health & dyslexia: auditory difficulties – aural – read – respond – oral – write (arrow) & dyslexia

by Dr Colin Lane

A.R.R.O.W & Dyslexia

Wie bitte?The Improvement of Listening, Reading and Spelling Skills of Dyslexic Students


Hearing is a physiological state, which depends upon an intact outer, middle and inner ear hearing system. In the outer ear system, sound is carried through the ear canal to the eardrum. At the eardrum the sound is conducted into the middle ear system through a series of bones. These in turn send sound into the inner ear system. In the inner ear system, the sound is changed into electrical impulses before being sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. Any defect in either of the outer, middle or inner ear systems can cause a hearing loss. This hearing loss can, in turn, cause problems in speech, communication and literacy skills. Most deaf school leavers have experienced severe problems in reading and spelling despite having the normal range of intelligence.

Fortunately, the greater proportion of dyslexic children has an intact hearing system. However, despite having normal hearing, they usually have other auditory problems.


Listening, here defined as auditory attention, does not require a fully intact hearing system. Listening is an acquired skill. Listening varies from child to child among the normally hearing or hearing impaired populations.

There is strong evidence to show that there are normally hearing students of all ages and abilities who experience severe problems when listening to speech in background noise. These auditory problems have the most significant effect upon their progress in terms of reading and spelling.

auditory attention span

Listening involves focusing and maintaining auditory attention. The listener needs to select the spoken word and then reject any relevant input such as background noise. Some mature motivated students maintain auditory attention for 45 minutes or more. In younger or easily distracted children, such attention may only be a few minutes. There are many cases of students with reading and spelling difficulties experiencing severe auditory attention problems. Auditory attention is trainable.

the arrow technique

Young students learn better by listening to themselves and indeed prefer to listen to their own voices. The student’s own voice, heard within the head, is that which is universally applied in memory tasks and for internal thought. A technique called A.R.R.O.W. has been developed from the use of the self-voice. A.R.R.O.W. is an acronym for Aural – Read – Respond – Oral – Write. The student listens to the tutor’s voice through headsets and repeats it. At the same time, the student reads text. The recording of the students self-voice then forms the basis of the Arrow work. This work requires the student to take down dictation from passages of information, and precision spellings. The student checks the accuracy of the work undertaken. A.R.R.O.W. programme’s are centred upon National Curriculum requirements. When used in further education colleges, vocational and other curriculum work may be used.


The ARROW self voice technique can make a swift and dramatic impact on the listening, auditory processing and literacy skills of dyslexic students. Trained ARROW teachers and assistants are achieving up to eight months progress in reading and/or seven months progress in spelling within a total of two hours one to one tuition time. This tuition time can be split up as necessary. The students are required to work a further four hours, a little at a time, on their own, in order to complete a programme. Some teachers are reporting up to two or even three years progress following a series of two or three short interventions.
Students quickly learn how to attend more effectively. Some students with attention problems can improve their listening in background noise up to and beyond the level of an adequate listener.

In addition to the literacy and listening improvements other learning skills improve. Teachers report that student’s self-esteem rises as does handwriting and their general classroom performance.

differentiation, short term memory and the tutor

The Arrow programme recognises the strong need for all reading and spelling work to be set within the student’s ability level. Differentiation is therefore a corner stone of the system together with the importance of the working short-term memory. Precision spellings are set within word families, frequently used words and similar sounding words having a dissimilar letter pattern. The Arrow tutor quickly establishes a starting level with a student on the programme. The tutor next helps the student make as near a perfect recording of the self-voice as possible whilst ensuring that the student remains on task.

flexibility of training

The Arrow system is so flexible that Arrow training for students can be given within a week or spread over several weeks according to timetable/curriculum requirements. Students can work on our own or within groups.

Current and future technology requirements

A special audiocassette recorder is used to make recordings of the student’s voice. An ordinary cassette player can be used when the student is listening to the tape. The Arrow approach is now being used on CD-ROM.

arrow centres

Arrow help is available for students through mainstream education. Where students cannot access these facilities Arrow provision also operates within specialist Arrow Centres. These Centres can be at schools or colleges already using Arrow but offers help to students from outside their own particular school or college. In addition, tutors operating from selected sites or operating from their own premises can provide help. Students attending Arrow Centres usually attend on a short once-weekly lesson for five or six weeks or undertake distance learning programme’s.

arrow tutor training

Arrow Tutor training programme’s operate on a regional basis. The Arrow programme has received national accreditation as an Advanced BTEC Award for Arrow Tutors. The training programme is essentially practical. During the course, trainee tutors attend a regionally based Arrow Centre for four separate days. The remaining part of the programme requires a tutor to use the technique with their students. A report is submitted at the end of the third term of the programme. The course is open to professionals in the field of education and health. In some cases, selected parents have been trained to work with their children.
Training courses are available for children and teachers.

For further information, please contact ARROW at –