Dyslexia and the Nonsense Word Conundrum

Dyslexia and the Nonsense Word Conundrum - DyslexiaTrainingInstitute

The use of nonsense words in intervention programs for reading and spelling to struggling readers is ubiquitous. It is ubiquitous in assessments too. Publishers use the rationale that nonsense words help the teacher and assessor know whether or not the student is able to transfer what they have learned about decoding to new words and this signals progress. The problem with this is twofold. First, many of the nonsense words that are used are not possible letter strings in the English language. (For a detailed and well-support description of this, please read Gina Cooke’s article). Secondly, the English writing system is based on meaning before phonology, so when a student is reading a word with no meaning, it can be impossible to really determine what the correct pronunciation is. In teacher trainings, we always ask the group, how do you pronounce the letter string *<chom>? The answer we always get is /chom/ or [ʧɑm] in IPA. The problem with this answer, is that the correct answer is really, we can’t know what the correct pronunciation is until we know what the word is. In the case of a digraph like <ch> the meaning and etymology of the word will drive the pronunciation. Look at the following three common words: chip, machine and ache. Their histories drive their pronunciations, so how in the world can a student know which is correct?

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Dyslexia: An Adult Student Checks In

Dyslexia - An Adult Student Checks In with DTI

It’s no secret that my heart will always be with the adult literacy students I worked with prior to starting the Dyslexia Training Institute.  I have even written about the Adult Side of Dyslexia trying to explain the profound impact those students still have on me to this day. Luckily, here at DTI, we still get to work with adults and on some days, and usually the days when I really need a pick-me-up, we get an email like the below from a previous adult learner and today was one of those days in which I received an email that brought me to tears (all identifying information was removed):

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Dyslexia: Don’t Forget the Qualitative Data

Dyslexia: Don’t Forget the Qualitative Data - Dyslexia Training Institute

Data data data! Eligibility decisions and progress should be based on more than cold hard quantitative data because there is the equally important qualitative data that is more often than not, completely ignored in the decision making process. Qualitative data can include observations, miscue analysis, writing samples and observations of performance in timed and untimed situations.

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