Guest blog post by the fabulous Megan Mehta!
“[Dyslexia] is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.” – Steven Spielberg, Director
It’s October, and along with relief from the hot temps of summer and beautiful foliage, there are opportunities to learn and grow about a variety of causes. One that affects us as educators because it can so profoundly affect our students is dyslexia. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it’s important that we are armed with information about this relatively common learning issue, because our good intentions can be for nothing because of misconceptions, misinformation and a general lack of knowledge on the subject.
What Dyslexia is NOT:
- Reversal of letters and numbers: this is a fairly common characteristic of developing readers and writers. Though some dyslexic students may do this, it is not a definitive indicator of dyslexia.
- Something that primarily affects boys: Both boys and girls can be affected– it’s not a picky issue!
- Laziness or lack of intellect: People with dyslexia are quite the opposite! I look at my own daughter who is not reading on grade level because of her dyslexia, yet has an astounding processing speed and such a unique way of looking at problems that she often has to walk me through her way of thinking to help me understand.
- Something that will be outgrown: Dyslexics are that way for life.
What Dyslexia IS:
Dyslexia is a specific reading disability and it causes the brain to process graphic symbols differently. It is characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding; as well as reading comprehension. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction, or upbringing; nor is it linked to intelligence.
It is also something that may affect up to 20% of people. However, symptoms can present as mild, moderate, severe, and everywhere in between. Some people may be able to develop enough coping skills to manage to get through school without too much support, yet their self-esteem might take a hit because they start to believe they aren’t as smart as everyone else. Students with dyslexia that is unrecognized will start to believe that they are lazy, not smart, not as good as their peers and this can profoundly affect them for life.
How Can I Help My Student or My Own Child if I Suspect Dyslexia?
Begin by educating yourself, whether you read an article or two at the bottom of this post, or take advantage of a workshop in your area. Talk to the reading specialists in your school, or the special education teacher to help you with strategies you can use. Helping kids develop a growth mindset can also have a big impact. Children who are dyslexic, or struggle with dysgraphia or dyscalculia need to be taught differently than their peers. They need a systematic approach that will teach them to process written language in the way best suited for how their brain is wired. These approaches can be found in the offerings of Orton-Gillingham, or the Barton program, among others.
Unfortunately, the public schools in North Carolina do not specifically test for or diagnose dyslexia. If it severe enough, it may show up under the umbrella of “specific learning disability” but that’s not always a guarantee. North Carolina is one of 11 states that does not yet have a law addressing the specific learning needs of students with dyslexia. Fortunately, there are groups that are working hard to change this. In the meantime, as teachers we need to be a voice for all our students and do what we can to help them reach their full potential: be compassionate, be empathetic, and know the power you have to make a big difference in the life of a child.
The Rankin Institute offers professional development for educators and parents in Charlotte, NC
- Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Web.
- Lapkin, Emily. “Understanding Dyslexia.” Understood.org. 02 Apr. 2014. Web.
- Shaywitz, Sally E. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2003. Print.
- “Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity.” Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity. Web.