Greetings from Literacy Land everyone! Emily, from The Reading Tutor/OG here. Today I'm going to shed light on a misunderstood topic in education: dyslexia. Before I begin, I would like to say I have not and will not diagnose dyslexia. Rather, I will dispel some myths, share my knowledge, the red flags to watch for in a reader, and provide helpful resources for you to educate yourself.
I became very interested in learning more about how to help the students in my classroom who were clearly dyslexic back in 2003. That year, a groundbreaking book came out called Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a developmental pediatrician at Yale University. I joined a book group at the school I was teaching at with about 15 other teachers. We were committed to figuring out the best way to help these students. I also took training in Project Read Phonology that same year to learn how to use a multisensory phonics approach in my own classroom.
Several years later, I knew I needed more training in how to accommodate these children. Even with my Master's degree in Literacy, we never received any formal training on how to provide best teaching practices for the dyslexic reader. Unfortunately, I realize this has been fairly common, but colleges and universities are beginning to take steps to educate their teachers about dyslexia in new and promising ways. I made the personal decision to become Orton-Gillingham certified. This training made me better equipped to work with my students in ways I hadn't realized before. My journey as an educator learning about dyslexia is ever-changing, exciting, and even a little sad sometimes, but a necessary one if I am to work with all kinds of readers to help them succeed.
First, let me share some myths about dyslexia.
Myth #1. Dyslexia is uncommonTruth: Of all the language-based disabilities, dyslexia is the most common, affecting about 15% of the U.S. population.
Myth #2. Dyslexia is when you see words backwards or reverse letters, so it's a visual problem.
Truth: Lots of early readers reverse letters, but this is not a sign that they are dyslexic. Dyslexic readers have difficulty at the phonological level. They may not have a hard time seeing the words, but they have trouble manipulating the sounds in the words. Although many dyslexic readers state letters may appear to look strangely on a page when presented in certain fonts and font sizes.
Myth #3. Dyslexic readers can't be taught how to read.
Truth: Provided that proper identification and intervention is provided (as early as possible in a child's school career) dyslexic readers absolutely can be taught how to read.
Myth #4. If you are smart and perform well in school, you can't be dyslexic.
Truth: Dyslexia affects students from all levels of intelligence, backgrounds and genders equally.
Source and for more myths
Here are more important facts to keep in mind:1. Dyslexia is hereditary. If you, your spouse or close relative have dyslexia, your child has a higher chance of having it too.
2. About 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, but only about 1 in 10 people will qualify to receive proper intervention for it.
3. Early detection and intervention is key.
4. Thanks to MRIs, we now know that the dyslexic brain processes information in a different part of the brain than a non-dyslexic.
So what is dyslexia? Here is the formal definition:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension, and reduced reading experience can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (Annals of Dyslexia, Vol. 53, 2003)
*I actually had to memorize this definition in my Orton-Gillingham training, and was glad they made us. I can still rattle it off. :)
Watch this short, but powerful video from my Dyslexia Support Board on Pinterest.
What are some red flags for dyslexia?
(Note: This is a small list, but it has some common symptoms you may be seeing in a student you suspect that has dyslexia. See the link below for more characteristics.)
1. Extremely slow reading, poor reading fluency, which affects overall comprehension
2. Weak spelling and decoding
3. Poor phonemic awareness and phonological awareness
4. Difficulty with word retrieval, letter name and sound recognition
5. Difficulty with recognizing rhymes
What are some strengths people with dyslexia may have?
- Most dyslexic readers have average to above average intelligence.
- They are creative, think outside the box thinkers.
- Strong visual-spatial abilities
- They have the ability to link abstract ideas together.
- Read more on strengths.
Where can I go to learn more?
I highly recommend the following books and websites to educate yourself about dyslexia.
- Overcoming Dyslexia by: Sally Shaywitz
- The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking The Hidden Potential of The Dyslexic Brain by: Brock L. Eide
- The Gift of Dyslexia by: Ronald Davis
- The Dyslexia Checklist by: Sandra F. Rief
- Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by: Maryanne Wolf
- The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child's Confidence and Love of Learning by: Ben Foss
- Dyslexia Wonders: Understanding The Daily Life Of A Dyslexic From A Child's Perspective by: Jennifer Smith
- Dyslexia Training Institute
- Dyslexia Help
- Learning Ally
- National Center For Learning Disabilities
- Decoding Dyslexia
- Information on Dyslexia Simulation: Dyslexic For A Day
- 1 in 5 Initiative
- Use a structured, systematic, multi-sensory approach to teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, reading, spelling, writing, and handwriting. This is good teaching for all readers, not just for dyslexic learners. There is a large volume of research to support this as best practice. Orton Gillingham is one well respected approach that has been used effectively for years. Here is a link to one O-G informational site.
- Provide consistent fluency intervention. I wrote a post on my blog about specific fluency programs if you're interested.
- Keep audio text readily available in a variety of formats. (listening centers, a computer station, on a mobile tablet) Many dyslexic readers are ear readers. When they hear the text and follow along in order they'll gain the most benefits.
- Expose children to all kinds of text such as magazines, graphic novels, and comics. They may enjoy a different format other than the traditional chapter book, which can seem daunting.
- As parents, continue reading aloud to your child at night so they hear a proficient reader. These children may have strong listening comprehension, so choose books that are above their reading level to read to them, and foster a love of lifelong reading and learning.
- Use assistive technologies. Check this Pinterest link to apps that may help a dyslexic reader.
- Every dyslexia reader is different.
- Some reading disabilities are more severe than others.
- Certain instructional approaches will work better than others. Find out what is research based and works well, and use it consistently.
- Your dyslexic students have real strengths! Take time to find out what they are help your students or child to embrace them.
photo source: www.morguefile.com