School can be a challenging, scary place for students with dyslexia. Still, anxiety can be significantly reduced by teaching dyslexic learners to understand their strengths and by working with teachers who appreciate the specific ways that dyslexic students learn. Encouragement and the right type of support work wonders.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a different way of processing information in the brain. While it’s accompanied by difficulty in reading and math, many people with dyslexia have strengths that can be described as superpowers: increased creativity (Steven Spielberg, Pablo Picasso, and Orlando Bloom have dyslexia), out-of-the-box thinking (Thomas Edison, Jamie Oliver, and Richard Branson have dyslexia), and the ability to see the greater picture (Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Kiera Knightly, and Henry Ford are dyslexics too). In fact, 40% of self-made millionaires have dyslexia; 35% of US entrepreneurs and 20% of British entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Some dyslexics can think 3-dimensionally: you’ll recognize them as the kids who are able to create fantastic devices out of Legos, or who can conjure a veritable city out of paper clips and erasers. The Dean of Tulane’s law school, David Weinberg, dyslexic himself, says, “Dyslexics were not made for school; they are made for the real world.” Although that may inspire parents and students with dyslexia, it does not spare them the daily misery of getting through elementary, middle, or high school and into the real world.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference, neurological in origin, that is often hereditary. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 15-20% of school-age children have it. Accordingly, in a class of 25 children, as many as five children could have mild, moderate, or severe dyslexia.
How to Help a Child Learn with Dyslexia
Because the brain of the dyslexic student works differently, many popular commercial reading programs like Hooked on Phonics, Accelerated Reader, and Reading Recovery do not work well for dyslexics. Independent reading research supports using the multisensory approach developed by doctors Orton and Gillingham in the 1930s. An Orton-Gillingham-based reading system is simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative, with direct and explicit instruction in phonics. The Orton-Gillingham approach is currently considered among the “best practice” approaches when teaching students with dyslexia to read.
The Wilson Method and Corrective Reading by SRA are two other multisensory, systematic direct-instruction phonics programs that are highly effective for dyslexics and other struggling readers. All of the reading and tutoring programs that work for dyslexics emphasize visual, auditory and tactile components for reading and spelling, for example, tapping a thumb with the index finger for every syllable; and tracing letters in sand, shaving cream or on sandpaper while vocalizing the sounds. As we mentioned above, the same methods that have been so successful with dyslexics also provide highly effective reading tools to students who do not have dyslexia but who struggle with reading!
A teacher can support dyslexic learners by creating daily class routines, allowing more room for creativity, not asking dyslexics to read aloud in front of the class, and by allowing them to type assignments. Caring teachers find ways to ensure that no child’s self-esteem and confidence are at risk in the classroom or on the playground.
What are the signs of Dyslexia?
Although dyslexia may manifest differently in each child, here are some general signs that your child might have dyslexia. If your child shows several of the indicators, contact a professional trained to complete a thorough evaluation.
- Problems learning the names and sounds of letters
- Writing letters and figures backward (writing "6" instead of "9", or "b" instead of "d")
- Difficulty with memorizing things like the days of the week, months of the year, or a spelling list
- Answering oral questions well, but having difficulty writing down the answer
- Difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions
- Poor handwriting
- Taking longer than classmates to complete written work
Dyslexia is different for every learner, and an effective accommodation plan should be customized. The more you know about dyslexia, the more you can help a child overcome its hurdles and achieve his or her full potential at school and in the outside world. Although there is no cure for dyslexia, students can learn skills to compensate, to expand and extend their education, and to become highly accomplished individuals.
If you need help finding the right school for your child’s specific learning profile, contact us to set up an appointment with our school-choice expert. We can also arrange expert tutoring to help students with dyslexia or other learning differences become more successful students.