Antibiotics and Vitamins

DD-OH1If you go to the doctor’s for a sore throat, and the test shows you have strep throat, you expect the doctor to give you antibiotics because that is the evidence based standard for the treatment of strep throat, a bacterial infection.  A doctor would never substitute vitamins for antibiotics because antibiotics were not available.  Furthermore, the doctor would not lead you to believe you were getting antibiotics when you were really getting vitamins.  Not only is this malpractice, but improperly treated strep throat could lead to rheumatic fever with the bacteria attacking and damaging the heart.

Yet this is what the educational system does to students with dyslexia.  The appropriate evidence based instruction, the “antibiotics”, for students with dyslexia is structured literacy, but this type of instruction is not widely available.  The instruction that many schools use for students with dyslexia is based on whole language, the “vitamins”, because it is widely available.  Not only do schools use the wrong instruction that is not evidence based, but they lead parents to believe their child is receiving appropriate instruction, the “antibiotics”, when in reality the child is only receiving the “vitamins”.  And when the student fails to make progress, falls further behind, damaging the student’s self esteem and future potential, somehow it is the fault of the student and/or the parents.

This type of treatment would never be allowed in the medical field, yet it is all too common in the educational field for students with dyslexia.  When will students and parents be protected from educational malpractice?

This may sound harsh, but I can’t help but feel this way after hearing a school’s suggestion to parents whose first grader is struggling with learning to read.  The school suggested the child be held back, repeat first grade.  The parents asked what the school was going to do differently to get a different outcome.  The school responded that was good question.

Really, that was all the school had to offer?!?!  It is only half way through the school year and the school has already given up on teaching this child and the only solution offered was for the child to repeat first grade?!?!  Why did the school not lead with the offer to evaluate the child for a specific learning disability?  This is educational malpractice.


In medicine, if research found new ways to save lives, health care professionals would adopt these methods as quickly as possible, and would change practices, procedures and systems.  Educational research has found new ways to save young minds by helping them to become proficient readers; it is up to us to promote these new methods throughout the education system.  Young lives depend on it.     ~Louisa Moats, Ed.D.



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