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Product Design is Key to Success

Tom Guyer


Dyslexia Law Solutions: Product Design is Key to Success.

There are many factors that go into choosing a dyslexia reading program that addresses the needs of students struggling to read: What does it cost? Does it use an Orton Gillingham approach to meet state dyslexia law requirements? Does it offer proven reading intervention strategies? After considering many options, a growing number of special education directors are using an unexpected word to explain their choice: design.

“When I talk about design, I’m talking about the structure of the program, the components of the program, the actual tools used to teach reading,” says Jennifer Mellor, Executive Director of the Program for Exceptional Children in the Bibb County, Georgia School District. “I’ve been using the Sonday System here in Bibb County and in other school districts since 2007 — this program is a game changer for a lot of kids.”

There are several design elements that make the Sonday System unique in the world of reading instruction — many of which appeal to Mellor. “It’s a teacher based product that uses research-based interventions, one of which I particularly believe in, which is Orton Gillingham.”

The Orton Gillingham method is a highly effective instructional approach for students struggling with Dyslexia and other reading challenges, but it can be difficult to implement. The Sonday System, developed by nationally renowned Orton-Gillingham expert Arlene Sonday, has simplified this complex approach into a streamlined, easy-to-implement multisensory curriculum that empowers teachers to get more students reading sooner — without the added time and cost of additional training.

“It’s an easy-to-use program and an easy-to-follow program,” says Mellor. “And that has led to strong teacher buy-in.” Some of the program features that work well for teachers and students include 35-minute lesson plans, built-in mastery checks, and a spiraling technique which results in better retention of key strategies and principles. “When the kids use the program, we see them start to use the strategies both in and out of the classroom,” adds Mellor. “That’s when the teachers start to realize, ‘Wow, this really works.’”

Another feature of the Sonday System that helps kids indirectly is the price. “It’s priced at a point I can maintain over the years,” says Mellor. “The cost of the program allows me to continue to add classes and add teachers, and also to have instructional coaches available to monitor training, which keeps costs down as well.”

When asked what she would say about the design of the Sonday System to other Special Education administrators, Mellor cites mounting evidence. “We have data in Bibb County alone that is pretty astounding. For a majority of kids, particularly those that have high-fidelity implementation, we’re seeing remarkable gains. If our goal is to change the lives of kids by teaching them to read, which it is, then we are moving in the right direction because of the Sonday System.”

More information about the Sonday System, its Orton Gillingham lesson plans, its cost-effective teacher training requirements and its simple, multisensory reading intervention strategies for students with dyslexia can be found at