Sounds In Syllables
Multisensory Structured Language Therapy

Sounds In Syllables (S.I.S.) is a researched-based language training program designed for students who struggle with decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling).  It is a multisensory, systematic, diagnostic, structured approach, where the teaching plan is based on continuous assessment of the student's needs.  Sounds In Syllables provides the foundation for successful reading, writing, and spelling remediation for persons with dyslexia and related disorders.

Originally developed in a public school Language Clinic for dyslexic middle school and high school students, Sounds In Syllables has been used for over 25 years in public and private schools and clinics to successfully remediate dyslexic children and adults.

The trained dyslexia therapist can apply the S.I.S. principles and procedures as an intensive remedial therapy for students of any age who need more than the usual amount of structure and practice with basic sounds and symbols while learning to apply concepts, procedures, and rules which govern the written language.

Additionally, S.I.S. provides an excellent introduction to the structure of the English language for reading and spelling for students who will benefit from explicit instruction in small groups and classrooms.

With Sounds In Syllables, the student develops understanding of the orthographic and phonologic structure of words, taking comfort in the realization that there truly is order to the English language.  "It's not just a jumbled mass of letters out to trick them."

Sounds In Syllables language re-training therapy helps the student develop an efficient schema for reading and spelling, thus giving him a sense of power over words, not vice versa.

Sounds In Syllables adheres to the elements and principles of instruction outlined by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council, (IMSLEC).

The Elements of Instruction:

Phonology and Phonological Awareness - Phonology is the study of speech sounds (phonemes) and how they work within their environment.  Phonological awareness is the understanding of the internal linguistic structure of words.

Sound-symbol Association - This is knowledge of the various sounds in the English language and the corresponding letters and combination of letters which represent those sounds.  Sound-symbol association must be taught in two directions:  visual to auditory (reading) and auditory to visual (spelling.)  Students master the blending of sounds into words as well as the segmenting of whole words into individual sounds.

Syllable Instruction - A syllable is a unit of oral language with one vowel sound.  It is the group of sounds said with one push of the breath.  Instruction includes the six basic types of syllables in the English language; closed, vowel-consonant-e, open, consonant-le, r-controlled, and vowel teams.  Syllable division rules are directly taught in relation to word structure. 

Morphology -  A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language.  Morphology is the study of how morphemes are combined to form words.  The curriculum includes the study of basewords, roots, and affixes.

Syntax - Syntax is the set of principles that dictate the sequence and function of words in a sentence in order to convey meaning.  This includes grammar, sentence variation and mechanics of language.

Semantics - Semantics is the aspect of language concerned with meaning. The curriculum, from the beginning includes instruction in the comprehension of written language.

Principles of Instruction:

Simultaneous Multisensory - Teaching is done using all learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, kinesthetic-motor) simultaneously, in order to enhance learning and memory.

Systematic and Cumulative - The organization of material follows the logical order of the language.  The sequence begins with the easiest and most basic elements and progresses methodically to more difficult material.  Each step is based on those already learned.  Concepts taught are systematically reviewed to strengthen memory.

Direct Instruction - The inferential learning of any concept cannot be taken for granted.  Direct teaching of all concepts is required, with continuous student-teacher interaction.

Diagnostic Teaching - The teacher must be adept at prescriptive or individualized teaching.  The teaching plan is based on careful and continuous assessment of the student's needs.  The content must be mastered to the degree of automaticity.

Synthetic and Analytic Instruction -  Synthetic instruction presents the parts of the language and then teaches how the parts work together to form a whole.  Analytic instruction presents the whole and teaches how this can be broken down into its component parts.

Additionally, Sounds In Syllables breaks the content down into the smallest of steps, sequences them, and provides abundant practice and opportunity to fold the new learning into that which has already been mastered.  It is based on a therapeutic model.


Sounds In Syllables, Multisensory Structured Language Therapy, an Orton-Gillingham based program, evolved over many years in the early 1980's to meet the needs of bright, yet severely reading disabled middle and high school students in a large public school district's Language Clinic for dyslexic students.  Many of these students were both gifted and essentially, non-readers.  Here, Sandra Dillon observed many students who could learn sounds, symbols, and rules, yet seemed unable to fully apply that knowledge to improve their reading and spelling.  She found that these students benefited by a stronger emphasis on linking the motor-skills involved in decoding and encoding and building them in through a highly structured, therapy model.

A Therapy Model

Most students who exhibit difficulty learning to read and spell will be helped by good teaching using a sequential, multisensory structured phonics approach.  This could be accomplished in a one-to-one setting, small group, or whole classroom.  However, some bright students, with more severely disorganized language systems need more than good multisensory teaching or order to be successful.

The structured procedures in Sounds In Syllables were developed to change the way the student processes the sounds and symbols of language.  The visual image, auditory response, and the motor skills involved, including left to right visual tracking, smooth blending of sounds, paired with a written response, are tightly integrated and practiced to ensure that the student reads what his eyes are seeing.  The procedures must be applied consistently and automatically, with no hesitations, delays, or self-corrections.  When these procedures are adhered to with absolute fidelity, even the most severely dyslexic students have made significant progress. 

Some Unique Features of Sounds In Syllables

S.I.S. allows for the presentation of material in very small steps linked by tightly structured motor-learning principles.  It begins by teaching each consonant and vowel in closed syllables, one at a time, providing reading and spelling practice with each, and then copious practice again after folding the new information into that which has been previously learned.

All of the English phonograms, the six syllable types, and reading and spelling rules are taught and practiced in the five levels of the program.  When and if it is found that the very small steps are no longer needed, larger steps can also be made.  Sounds In Syllables is very flexible and very responsive to individual needs.

Accuracy and Fluency are Linked to Motor-Skill Learning.

Structured procedures build in accurate and automatic blending of syllables, which is where fluency begin.  Students must truly look at the letters, tracking left to right with their eyes, while matching what they see with the vocal-motor movements of blending the sounds.  Students practice blending through the vowel to ensure that their mouth says what their eyes are seeing.

Motor patterns for writing the cursive letters are established during new introduction procedures and reviews, and are paired with the name, visual image and sound of a letter.  The act of writing a letter in cursive, (with a pencil or just finger movement), then becomes a useful tool which can trigger the correct sound when needed for reading.

Likewise, a dependable sound spelling system is developed following structured, sequential steps.  Correct motor patterns for written spelling are taught and practiced until automatic and efficiently produced.

Reading and spelling fluency is based on having many opportunities to respond accurately and efficiently to presented stimuli. This is provided throughout the five levels of the program.