Dyslexia in the Classroom
General education teachers must understand what dyslexia is and what alternate means work best for those with the condition in order to have a successful, inclusive classroom.
Navigating dyslexia in the classroom can be difficult with a lack of understanding around the condition. With efforts to further the education of all students including those with dyslexia, See Word Reading has researched what exactly dyslexia is and how best to teach those with the condition. Close to our hearts, we are looking to Edutopia for resources on this discussion:
Let’s debunk a few of the myths and misconceptions right now. Dyslexia is not:
- Seeing letters or words backward (In fact, reversing letters and words is developmentally normal through the first grade.)
- A result of laziness or lack of motivation
- A visual issue.
It is often said that dyslexia is an “umbrella term” when, in fact, it has a very specific definition. The International Dyslexia Organization says:
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. Most students with dyslexia will receive the reading and writing help they need outside of the general education classroom, but there are many things a general education teacher can do to help students with dyslexia not only avoid situations, but thrive in your classroom.
Here is a short video from TED-Ed that explains dyslexia in just four minutes:
Understand the Role of Accommodations
Now that you have a better understanding of what dyslexia is and is not, it is important to know how you can help a student with dyslexia in the general education classroom. The best way, aside from the actual intervention, is to provide and understand the accommodations that he or she needs to be successful. Remember, these students are capable of learning, and many are intellectually gifted — their academic struggles are unexpected in relation to their innate ability to learn.
It cannot be overstated that students with dyslexia are capable of learning to read and write when given the appropriate intervention. This intervention should be structured and multisensory. It should be an explicit instruction of the underlying structure of English, and it should be informed by linguistics.
For many of these students, accommodations in the classroom can be the difference between academic success and academic failure and frustration. Below is a list of common and helpful accommodations:
- Books on audio: These should be introduced as soon as a reading deficit is suspected, and implemented as early as kindergarten. The idea is to make sure that the intellectually capable student is not missing the chance to read good literature and the grade-level content he or she is capable of understanding in a format other than reading. Learning Ally and Bookshare are reputable resources.
- Do not require the student to read aloud, unless he or she volunteers or had the opportunity to practice.
- Provide notes ahead of time or allow the student to record the lecture. The Livescribe Pen is a fantastic tool.
- Allow the student to verbally respond to short-answer and essay questions as well as dictate longer passages. Dyslexia affects writing as much, if not more, than reading. Their struggle with writing can often mask their actual thoughts.
- Do not mark off for spelling — grade written assignments based on content only.
- Remove time limits from testing and other timed situations.
- Give multiple opportunities for success. If students who struggle in reading and writing are better at science, math, artistic, or physical activities, you can motivate them by showcasing their talents in other areas. It may the one thing a teacher does to save those students’ interest in school.
Dyslexia is real, occurring in up to 20 percent of the population. That means there is a student in every classroom, in every neighborhood, and in every U.S. school. It also means that every classroom teacher has the opportunity to positively change the life of a student with dyslexia by taking the time to understand what it is and provide accommodations for accessing information that student is capable of learning through alternate formats.
To learn more about dyslexia and how it affects the general education classroom, visit Edutopia.
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