Have you ever known a middle or high school student who has a wonderful speaking vocabulary, thinks out of the box, has outstanding abilities to visualize a new device or building, grasps difficult math concepts easily and quickly, yet struggles to read a simple paragraph written at an elementary school level? If this sounds familiar, this person might have a language-based learning disability which is more commonly known as dyslexia. Generally speaking, these students have great difficulty learning how to read, write and spell using traditional methods. This brain-based learning difference is hereditary and amazingly enough, this structural difference in the brain can be seen using a Functional MRI. In fact, scientists have even identified the group of chromosomes where dyslexia is located.
For specific signs of dyslexia by age visit, https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/dyslexia-what-youre-seeing.
Some typical symptoms of dyslexia are:
- Difficulty reading words efficiently
- Slow, labored reading
- Problems reading unfamiliar or nonsense words
- Guessing at words
- Poor spelling
- Memorizes words vs reading them
Imagine this: going to school or work every day and not being able to succeed, no matter how hard you try. Not much fun, right? Think about looking around and everyone else is completing tasks quickly and accurately, while you are stuck staring at meaningless symbols. These students often have stomach or headaches, ask to be excused or just put their heads down on their desks to withdraw from the classroom. Many times they develop anxiety because their self-concept is so low and the struggle to succeed is so great. Sometimes this student becomes the class clown or some other type of behavior problem. To these students, it’s better to be known as the “bad” kid than the “dumb” one. In fact, Jay Leno, the comedian, talks about his dyslexia and how his teachers would slap him on the side of the head and tell him to “smarten up” when he failed tests because he couldn’t read.
So, what can be done?
The best way to remedy this problem is with early identification. The sooner this issue is found, the faster a treatment plan can be developed and implemented. Something to remember is that the older the student is, the more time is required for remediation. The opposite is also true, and that means a younger student will not have the memorizing and guessing habits ingrained like the older counterpart.
Preschool children who don’t understand the concept of rhyming and have problems remembering nursery rhymes or even new words might be at risk for dyslexia. If a parent sees this type of issue and suspects a reading problem, the first step is to take is to get a psychological evaluation. A thorough and comprehensive test will tell a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Using the evaluation as a sort of GPS for educators is the best way to create an individualized plan for the dyslexic student.
Dyslexic students have had the greatest success learning to read and write when they are taught using an intensive multisensory, structured, systematic, cumulative and explicit curriculum. These direct instructional curriculums are often referred to as Orton-Gillingham, and we use the Wilson Reading System, based on Orton-Gillingham, as our primary program. This research-based curriculum has a stellar track record for helping students with severe reading difficulties.
How Academy of Innovation tackles dyslexia
Here at the Academy of Innovation, or AOI, we address the needs of struggling readers by using the Wilson Reading System. Small pupil-teacher ratio makes individualized learning a successful endeavor for the student and the instructor. All the teachers have Wilson training to implement the lessons correctly and use the curriculum as it was written. Also, dedicated class time is provided five days a week to be sure students are receiving consistent reading instruction. Students are given individual reading tests and are placed in a class by their reading abilities, not by grade levels. Progress monitoring of each student happens weekly and in some classes on daily basis. Tracking progress visibly is critical so that everyone involved, teachers, parents, and students, can see if a student is working at an acceptable rate towards the predetermined reading goal. Finally, AOI promotes reading as the major form of homework. Even beginning readers can listen to, or “ear-read”, books as they gain the necessary skills for reading. As students become more proficient readers, they move to independent reading. Consequently, AOI has a strong culture of students who love to read, despite the fact that many of them enrolled as non-readers.