Question: How can I tell that students are dyslexic if they’re not reading aloud?
Last week a high school teacher in my course asked how she might be able to tell that a student may be dyslexic if they don’t read out loud in her class.
Once a student moves into upper elementary school and beyond, reading aloud becomes less frequent and if dyslexia has not yet been identified (studies suggest as many as 3 out of 4 students are missed), then the chances that dyslexia will be formally recognized becomes even more unlikely.
When reading aloud (in a small group or 1:1 situation), students may read dysfluently with pauses when trying to decode words and misread words that bear little resemblance to target words, revealing their uncertainty about sounding out or common phonetic rules. Bright un-remediated dyslexics may fill-in words based on context so well, that they may be even harder to identify in the workings of a busy classroom.
KNOWLEDGE > TESTS AND WRITTEN WORK
A common way that dyslexia can present is with a gap between what dyslexic students know and what they can easily show through writing or even test-taking.
There may be several reasons for this, but some reasons include – needing more time for tests and misreading test questions, writing and spelling difficulties, and difficulty accessing all the information presented in classes and readings.
Students may comprehend material well, and be analytical and creative, but their grades and test scores underestimate their ability.
Students who haven’t been formally identified are missing out on receiving supports like audiobooks and e-books that can be read aloud through software.
Most dyslexic students will have difficulty note-taking, so they may also miss important information unless teachers’ notes are posted online or they can get copies of notes from a friend.
Many dyslexic students also have dysgraphia (writing disability dysgraphic and dyscalculic, so knowing how the of writing) and dyscalculia (math disability), which may also affect writing-heavy courses, science, and math.
With the pandemic disruptions, dyslexic students may have had even more disruptions to their learning progress.
Writing can be a strong indicator of dyslexia if one learns what to look for. Dyslexic students may show letters written with irregular shapes and sizes (impaired letter writing automaticity), problems with capitalization, punctuation, and grammar, and phonemic and sight word spelling errors (learn more about this in our Dyslexia Library under Dysgraphia.
Younger writers have the most difficult time and are especially susceptible to working memory overload. If a student is still having considerable difficulty with reversals and the spelling of common words, then break down tasks into little bits, like brainstorming one day, then sentence writing another.
Allow students to dictate or work with a speech-to-text program if necessary. Allow typing when needed and have students learn handwriting as a separate task.
What about dyslexic strengths? Some strengths may be evident in young children, but others may be later blooming.
For some in this field, dyslexia may be recognized by the MIND strengths described in our book, The Dyslexic Advantage, but also an exploratory bias as described recently in the research paper by Taylor and Vestergaard, 2022.
Many of the particular gifts of dyslexic individuals come from activities and skills outside the classroom.