What the Teacher Should Know About Your Dyslexic Child (and what you shouldn’t let them forget!)
A few months after my daughter was identified as Dyslexic and began receiving dyslexia intervention, I called a conference with the classroom teachers, the assistant principal (504 coordinator), and the dyslexia teacher. I was shocked that the classroom teachers were so clueless about how a dyslexic child’s learning path is different from the average student’s. The meeting was for me to understand exactly HOW the accommodations were being carried out in the classroom and how to prioritize the homework sent home by her classroom teachers coupled with the extra studying of sight words as well as rote mathematic skills.
I was frustrated that the teachers were misunderstanding the needs of my daughter. All of the common misconceptions I had read about seemed to be believed by her classroom teachers. My daughter was misunderstood. Fortunately, her Dyslexia teacher and the assistant principal are well-informed advocates for dyslexic students. I felt that if I could make a list of all of the ways these classroom teachers, as well as many other well-meaning individuals incorrectly perceive my daughter, then it might help other families with dyslexic children.
50 million Americans, including 10 million school-aged children, are dyslexic and they comprise 80% of students in special education classrooms. In a recent nationwide survey conducted by Dyslexic Advantage, over half of parents were told by a principal or teacher that dyslexia is not recognized by their school system. The Secretary of Education recently confirmed that there is no dyslexia-specific curriculum or plan for these students which has serious consequences for these children because they think and learn differently than other non-dyslexic students and require methods of instruction that are suited to their way of learning and thinking. Today, Dyslexic Advantage (DA) is breaking the cycle of negative in school systems and workplaces by revolutionizing how dyslexic people are understood, educated, and employed. We’re replacing the old and outmoded deficit-centered paradigm with a new and more productive strengths-centered paradigm that puts abilities rather than weaknesses at the heart of what it means to be dyslexic.
This information quoted from the Dyslexia Advantage website, says quite a mouthful.
The following list was compiled from my two favorite books about dyslexia: Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Dr. Sally Shaywitz,
and The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide, M.D.A. and Fernette F. Eide, M.D.
What the teacher should know about your dyslexic child:
1. A dyslexic child, especially before being identified as such, can seem inattentive and unwilling to follow directions. It should not be assumed that the child is being willfully disobedient.
2. A dyslexic child may be extremely unorganized and forgetful. This does not reflect on their willingness to learn and commitment to do their best.
3. Problems with handwriting and written expression are often mistaken for laziness or apathy toward their schoolwork.
4. Dyslexia affects math too. Basic arithmetic and rote math facts cannot be learned the same way or mastered as quickly as a non-dyslexic student.
5. Dyslexic students have trouble identifying their own errors.
6. Word problems are a double and even triple doozie for the dyslexic child. Imagine having to work hard just to read and understand what the question is asking before being able to actually work through the problem.
7. Asking to see the nurse or go to the restroom quite often does not necessarily mean the child is trying to “get out of work or class time.” Struggling with Dyslexia before it is diagnosed and even in the early stages of interventions can cause lots of stress and turmoil within a child. This can cause real physiological symptoms to develop, like headache, stomach ache, and nausea.
8. Kids with Dyslexia have a smaller “working memory” (similar to RAM memory on a computer). Therefore, kids can easily forget where they are in the task or what to do next. It is important for tasks and assignments to be broken up into smaller steps.
9. Reading a test aloud to a child is not the same thing as oral testing.
10. Information recall takes much longer because of the unique information pathways in a dyslexic brain. So being asked to answer a question in front of the class can be terrifying to a dyslexic child. It is better to ask a question and then wait a little before calling on someone to give the dyslexic student an opportunity to recall the information and possibly offer their raised hand.
11. Multiple choice questions are one of the hardest possible test formats. Even as the child becomes an adult and has built a strong foundation of strategies for learning, these types of assessments stack the odds against them.
Example: A dyslexic adult who is a career firefighter studies to become a paramedic. The qualifying test is multiple choice. Passing the test seems impossible yet if each and every question on that test is asked orally, the firefighter can answer correctly, in greater detail than the test requires, and be ready to adapt to respond to variants of the situation. Isn’t that real life? Things are never textbook in real life and death situations. Would you rather a paramedic who could pass the multiple choice test perfectly? Or would you rather one that did not pass the multiple choice format but has the knowledge and can work quickly and adeptly in the ever-changing circumstances of an emergency to have the best possible outcome?
12. Accommodations are not advantages. They help “level the playing field” for dyslexic students to be on par with their non-dyslexic counterparts.“Dyslexia robs a person of time; accommodations return it.” –Dr. Sally Shaywitz
13. Abstract concepts are harder to grasp. Real world situations can teach concepts more effectively. For instance, my daughter grasped the concept of counting by tens using dimes in counting money from her piggy bank.
14. Many of the strategies implemented in the classroom to aid and support dyslexic students actually benefit the other students as well. Having a dyslexic student in your class will make you a keener, more observant and effective teacher to all of your students both present and future.
As parents, we are responsible for our child’s well-being as a whole. Building up our children’s self-esteem is vital for them to build a strong foundation of loving themselves for who they are. I know my daughter will grow up to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. Dyslexic students already have such huge hurdles when it comes to school. Having a teacher misunderstand them and penalize them for behaviors that genetics decided for them is simply unacceptable. Educating the teachers should begin in the course of study for becoming a general education teacher and continue with professional development as their careers progress and new research is established for how dyslexic children learn.
So I encourage you, print out this list, read books from the experts, and be prepared to be a relentless advocate for your child’s entire educational career. If you don’t stand up for them they will be crippled by the misconceptions about dyslexia that are so prevalent in the world.
And if you are a teacher that understands and meets the needs of your dyslexic students, thank you! You are the treasures that will impact our children’s lives forever!
I would love to hear from you! What have been some of the challenges you have faced with your child?
For a great list of books that are dyslexia friendly, check out this list by Dr. Sally Shaywitz.