Are Children with Dyslexia Getting Left Behind in Public Schools

Dyslexia, what exactly is it?

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) defines it this way:

“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 growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Simply put “when a person has difficulty learning to read and write”

Some facts about Dyslexia

From Visually.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that as many as 20% of school-aged children struggle with symptoms of dyslexia–that is 1 in every 5 students!

Yet very few states legally recognize dyslexia as a learning disability and it remains the most publicly misunderstood learning difference overall.  With this lack of awareness in the school systems teachers have not been trained to recognize dyslexia symptoms or how to teach a child that struggles with this learning difference.  Unfortunately, many of these children can “get by” (i.e. pass each grade) in their early grade school years and thus fall through the cracks.

Currently, only 15 states have laws on the books to address and/or recognize dyslexia.  To read more on what states have implemented legislation to recognize and support students with dyslexia check out Dyslegia: A Legislative Information Site.

In the state of Maryland, legislators approved a bill in 2015 to form a Task Force to study dyslexia and determine how this can be addressed in the school system. The due date for this report has now been extended to December of 2016. You can read more about this and other legislation summarized by Decoding Dyslexia-Maryland. The Commonwealth of Virginia is also struggling to address this issue. Teachers, administrators, parents all want to help but the infrastructure is not in place to offer these students what they need or even identify the issues. ABC 13 NewsNow recently posted a very good article on this topic Dyslexia Dilemma Virginia Public Schools.

There does, however seem to be a growing awareness that with time could bring acknowledgment/action to this huge gap in educational support for students with dyslexia. The question is what can be done to help now? How many of these children will go undiagnosed and continue to blindly struggle?

Listen to The Lieutenant Governor of California, a Dyslexic himself as he describes the difficulties and what the state of California has implemented to address the educational gap for dyslexic students.

There is also good news coming out of the White House where President Obama just signed the
Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act (READ) to research Dyslexia.  It provides millions of dollars for research into the learning disorder dyslexia through the National Science Foundation.

What can you do?

Early intervention offers the best long term result for students with Dyslexia as research indicates additional direct instruction provided appropriately beginning in kindergarten through third grade can help all but the most severely impaired students catch up to grade-level literacy skills. When a student is equipped with tools to assist them in learning (equalizers) they can excel and go on to do great things.  Dyslexia is a neurological condition caused by different wiring in the brain, there is no “cure”. Teaching these students coping skills and strategies empowers them to overcome challenges in reading.  If you suspect your child may have dyslexia, a set of screening tests/evaluations conducted by a trained professional can identify if the issue is dyslexia. From that point as a parent, you need to educate yourself and become an advocate for your child. There are many organizations and groups available now to assist you in locating resources to help your child. If private school is an option, consider finding a school that specializes in teaching students with learning differences. Small classroom size and multi-sensory teaching methods available in these schools will help your child to reach their full potential.

Additionally, the most effective support for a student with dyslexia is 1:1 learning time with a professional trained and certified using either the Orten-Gillingham approach or a program based on Orten-Gillingham. This technique was developed in the 1930’s by Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton and psychologist and teacher Anna Gillingham which utilizes multi-sensory teaching methodology and has shown great success in helping students with dyslexia. It has become the standard for most other reading programs.

For more information on dyslexia:

Decoding Dyslexia Maryland

Dyslexia Tutoring Program

International Dyslexia Foundation

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