Can a $549 lamp mitigate the effects of dyslexia? (Probably not.)

During my daily Internet surfing, I stumbled across this article by Adam Smith for PCMag.com. This lamp, called a Lexilight, from the French company Lexilife, is supposedly able to reduce or eliminate the “mirroring effect” that dyslexic people experience when trying to read. The what now?

I reached out via Twitter to Adam Smith, who replied very quickly. He graciously considered my views and updated the article with my quote, and told me he has reached out to the company for clarification.

Lexilife references this 2017 study by Albert Le Floch and Guy Ropars, published in The Royal Society B (Volume 284, Issue 1865). So I read the study. While I am not a clinical researcher, I still find this data not only lacking, but also worrisome. The entire sample was 30 adults with dyslexia and 30 without. They did not study children, although they stated that our eye-dominance is typically not established until we are 8 years of age. (Note that dyslexia can be diagnosed as in a child as young as 5.) Furthermore, I saw no control group, nor a double-blind method. I cannot locate any attempts to reproduce these findings and validate them.

While the DSM and the federal education department’s definitions of dyslexia do differ some, they are both clear on the fact that dyslexia is a language-based disability. The problem of visual acuity must be screened for and corrected before a diagnosis of dyslexia can be made.

Therefore, until I see new information in a peer-reviewed study that tells me I am wrong, I will continue to tell parents not to waste their money on a $549 (!!) lamp, no matter how fancy its light bulbs.

Phonological Awareness

What are the components of phonological awareness? Phonological awareness is a broadly-defined skill that means that one can identify and manipulate units of oral language, including syllables and phonemes. We understand that words, syllables, phonemes, etc., have meaning. For example, I know that when you’ve added an -s to the word rabbit, you are talking about more than one. The -s has a meaning of plurality, even if it isn’t a word on its own.

These components are listed in order of a child’s typical development. Students are generally expected to have mastered these skills around age 7. This list does not include every single skill, but it does have the basic factors that are generally agreed to be an indicator of reading success.

1. Rhyme recognition – Does it rhyme? Can you tell me other words that rhyme with it?

2. Syllable counting – How many syllables in this word?

**PRO TIP: Are you having trouble teaching students to clap out syllables? Stop clapping! Instead, place your hand just under your chin. Say the word slowly and in an exaggerated fashion. “Spaaaa…geeeet…eeee.” How many times did your chin touch your hand? The answer is three, of course, because in order to make a vowel sound, you have to open your mouth. And no syllable in the English language comes without a vowel. You’re welcome!**

3. Initial-phoneme matching – Which words start with the same sound? What other words start with this sound? We’re talking about letters, not sounds. Remember, letters like c and s can make the same sound!

(Also, this is where we specifically introduce phonemic awareness, which is under the umbrella of phonological awareness.)

4. Initial-phoneme deletion – Say “band.” Now say it again without the /b/. I would also include medial phoneme deletion here, although that is a much harder skill: Say “brand.” Now say it again without the /b/.

5. Phoneme blending – What word am I saying here? /k/ /an/ /d/ /e_/

6. Phoneme counting – How many sounds are in the word “snow”? Three, if you’re wondering. /s/ /n/ /o_e/

Part 11 of the OG Lesson (We’re Done!)

The last part of the lesson is always oral reading and/or fluency activities. If oral reading is done, the instructor must choose a text that is 95%+ decodable, and should go over any unknown words beforehand. At least for the first couple of levels, it is crucial to have the text contain much of same concept that was taught throughout the lesson. The instructor takes a running record as the student reads. WPM can be calculated, but isn’t necessary.

If the student is practicing fluency, there can many ways to do this. One is simply by playing with sight words, since there hasn’t been a focus on these until this point in the lesson. Texts with rhymes or song lyrics can be great to practice too. Students who are struggling with phrasing can practice with short phrases on cards (on the bench, in the cabinet, under the couch).

Part 10 of the OG Lesson

SOS in Orton-Gillingham terms stands for Simultaneous Oral Spelling. I explain to kids, it’s a fancy way of saying that you’re spelling the word out loud as you write it.

There are typically no more than 10 SOS words in a lesson. The first 5 are usually embedded with the concept that you’ve taught that day, and the other 5 have review concepts. The words don’t have to be connected to each other, but they must be encodable. In other words, there can be no sight words in this list.

In SOS, the teacher states the word and the student repeats it. The teacher can give the student the word in a sentence if needed, especially if it’s a homophone. In this case, the word will be “pail”.

1. The student then sound-taps the word on his fingers: /p/ /a_e/ /l/. Notice this is three phonemes (sounds), even though we know the word is spelled with four letters.
2. He repeats the sequence, this time spelling the letters that correspond to each sound. That means he will still only tap his fingers three times. “P, AI, L.”
3. He then repeats that sequence one more time, writing the letters with one hand, and tapping on his fingers with the other.
4. Note that error corrections should happen during Step #2. I have had students who have a hard time realizing errors if they cannot see them. In this case, it is fine to have the student write the word and then decode it. Usually most students catch their errors here, because if they are decoding a misspelled word correctly, they will see they’ve made a mistake.