Dyslexia can be a confusing word to ponder on and digest. I honestly had no idea what it was, even though the definition fits so well with the majority of my students. Poor spelling, lack of being able to manipulate sounds, not hearing beginning or ending sounds, poor comprehension, and the list goes on. According to the International Dyslexia Association, "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 from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. " Wow, that's a mouth full!
Dyslexia affects about 20% of the population and a lot of students fall in between the cracks as it relates to getting identified and served. As of this writing, in the state of Alabama Dyslexia is not listed under the 13 disability categories. This means that having dyslexia alone doesn't qualify a student to receive specialized services under special education law. There has been some great progress when it comes to screening and interventions with dyslexia in Alabama, though. It used to not even be recognized as being a "real" thing, but oh is it real! The proof is in the numbers of struggling students and heavily researched brain scans! No one really knows why phonological processing is the primary cause of this disability, but it's a language-based problem and not a visual or cognitive one. You usually see bright students with average or above-average IQs with dyslexic tendencies which makes it even harder to identify students needing help.
It's important for me to note that dyslexia is not a single category, but a disorder found within a spectrum of deficits. Dyslexia is not a one size fits all disability, but it does stem from the same root as it relates to a neurological perspective. As educators, we know the end goal of reading is to comprehend. Increasing evidence shows without a doubt that individuals with dyslexia activate other regions of their brains when reading words compared with those without dyslexia. So what does this mean? It means that students with dyslexia have a harder time reading because a prerequisite of reading is having the ability to establish automatic and fast recognition of words, which individuals with dyslexia have a much harder time doing.
Even though these issues are grand, there is hope! There are things we can do to help close that achievement gap for students with dyslexia. The number one thing, and one that I want to heavily emphasize, is strategically and frequently teaching phonological awareness. Students with dyslexia have a hard time manipulating spoken language and transferring that knowledge to the spoken word. Introducing nursery rhymes are a great way to help students understand the similarities between phonological rimes across different words. Check out the resources section of the blog and grab your free copies of phonological awareness no-prep activities you can start using today! Another essential thing we can do to help students with dyslexia is to teach them the decoding system. This allows students to have access to numerous new words they are introduced to through the three processes of segmentation, conversion, and fusion (If students have had practice with phonological awareness, then this task should be familiar to them).
There are specially designed programs to help individuals with dyslexia. At Holmes Tutoring, we offer two programs that are researched based and proven to be effective to help individuals with disabilities, including dyslexia, to close achievement gaps. the programs are scripted and carefully sequenced to help minimize ambiguity of speech. I've been using these programs for several years now and the results I've seen have been remarkable. Book your free consultation today or send me an email if you want more information about the programs used at Holmes Tutoring. Happy Learning!