Debut author van den Honert shares her experiences using neurological research to teach dyslexic junior high school students how to read.
In 1973, when the first of her five children started college, the author returned to work as a substitute teacher in her local junior high in Pittsfield, Mass. After the administration found that she could handle rambunctious students, they assigned her a full-time position teaching reading to “six dyslexic boys who were climbing the walls.” She realized that she had “backed into dyslexia, clueless,” so she combed through neurological research papers. She developed teaching methods based on studies that dyslexics have “poky” corpus callosums in their brains that cause delays and other problems in “interhemispheric transfer of visual and auditory signals.” To “rewire” her students, she gave them headphones, playing a spelling exercise in one ear and classical music in the other. She also had each student hold a card over one eye while reading a column of words. Such “enhanced lateralization” techniques trained one side of the brain to do all the processing work, bypassing the hemisphere “switching” problems. Her students experienced a significant jump in their reading levels in just one year. Although the school administration was initially skeptical about her results, van den Honert went on to teach successfully at the school for 11 years, later tackling dyslexic students’ math and writing challenges. She then served as a private tutor and as a longtime member of the Pittsfield School Committee, and she’s currently the ongoing overseer of the website Dyslexia.org. Although her account here is sometimes repetitive and digressive, she ultimately serves up an effective quick-start guide for parents, students and teachers of dyslexic students. She conveys difficult concepts in a way that anyone can understand, and readers will find her championing of those with dyslexia to be truly inspirational. Indeed, readers may wish for more details about her interactions with her students, because her role in their lives hints at a transformational saga along the lines of the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver.
A hopeful, helpful primer from a teacher with hands-on success in dealing with dyslexia.