From Chalkbeat’s story, “NYC plans to screen nearly 200,000 students in the early grades to uncover struggling readers. Then what?”
“In a massive bid to gauge reading skills following COVID-related learning disruptions, New York City’s education department is introducing literacy screening for its nearly 200,000 children in kindergarten through second grade…
While the education department’s screeners aren’t designed to identify students at risk of having dyslexia, which is the most common learning disability, they are able to identify learning gaps in skills that are often associated with dyslexia, literacy experts say.
But many also note that screening alone will not address systemic issues that contribute to widespread literacy deficits across the city, such as uneven curriculum and inadequate teacher training.
The success of the screening will hinge on how well schools use the information and the quality of the interventions they’re able to offer. That remains a big question mark, as officials have long struggled to provide rigorous literacy instruction. By third grade, close to half of students have already fallen behind grade level in reading, according to state tests.”
It’s good to hear that more funding is being made available to identify “struggling readers”, but it does not specifically address uneven curriculum and inadequate teacher training. As a result, dyslexia may not be specifically addressed whether a student is in K-2 or grades 3-12.
WHY DYSLEXIA IDENTIFICATION IS IMPORTANT
Some educational leaders argue that struggling with reading is important, not whether a student is formally recognized as being dyslexic; but the reality is – if you know the school or test-related challenges are due to dyslexia, then there are helpful solutions to implement, strengths to utilize, associated difficulties to anticipate, results of research to apply, and legal protections like accommodations to set in place.
The idea behind FAPE or a “free appropriate public education” under section 504 is that individuals with disabilities should receive an education “designed to meet their educational needs.”
Dyslexic students benefit by explicit structured literacy instruction, accommodations like extra time and writing software, and audiobooks and e-books, and concepts like “big picture first.” Multisensory instruction also tends to help with subject learning, specialized topics like math, and also certain aspects of writing.
And what dyslexic students really benefit from are teachers who know what to expect when it comes to dyslexia (including the dyslexic advantage!).
What age can students begin to advocate for themselves? Elementary school is not too soon, but they may need to practice with you and it’s helpful to have specific written requests down on paper.
For many students, just being able to say, “I’m dyslexic, and here are some things that can help me be successful in your class” and hand over a list of accommodations, can help tremendously in getting the school year off on the right foot.
Students should know that they may need to remind their teacher about accommodations if they need them.
In some classrooms, where a third or more of the students may have an IEP or 504 plan, it may not be easy to remember who among their new students may need what. If students are all in masks, sound processing difficulties may be compounded.
LEARNING THE SCRIPT
Even if your student hasn’t been formally identified and perhaps doesn’t have an IEP or 504, they can ask for what they believe they need and request an assessment when it is available.
For those with a smartphone or iPad, there is the Neurolearning App which identifies dyslexia. It does not replace comprehensive testing, but also know that it has been useful in supporting the need for accommodations for some students. Unlike many online and early screeners, it tests children and adults from age 7 through 70 specifically for dyslexia and also generates a detailed report. It is accepted as documentation for the free e-book resource, Bookshare.
Examples of What to Say (if relevant for your student):
– “Can I get an audiobook for this?”
– “I need extra time on tests.”
– “Because I’m dysgraphic, I need to type my papers and exams.”
– ” I can’t write fast enough to take down notes in class. Can I have a copy of your teacher’s notes?”
Students who have certain apps or assistive devices, like a scanning pen, can ask to use them. Students can also request to have assistive devices and apps included in their IEP or 504.
Advice for students:
Request accommodations as soon as possible in the school year even if you aren’t certain that you will need them. If accommodations are in place and you’ve spoken to the teacher, then it’s much easier requesting if an assignment or an in-test problem suddenly presents itself.
Dyslexic students may also request to not be called on to read aloud in class and other accommodations may be requested for math or foreign language.