Read 180 does not qualify for a dyslexic. Refer to IDA


I was disappointed that this turned into an advertisement for Lindamood-Bell rather than address the problem of graduate school reading instruction. I expect more from Wright’s Law. These types of material turn teachers off to taking the time to read them and as a result there is no movement forward in their knowledge base or teaching skills.