We often hear from parents confused about who to turn to when their child is diagnosed with dyslexia. As discussed in our last blog post on acronyms, the world of dyslexia is full of confusing terms!
SIS therapists who are graduates of the MLTI-NM or ASDEC Academic Language Therapy (ALT) program use the credentials Certified Academic Therapist (CAT) or Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT). Let’s break this down a little bit more and compare with other dyslexia professionals.
Academic Language Therapy (ALT) with a CAT or CALT
ALT, also known as dyslexia therapy, is a specialized approach involving professionals with extensive training in Multi-Sensory Language Education (MSLE) also called Structured Literacy. MSLE is the prescription for dyslexia remediation. Certification as a CAT is received after completing rigorous training in Sounds In Syllables (SIS) methodology through either the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center (ASDEC) or the Multisensory Language Training Institute of New Mexico (MLTI-NM). Both centers are IMSLEC accredited.
CAT certification requires 200 hours of graduate-level classwork and a 700-hour supervised practicum completed over at least two years. ASDEC trainees are thoroughly vetted and supported during their practicum. Over the two years, SIS therapist trainees are observed completing a lesson with a student a minimum of 20 times! The trainee meets individually with their practicum supervisor to receive valuable feedback on their lessons.
ASDEC takes training one step further by facilitating monthly meetings to bring trainees together. This is important because of the very true saying, ‘if you’ve met one person with dyslexia, you’ve met one person with dyslexia!’ The supervisor guides trainees to share experiences during their lessons to help educate each other on what may be seen with future students. These monthly meetings are vitally important to expanding therapeutic knowledge and ASDEC graduates often claim this to be one of their favorite parts of the training! It allows the trainees to form professional relationships – and often close friendships – during their training.
After successfully completing training and earning the CAT designation, therapists can undertake a rigorous examination with ALTA, an international dyslexia professional credentialing organization, to achieve the prestigious designation of Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT). The CALT credential indicates that ALTA recognizes the therapist possesses a deep understanding of dyslexia and therapeutic techniques which places them at the top of their field. Many ALT's also choose to obtain certification with The Center for Effective Reading Instruction (CERI), an affiliate of the International Dyslexia Association, as a Structured Literacy/Dyslexia Specialist.
Dyslexia tutors come from diverse educational backgrounds, with varying levels of training and experience. Some dyslexia tutors have had minimum training with classes in structured literacy, but no hands-on practicum experience. Some tutors have taken classes and undergone a practicum at the teacher-level of training to earn a certification from an organization such as Institute of Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE). Others may hold certifications from the Orton-Gillingham Academy (OGA) which is the most similar certification to CALT.
As the term dyslexia tutor is so varied, these are the questions we suggest when evaluating a dyslexia tutor’s qualifications:
1) What is your educational background?
2) Where did you train to become a dyslexia tutor?
3) How many graduate level classroom hours in dyslexia did this include?
3) What was your practicum experience i.e. how many years, hours, & # of observations?
4) Do you hold a current certification and from what organization?
5) Are you certified at the teacher-level or therapy-level?
Orton-Gillingham Tutor or Therapist
Orton-Gillingham (OG) is an approach to teaching reading. This term is often confused by companies who have latched onto the term OG for monetary gains. Someone who is a CAT/CALT is highly experienced in OG methodology and a dyslexia tutor usually has an OG based approach as well. Don't be confused by this term! If someone tells you they are an OG tutor, we still encourage you to ask the questions above to understand their educational background.
Someone who calls themself simply a tutor likely focuses on subject content and may lack specialized training to address dyslexia's underlying issues. While they may assist with basic reading and writing skills, their approach will likely not be effective in remediating dyslexia.
Choosing the Right Support
There is no one clear cut answer as to who you should turn to for dyslexia help as it depends on the needs of your child. For example, a child who has severe dyslexia likely requires a therapeutic approach to dyslexia remediation. A child who has mild dyslexia may do well with a dyslexia tutor trained at the teacher-level. To make an informed decision, parents should understand their child’s unique profile and inquire about qualifications and methods.
While you should dig deeper to understand the qualifications of a dyslexia tutor, you can be assured that someone who uses the title of CAT or CALT offers a highly diagnostic and tailored approach which is appropriate for all levels of dyslexia. Regular tutors, while valuable for academic content, may not possess the knowledge required to address dyslexia's unique challenges.
Understanding the differences between dyslexia professionals is crucial for choosing the right support tailored to your child's dyslexia needs. We encourage you to ask questions about qualifications and methods to ensure the most effective intervention for your child's reading and writing journey!