Revolutionary Literacy Program in Adelaide Hills School Causes Concerns among Dyslexia Groups

2014 SSP Proctors and ADs

Mylor Primary School implemented a controversial SSP (speech, sound, pics) program, which is aimed at boosting students’ reading and writing skills. Since the trials in individual classrooms produced successful results, the School decided to turn the program into a standard practice.

SSP Program – Student-Centered Teaching that Inspires Students to Practice More

According to the principal of the school, Ngari Boehm, the SSP approach “really made a significant difference to their learning.” The inexpensive method results with successful academic outcomes.

The SSP principles are based on the notion that children’s brains are not predisposed to learning words as whole words, which is why they tend to guess some of the words from pictures. That is not reading. Assignment writing experts at state that traditional approaches to building literacy result with many underlying issues, such as the need for students to seek essay help during the more advanced stages of education.

With this principle, the student should first identify the sounds he hears in each word, and then count the number of sounds in it. With the code-mapping system, the student will associate the sounds to letters, so he will be able to read and spell before thinking about a focus on print.

Emma Hartnell-Baker, known as Miss Emma, is the inventor of the SSP program. Her experience showed that this approach could even rewire dyslexic brains.

Dyslexia Groups Want More Evidence

Dyslexia SA, a parent advocacy group, showed concern about Australian schools implementing a program whose results have not been proven through research-based evidence. According to Judy Gould, a speech pathologist, schools are attracted to these packages because they are marketed well and they are easy to implement.

“They often make very good claims about what outcomes they are going to achieve, but these haven’t been tried and tested yet,” – Dr Gould explains.

The reports that show improvements in the results of students subjected to the SSP program could have been influenced by other factors that haven’t been taken into consideration during the program’s evaluation. Dr Gould has a critical attitude: she doesn’t believe that a single program could meet all needs of all children, simply “because they come in such different shapes and sizes.”

Miss Emma, the creator of the program, stated that “the body and brain respond favorably to care, sincerity and unconditional acceptance, which are relayed through the heart and vagal system to the brain.”

This statement depicts a peculiar notion: as any other program, the SSP can also cause the ‘placebo effect’. Teachers get excited about the new program and they do their best to approach positively towards each student. The results could be caused by their attitude, not by the program itself.

“We might put a program in place with children who haven’t been doing well and they do well and people think it’s because of the program, but that is a fallacy,” – Dr Gould said.

NAPLAN Results – A Reason for Concern and Change

The latest NAPLAN results released by the ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority), did not show great improvement in numeracy and literacy skills on a national level.

Principal Boehm believes that the SSP method can contribute towards improvement of those results. “It’s challenged the way we learnt how to spell in the past… we have had to do our own set of ‘unlearnings’ to be able to out these new strategies in place,” – she said.

There is general consensus among the teachers and parents at Mylor Primary School that this approach is beneficial and effective. Jo Telfer, a parent of a student at this school, believes that her daughter’s confidence about her capacity to read and spell has been improved thanks to the SSP approach.

“I love the fact that she’s enjoying language in that way. I think that it’s an amazing foundation for literacy into the future,” – Telfer said.

There is no proof that this program would work on a national level, but the experience at Mylor certainly shows signs of success.

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