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Early Intervention – The Best Prevention?

I’m often asked by parents with children who are experiencing reading and spelling difficulties …

“Is my child too young to start receiving extra help?”

My answer to this is quite simple. As soon as you notice your child having trouble, act immediately! But before you jump into scouring the internet for the most suitable resource to use, REMEMBER, it takes a highly trained professional to effectively implement an evidence-based literacy program.

Research shows that there is a critical period for children to learn the skills needed for reading and spelling and this happens in the first couple of years of schooling. Identifying children’s difficulties early and providing them with instruction which is systematic and intensive is vital.

Penny and Trent’s Story (Names Changed for Confidentiality)

Penny is a mum and a member of my community. Her son Trent is currently in Prep and although his teacher isn’t overly concerned at the moment, there are some signs that Trent isn’t making the connection between letters and sounds as easily as his peers. During end-of-term interviews, Trent’s teacher told Penny that despite reading and spelling being “hard work” for Trent, she felt he would eventually “get it.” Trent’s teacher tried to reassure Penny that he just needed more time and there was no need to worry.

Although Trent’s teacher had reassured Penny, Penny couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that she should be acting now to help Trent make these letter-sound connections. Penny knew that the signs Trent was showing were similar to those that Trent’s older brother had shown. Penny knew that these signs were indicative of literacy difficulties but unfortunately, with Trent’s older brother, Penny didn’t realize how important it was to start effective intervention early. To this day, Penny regrets not taking action earlier to help Trent’s older brother. Although he is now reading and spelling at a similar level to his peers, it took a lot of hard work to get him there.

Penny wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. She was ready to invest in Trent’s future. She also knew the importance of getting a trained specialist to teach the necessary skills. Penny knew that the earlier Trent received effective intervention, the easier it would be for him to catch up. She also knew that even if it turned out that Trent did just need extra time, he would be no worse off for having engaged with intensive literacy intervention.

Is Early Intervention the Best Prevention?

Sally Shaywitz and Joseph Torgesen are two leading experts in neuroscience and education respectively, who have both expressed that early intervention is the best prevention when it comes to literacy difficulties.

As Sally Shaywitz summed up so perfectly, “I have yet to meet a family that feels they acted too soon.”Jospeh Torgesen has echoed this sentiment saying,“The best solution to the problem of reading failure is… early identification and prevention.”

My hope is that by sharing this post you feel inspired to take action, like Penny, if you are concerned about your child’s literacy development.

Visit The Reading Spelling Toolkit to find out more about the unique multisensory learning approach used to teach reading and spelling.

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