If you or a loved one is struggling to read due to print disabilities of any sort, you will be thrilled with today’s interview. Help—great help, in fact, is available! And most is free or low cost! I am so excited to introduce dyslexic reading specialist Matthew Hattoon, M.Ed., of Bookshare.org. He is a great resource for cutting-edge information on teaching techniques, along with technology and tools for reading.
Don: How did you become interested in working with dyslexia and other print disabilities?
Matt: I was a reading teacher in a public school and observed that some of my students had unexpected reading difficulties, when contrasted with their performance with academic duties that did not involve decoding written material. After researching this phenomena, I realized that many of these students exhibited characteristics of dyslexia. I then had the good fortune to be given the opportunity to train with Margaret Taylor Smith, the creator of the MTA dyslexia remediation program, and developed a lifelong passion for working with dyslexic students.
Don: Are there any facets of dyslexia or other print disabilities that you find are very poorly understood?
Matt: All too often, dyslexia is unidentified and/or misdiagnosed. Students who could benefit from dyslexia remediation are not getting services they need in a timely fashion and have a difficult time in school due to their problems with reading traditional print. Dyslexia is also widely misunderstood. It is often viewed as a deficiency in intelligence or determination or simply a problem with seeing letters in the wrong order. We have come a long way in our understanding of dyslexia, but many of these misconceptions still hinder students.
Don: Please describe the multi-sensory approach to teaching reading.
Matt: Most multi-sensory dyslexia remediation programs are based upon Orton-Gillingham techniques, in which teaching is done using all learning pathways in the brain (visual-auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.
Don: How is technology assistive to those of us with reading challenges?
Matt: There are a wide range of assistive technology (AT) tools available to help individuals who struggle with reading. While each type of tool works a little differently, most of these tools help by presenting text as speech. Some, such as Bookshare Web Reader, also include synchronized, highlighted text and allow the reader to change font size and style and page contrast to suit their personal preferences. These tools help facilitate decoding, reading fluency, and comprehension.
Don: Are there any new developments in technology in the works for those with print disabilities?
Matt: Image description in accessible text has long been problematic. The DIAGRAM Center, a Benetech Global Literacy initiative, has been doing some amazing work in that regard. It is a research and development center whose goal is to dramatically change the way image and graphic content for Accessible Electronic Media (AEM) is produced and accessed, so that students with print disabilities are provided equal access to the general education curriculum.
Don: What does Bookshare.org offer to members? To educators?
Matt: Bookshare is free for qualified US students and the educators who serve them, and it opens up the world of reading for people with print disabilities. If a person cannot read traditional print books because of a visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability, Bookshare can help! It is the world’s largest online library of copyrighted ebooks for people with print disabilities. Books are available in a variety of formats that allow reading on a range of computers and devices.
As a result, people of all ages, as well as schools and many organizations around the globe can access the books they need for school, work, career advancement, skill development and the simple love of reading, in formats that work for them.
Don: What do you feel is the most important thing for parents of dyslexic children to understand?
Matt: Early identification and remediation is key. With proper training, your child can become a successful reader.
Don: Do you have a favorite success story to share with our readers?
Matt: There are so many! Any person once categorized as a “slow learner” who has become academically successful and developed a love of reading once they were given the training and tools needed to interact with print is a success story!
Don: Anything else you’d like to include?
Matt: Don’t give up! There is help available through organizations such as the International Dyslexia Association and Decoding Dyslexia . For more information regarding Bookshare, visit our website (www.bookshare.org).
If you have comments or questions, we’d love to hear from you. We also love to hear your success stories! Thanks in advance for reading and sharing.