By Dr. Sheila Clonan
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. It is also ADHD Awareness month and Down Syndrome Awareness month—so much awesomeness packed into 31 little days! We’ll address those later, but in this post, we want to play a little “Did you know?” game, raise awareness of issues pertaining to dyslexia, and let local readers know about some amazing upcoming events.
Did you know that at least 1 in 5 students is estimated to struggle with dyslexia, a neurological disorder characterized by difficulties with phonological processing that impair accurate and fluent decoding?
Some experts estimate that 15-20% of school children will struggle learning to read with “traditional” methods. Most schools use what they call “balanced literacy,” a combination of whole language and phonics instruction that typically involves a read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, independent reading and word study. However, children who struggle to learn to read require systematic phonologically-based reading instruction with more explicit, structured teaching of phonics than is typically included in these programs.
Did you know that students with reading difficulties do not “catch up” on their own?
All too often, parents are told their child is “young” or a “late bloomer” and that he will catch up in time. This concept of a maturational lag is not supported by research, however. In fact, the opposite is true. It is important to act as soon as possible when a child seems to be behind in her reading development. Systematic, explicit, phonologically-based reading instruction is critical for students struggling to learn to read. Providing such evidence-based instruction to all students from an early age may even help to prevent reading difficulties down the road for some students.
Did you know that most students with dyslexia are very bright, and may even be quite gifted in other areas?
People with dyslexia struggle to acquire written language, which impairs their reading and spelling progress. Your student or child may be very verbal, but have difficulty learning letters and their sounds, or organizing her written and spoken language. He may have jumbled his words up when learning to speak, or misread similar-looking words when reading. Sometimes dyslexia can hinder memorizing math facts, or sequencing math problems correctly, but some students with dyslexia are quite good at math. Others may have creative talents, such as in imaginative writing (despite poor spelling!), artistic endeavors, or technology/engineering. It is estimated that some 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic- perhaps due to the resiliency and extra effort they have developed to succeed in school, or perhaps due to some inherent strengths in problem-solving. This does not mean that we would wish dyslexia on anyone, or that it is a “gift.” Struggling to read in our print-dependent world can cause a host of problematic outcomes, such as underemployment. But it does mean that we should encourage students to develop their other talents and remind them that having dyslexia does not doom them to a life of failure, while also ensuring that they receive the kind of direct, systematic instruction we know they need.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
As a teacher, you want to do what’s best for all of the students you teach. You may not have been given the tools you need to effectively teach struggling readers in your training program or professional development, however. So, what is a dedicated educator to do? Arm yourself with information. Get to know your state’s dyslexia law if they have one. (Click here for information about all state’s laws). Join organizations, like the International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexic Advantage, or The Reading League, a new organization that has galvanized around ensuring that evidence-based reading instruction is available to all students via free professional development for teachers. Follow us here at Educational Solutions CNY for easy to digest, up to date information.
As a parent, arm yourself with information. Join organizations like those mentioned above. Become active in advocacy groups such as Decoding Dyslexia. Read as much as you can from reputable sources, such as the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and our experts here at Educational Solutions CNY.
And finally, if you are anywhere in the Upstate NY region, please join us for one or all of these exciting upcoming events as we commemorate Dyslexia Awareness month and strive to ensure that all parents, teachers, and students have the information they need:
Join us on Tuesday October 10 at 6:30 for a film screening and panel discussion of “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia,” a documentary that chronicles the dyslexic experience from the perspective of students, educators and leaders. Find more information here: Movie
On Friday October 27, join us for The Reading League’s first annual conference in beautiful Cazenovia, NY. This conference is aimed primarily at educators. For more information, or to register, click here: Conference
Finally, on Saturday, October 28th, join us for an early literacy workshop, Developing Readers: Helping Young Children Develop Early Literacy Skills. This half-day workshop is aimed at parents, daycare providers and early educators (PreK-kindergarten). Find more information and register here: Workshop
Happy Dyslexia Awareness Month!
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