From the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, up to 1 in 6 students are dyslexic, but only a minority of these students will be found in special education classrooms. What does this mean for regular classroom teachers?
1. Get Basic Facts about Dyslexia – Dyslexic students ARE in your classroom, although you may not have identified them and they may not know they are dyslexic either. At least at present, there is no required universal screening for dyslexia in the US and for every 1 student who is identified, it seems 3 are missed.
Dyslexia should be suspected for students with normal or above average intelligence with difficulty with reading, phonological awareness, spelling and writing, math facts, and rote memory.
We have summarized the basic facts about dyslexia on this teachers card (see our store for purchase). What these students need from their general education teachers is: positive acceptance by their teacher, appropriate access (often audio) to information in books and handouts, and accommodations for reading, writing,spelling, and math if needed.
2. Be Flexible – Students with dyslexia vary considerably and depending on their underlying processing challenges, their needs may vary and also change over time.
3. Ensure Access to Knowledge – Dyslexic students have normal or above average / gifted intelligence but their ability to get information through print is lower. To make sure that students are comprehending handouts, social studies, science, and other books, even tests. A student may be embarrassed by his or her level of reading and not tell you what they can’t read.
Here are 4 Quick Practical Classroom Tips for Teachersr:
#1. Audiobooks or Apps / Other Technology to Allow Learning Through Print – Dyslexic students in the US qualify for FREE books (paid for by the Department of Education) through Bookshare. Bookshare can be used with its free text to speech reader or an inexpensive app like Voice Dream Reader. Audiobooks can also be obtained from the library or school-based resources like Tumblebooks (school subscription).
#2. Oral Testing if Needed – If a student performs poorly on an exam, but seemed to understand in the classroom, have them see you after class and ask them whether they had trouble understanding the test questions. Ask them questions to see if they really understood the material, but consider alternative testing in the future using accommodations like para-educator or volunteer to read questions. Older students may be able to use a OCR app like Prizmo or scanning pen. Windows 10 and Android users may be able to use Office Lens. Oral testing may also be needed if students don’t write very much on exams. It’s not uncommon for many students to require extended time + option to type or dictate in elementary school if their working memory and letter writing automaticity hasn’t developed to a certain level. Writing is a very late to develop skill for dyslexic people. Teachers should be aware that it make some time to work with a student getting her or his ideas down on paper. Writing skills may have to be worked on separate before putting them together. Dictation can help students progress much further in their writing abilities then if goals are set that are physically impossible for students to meet.
#3. Fewer Assignments, More Time Dyslexia is a late blooming profile so that students will know and comprehend much more than they can easily express or put down on paper. Be prepared to significantly shorten or waive assignments and provide more time for tests and work.
#4. Nurture the Whole Child. Promote and Recognize Strengths and Minimize Classroom Stress -Students with dyslexia are at great risk for depression and anxiety because of the gap between understanding and speed and output of work. Avoid over-correcting work and having students read aloud in classes (stereotype threat, anxiety). Recognize students’ strengths and tell them what you see. Tell students about role models like Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, or Nobel Prize winning scientist Carol Greider who are dyslexic and tell them it’s good being a different thinker.
Check out the Dyslexic MIND Strengths poster in our Dyslexic Advantage store. We’ll share more tips for teaching dyslexic students in a general classroom soon (Part 2).