Buzz has reading difficulties. He has learned phonics and can sound out words, but his phonetic processing is slow. His word attack skills are significantly better, but his word identification and reading fluency have not improved at the same rate. Despite seeing a few reading tutors for help, trying a few reading programs, and generally having no difficulties with comprehension, Buzz continues to experience the frustrations of a struggling reader.
Buzz's reading difficulties are very common. Many struggling readers experience problems with establishing sight words and contextual fluency. These kinds of reading difficulties are not disabilities - they are symptoms. And, the root cause of these symptoms is usually a weakness in symbol imagery.
Symbol imagery is the ability to visualize the identity, number, and sequence of sounds and letters within words. Many children and adults who are thought to have reading disabilities are able to sound-out (decode) and comprehend words. However, like Buzz, these individuals struggle with difficulties in recognizing the visual (orthographic) patterns of letters. Symbol imagery not only allows readers to recognize and sound-out letters, but also to recognize and retain the orthographic patterns of letters and whole words (sight words) that do not play by the standard rules of decoding.
A weakness in symbol imagery can often result in difficulties with decoding, spelling, word recognition, and reading fluency. These reading problems often manifest through the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with word recognition (often resulting in inaccurate guessing)
- Difficulty with spelling (often phonetically accurate, though orthographically incorrect)
- Difficulty with visual memory
- Difficulty with contextual fluency
- Difficulty with reading comprehension
- Slow reading rate
- Symptoms of Dyslexia
The Seeing Stars®: Symbol Imagery for Phonemic Awareness, Sight Words and Spelling program helps struggling readers develop the sensory-cognitive function of symbol imagery. Unlike most reading programs, Seeing Stars instruction directly applies symbol imagery to sight word development, contextual fluency, spelling, and increasing the speed and stability of phonemic awareness. Students in the Seeing Stars program move through a series of steps - from single consonants/vowels to multisyllabic and contextual reading - to develop the imagery-language connection for competency in written language.
It is common for children and adults to gain years in reading, reading fluency, and spelling in just weeks of intensive instruction. Developing symbol imagery is necessary to becoming an independent reader, which is necessary to becoming a proficient learner in any subject. And, the process-based instruction provided by the Seeing Stars program has proven successful for individuals exhibiting symptoms of dyslexia, ADHD, ASD, CAPD, and other learning difficulties.