by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.
Dyslexia is a specific reading style occurring in about 15 to 20 percent of the population of the United States, resulting in large costs to society. Of these, 15 to 20%, or less than 1 in 20 of these people are successfully identified (note – this does not mean treated – it means they are just spotted).
Dyslexia is non-standard language-based processing approach that is characterized by problems in reading, spelling, and writing. Dyslexia is not a disease; therefore it cannot be “cured.” Dyslexia runs in families. If a parent has dyslexia, his or her children are at increased risk for this learning disorder. The costs to United States society are large – some studies find that more than half of all incarcerated people have dyslexia.
Generally, dyslexia describes a bright mind that learns differently. As a result, some observers describe the condition as not a learning difficulty, but a teaching deficit.
Most dyslexia is not identified until third grade or later. By then, a child with reading problems has only a one in seven chance of catching up in reading. Children’s normal development of reading skills is like climbing stairs….they have to get past the first few steps before they can continue to climb. Undiagnosed or untreated Dyslexia causes the children to stumble at the first few steps, and later attempts to read at grade level often fail.
The problem is not lack of intelligence – indeed, many dyslexics are of above average intelligence. Children with dyslexia often show significant gifts in the areas controlled by the right side of the brain. They tend to excel in artistic, athletic and mechanical endeavors; architecture; science; music; and creative problem-solving.
The teaching difficulty is a mismatch between the students learning styles dictated by brain formation, and the traditional way reading is taught, and when. By applying known and proven special techniques of teaching to this specific population early enough, they can master the first few steps in time to climb the rest of the stairs appropriately. This changes the future course of their life, and significantly reduces the cost to society long term.
The Nemours BrightStart! Dyslexia Initiative, started in 2005 in Jacksonville Florida, has designed and implemented a program which has demonstrated documentable results in speaking to this problem.
Nemours BrightStart! Personnel have completed nearly 9,000 screenings for early literacy skills among Duval County’s pre-kindergartners. Over 1,500 of these children have received intensive intervention to improve their pre-literacy knowledge and increase their chance for reading success in kindergarten and beyond. The average cost of a screening is only a few dollars, and the average investment for intervention ranges from $500-$1,000 per child. Considering that the average cost of a year of public school is around $8,414,[i] and many dyslexics repeat one or more grades, drop out of school due to learning difficulty, or fail to receive the benefit of this education for the 12 years of their education, it could be argued that the cost benefit of the program is 800% the first year, and for a first grader who is kept climbing the stairway appropriately the program pays for itself 100 times over, based on education costs alone, ignoring cost of future incarceration, under employment, cost to welfare rolls, Medicaid, etc.
Rigorous statistical analysis of at-risk children’s response to intervention has demonstrated significant benefit for the majority of participants.
The chart below shows the relative Fall to Spring school season gains on a widely used early literacy measure, Get Ready To Read, for the “at-risk” intervention participants and the children who were not “at risk” during the 2008-2009 school year. These results replicated nearly identical results from the previous three years. These results are demonstrating real-world meaningful gains: Two-thirds of the at-risk children who received Nemours BrightStart! Intervention moved into the normal range after scoring well below average at their fall pre-intervention assessment.
Among the children participating in Nemours BrightStart! during the 2005-2006 school year for which longitudinal data is available, 81 percent met the Duval County Public Schools’ end-of-kindergarten reading benchmark in 2007. This compares favorably to the countywide pass rate of 74 percent. Even more impressive is the 69 percent pass rate for the at-risk children who received Nemours BrightStart! Intervention, which suggests that this program has the potential to set many youngsters on the path to reading success from the beginning of their reading journey.
Nemours BrightStart! Dyslexia Initiative
841 Prudential Drive, Suite 1600
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Phone: (904) 697-3118 or toll-free (877) 878-3118
This program was the subject of an ABC television show which can be seen at http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=7135109
You may find more information about Dyslexia at: http://www.dyslexia-add.org/resources.html.