By Zach New
The International Dyslexia Association released the definition of dyslexia in November of 2002.
It states, “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.”
What does this definition mean to a dyslexic? Being dyslexic myself and having worked with many dyslexics as a therapist, it means that school can be extremely hard, frustrating, intimidating, and confusing, which can result in problems with self-esteem on top of academic difficulties Most individuals with dyslexia require more studying but still may not grasp information—often resulting in poor grades despite their hard work.
For a dyslexic, graduating can feel like an unattainable goal and giving up can seem like the only option. However, if dyslexic students have support from parents, principals, and teachers, they are much less likely to quit. Dyslexia has been studied since the 1800s, but is better understood now since functional MRIs show the actual differences between a dyslexic brain and a non-dyslexic brain. Recent studies and scientific research have led to better ways of identifying and treating dyslexia.
So what can be done if you know someone who is, or might be, dyslexic? The first step is to make sure they receive the right type of instruction. The National Reading Panel states that students need reading instruction supported by scientific research, that is Orton-Gillingham based, multisensory in its presentation, as well as structured, sequential, and cumulative. This includes fluency, comprehension, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and phonics.
All dyslexics are different and are affected in different ways. Dr. Barbara Bateman conducted a study that discovered a dyslexic individual might require 500-1500 exposures for retention. The good news is that Dyslexia Therapy covers all of these criteria and includes cumulate
Dyslexia Therapy was built on the research that 85% of words in the English language are considered phonetically regular for reading and spelling, making it an important tool in aiding students to become good readers, writers, and spellers.
The second step in helping dyslexics is to make sure they receive appropriate accommodations in the classroom to “even the playing field” and help them succeed to the best of their ability.
Some appropriate accommodations are:
- Test read orally to the student
- Extend time on classwork/tests
- Note provided to the student
- Books/textbooks on tape
- Shorter assignments
Mississippi has legislation geared toward helping dyslexics specifically. Schools now screen students for dyslexia in the spring of kindergarten and fall of first grade. Research states, by the end of first grade, 50% of all students will know if they will be a success or a failure, making early intervention key to a student’s success.
In addition to screening students for earlier detection, House Bill 1031 has a scholarship offered through the State Department of Education that helps students receive dyslexia therapy daily while attending one of the following accredited schools—Magnolia Speech School, 3D School, New Summit School, and North New Summit School.
Although our state has this relatively new legislation in place to help dyslexics, it is imperative that parents, teachers and all advocates of dyslexia awareness continue to educate legislators on the needs of individuals with dyslexia so we can continue to be proactive in our state.
Following are some important books and resources for teachers, parents, and advocates for dyslexia:
- Basic Facts About Dyslexia and Other Reading Problems by Lousia Cook Moats/Karen E. Dakin
- Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
- Why Johnny Can’t Read and What You Can Do About It by Rudolf Flesch
- From ABC to ADHD by Eric Q. Tridas
Zach New is the Vice President of Operations at New Summit School.