Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Phonics: Children who do not respond

What happens when a child cannot learn to read through phonics? 

Educational researchers call these children nonresponders or  treatment-resisters. They use these terms because direct and intensive teaching of phonetic skills is usually the first approach taken to help a young child who is falling behind but a surprisingly large number of children fail to progress to phonics-based interventions.  

Researchers have found that 25% to 50% of children with learning disabilities fall within this category. That is, one-fourth to one-half of kids with reading difficulties won't learn with the methods that are most likely to be offered at their schools. That is a higher percentage than the reported number of children with dyslexia.

New research confirms that the children who do not progress with traditional phonics-based tutoring are highly likely to be dyslexic. 

Unfortunately, schools often follow up the failed intervention with more of the same -- the teachers try harder, reasoning that the child must need to have more repetition and practice to learn but the research evidence also shows that the children who do not learn from phonics-based teaching at the outset do not improve over time; if anything, their performance tends to get slightly worse.   

Most dyslexic kids will struggle to learn to read that way, and those who struggle at the outset will continue to find traditional approaches to reading to be difficult or near-impossible. 

Learn more about the Davis Method:


  1. Nice post. Learning through phonics is not something that suits every child. My own daughter has reading difficulties and I found that phonics only courses did little to improve her reading understanding and comprehension.

    A good program for children with reading disabilities is the Reading Eggs early reading program.

  2. Thanks Claire! You are, of course completely correct in saying that not all children respond to this approach. Unfortunately it is the complex nature of this condition that makes it so difficult to address, there is no one solution for everyone.

    We are continually frustrated and confounded by individuals or organisations promoting a single solution for Dyslexia, generally for their own gain or out of ignorance of the subject.

    We intend to continue to provide information and insight into current thinking and research, pertaining to Dyslexia and related cognitive processing disorders.

    This should allow people with Dyslexia to make informed decisions about their own condition and circumstances.

    With this in mind, we hope they can take some positive steps towards making real progress in addressing their issues and circumstances.

    We wish you the most successful and remarkable New Year in 2013.