AVKO's Research Director
- Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, the home of
General Motors and the C.S. Mott Foundation
McCabe graduated from Flint Technical High School in 1950,
received his A.A. degree from Flint Junior College in 1952 and his Ph.B. degree from the University of Detroit in 1954.
Was drafted into the Army Security Agency (ASA), sent to the Army
Language School to learn Russian, and eventually to a military intelligence base just
outside of Kyoto, Japan.
Began his teaching career in 1959 and taught high school and junior
high until 1976 when he became the full-time Research Director of the AVKO Foundation.
Received his M.A. from the University of Detroit in 1962 and his
A.B.T., the non-honorary, non-recognized degree from Michigan State University in 1985
after having completed all the course requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
Is listed in Who's Who, The Yearbook of Experts, Authorities, and
Spokespersons, as well as many other sourcebooks in the field of special education.
Is the author of over twenty different books and articles relating
to the teaching of reading and spelling including The Patterns of English Spelling,
the only reference tool in existence in which a teacher or researcher can find all the
words that follow any particular spelling pattern.
Has done the unthinkable in the reading profession. He has
studied what older "almost-non-readers" can and cannot read and compared his
findings with what is and isn't taught. Lo and behold, these
functional illiterates had not learned what they had not been taught, i.e., the things
good readers and good spellers somehow learn without being taught.
Has discovered that English does have an internal logic that good
readers and good spellers somehow subconsciously learn without being taught.
Dyslexics tend to be logical and try to follow what they have been taught. But the
way reading is taught today has nothing to do with this internal logic. English has
highly consistent logical patterns. So, if we exclude the very few (but highly
common) "insane" words such as was and does, English
can be said to be 99.9% phonically consistent. The anti-phonics people fail to
realize the vast difference between phonetics, phonemics, and phonics.
Is trying to spread the concept that adult community education
programs should offer classes for those parents or spouses of dyslexics who would like to
learn how to tutor their own. At present, only the very rich can afford tutors on a
daily basis. But even the poor, McCabe believes, can afford to take classes that
would enable them to learn what they can do at home to help their own children learn to
read and write.
research into spelling patterns began in the early 70’s when as a teacher he
was assigned the worst students at Flint Northwestern High School. He
discovered these students could be taught to read by using a word family
approach. But at that time, no book existed in which he could find all the
words that belonged to any particular word family. So McCabe attempted the
impossible – to completely codify the English language by spelling
As a result
of his research, he made many common sense discoveries about the English
language. For example, the most common English words have a one syllable
base, words such as run, jump, play, and fish. These words
occur in the curriculum of the first two grades in school. But the power
words of our language (such as crucial, unique, pension, etc.) not
only cannot be reduced to one meaningful syllable, but contain phonic
patterns never systematically taught. For a compete explanation read his: “Read
by Grade Three? Say What!”
Some of the topics on
which Don McCabe enjoys speaking:
- Dyslexia: What is it? Should children be tested for dyslexia?
- Why throwing money at schools won’t make them better.
- Why the worst teachers are in the colleges of education, supposedly
teaching how to teach.
- Why neither “Whole Language” nor “Phonics” is the answer.
To Teach a Dyslexic, gets its title from
the simple concept that just as it sometimes takes a thief to catch a thief
it has taken a dyslexic (McCabe) to learn how to teach dyslexics. The book
describes those events in his life that enabled him not only to learn to
read and write, but also how to teach.
Flint, Michigan native, plays golf as often as Michigan weather permits. An
avid duplicate bridge player, he has attained the ranking of Silver Life