Sunday, September 16, 2018

Dyslexia is Real!

I don't normally post on subjects that involve my children or things of a personal nature. This time is different. I think it is important to share our journey and to support others that might be going through the same thing. I learned a lot as a parent and as an educator. Today is my son's birthday. With his permission, I share our story!
When my son was in kindergarten, I realized that he was not learning at the same rate as his peers. With a late birthday, I decided that he would repeat kindergarten. After a few months, his teacher met me after school and told me that he was still struggling. He needed more help than she could provide. He was easily distracted, upset that he couldn't do what the other students were doing, tired easily due to the challenges of school, and could not master basic kindergarten skills. School was so difficult for him that evenings were challenging at home. He decided in kindergarten that he did not like school and did not want to go.
I had him tested by a private psychologist. She found that he had a very high IQ and low achievement. She assumed that I was doing everything for him. I look back at that report and realize that she did not fully understand the issues that my child was experiencing. She did not have a background in reading or education. Her attitude added to the "mother guilt" I was already experiencing. The results of her report indicated that my child needed intensive remediation in basic skills. I took this report to the local school district and the only option they offered was a self-contained classroom for children with severe learning disabilities. I visited this classroom and quickly decided that this was not the right option for my child. I researched for many months and found the term "dyslexia". It seemed to describe my child and what we were experiencing. I went to seminars and read books on dyslexia. When I discussed my findings with the school staff, they were not familiar with dyslexia and had nothing to offer my child. Fortunately, there was a tutor nearby that offered the kind of support that my son needed. He went to this tutor every day during the school months for three years. His reading improved and while he never liked school, he was able to graduate. I used a 504 to support him with needed accommodations. Our experience in college was actually very positive. It took him an extra year, but he graduated and has a great job!
All of this happened 25 years ago! Back then, we did not understand dyslexia or how to help these children learn to read. I was trained to use a multisensory approach to reading and worked with a student while my son was being tutored. Over the years, I have helped many children learn to read using this approach. As a parent and an educator, I know that dyslexia is real. I know that some students need a multisensory approach to reading that involves sequential phonics. I know that one-sized reading instruction does not fit all.
Some things have changed in the last 25 years. We know much more about dyslexia. There are many resources online for parents and teachers.  However, there is still much debate on how to teach reading to students with dyslexia. There is much debate on how many children are affected and how dyslexia is determined. We need more professional learning for educators to help them understand what dyslexia is and how to help these struggling readers. We also need to understand foundational reading and how that impacts learning at a very early age.
I have a wide background in education. I taught second and third grade in general education. I have been a K-12 resource teacher and special education coordinator. I understand balanced literacy and the benefits that it provides to our students. I support reading and writing workshops. I also support multisensory instruction for those students that need it. There are no" reading wars" in my world. We provide each student with what they need. Period.
I do want to point out that my son did not become a "reader" until he found a series that interested him. He needed the decoding help that the multisensory instruction provided. But, he had to find a series that created in him a desire to read. He was in the ninth grade. He explains that here! 
I have developed a course to support educators in understanding dyslexia. Teachers are taking this course and are passionate about helping students. States are discussing dyslexia like never before. We want to identify these students early and provide the needed interventions. I hope the next 25 years are brighter for children like my son. With early intervention targeted to their needs, they can progress and develop a love for reading. I encourage you to learn more about dyslexia and how we can help to make all children readers.


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