What would be your ideal solution for improving the educational experience of students with dyslexia?
This is a question we asked when we recently interviewed the parent of a student with dyslexia, Angela Cantrell.
As she excitedly sat up in her chair, she responded:
“An ideal way for schools to address dyslexia, for me, would be to educate all students whether they have dyslexia or not. [Then] you have students who are able to recognize [dyslexia] in someone else and not tease them for being dumb. I would really like to see every teacher be educated about dyslexia. It’s so common, it’s so well documented, and we have so many kids who, just for the lack of having their teachers educated properly, are not getting the knowledge about what their real abilities are.”
After interviewing her son, Jefferson, about his experience with dyslexia, we saw his interview video as the perfect tool for addressing her first suggestion: educating every student about dyslexia.
We feel it is important for every student to understand Jefferson’s point of view for three reasons:
- To increase student understanding of dyslexia and learning differences
- To decrease bullying toward students with dyslexia and learning differences
- To help validate students who have dyslexia and learning differences
As October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, we encourage every teacher to take a few minutes during the month to help spread this message. Here’s a simple lesson plan for helping your students understand dyslexia.
Watch the Video
Watch Jefferson’s video as a class.
If you would like to delve deeper into the specifics of dyslexia, here is a good overview.
Class Discussion and Reflection
Have students write a one paragraph reflection journal entry (or fill in the worksheet provided above), discuss the video with a neighbor, or raise their hands to share their thoughts about the video.
Have Every Student Complete the Dyslexia Screener
Experts estimate that between 10-20% of all students have dyslexia. There is a high possibility that some of your students have dyslexia without knowing it. Discovering what has made school or reading so difficult for a student can be incredibly empowering and helpful, as is clear in Jefferson’s video.
Reading Horizons recently released a free dyslexia screener that was developed by dyslexia and special education experts and tested on hundreds of students. Here are a couple of examples of how the screener has already been implemented in schools:
During the summer, we tested the screener with children and adults around the country, including a pilot at two schools. Parents at the schools received a letter or phone call asking them to complete a reading screener that would help the school determine factors that might impact their child’s reading.
At one school, five out of nine students whose parents completed the screener exhibited characteristics that match the profile for dyslexia. Those students, in grades 5, 6, and 7, then participated in a six-week summer reading program where I was able to provide 90 minutes of daily intervention and make instructional recommendations for the upcoming school year. At another school, parents of nine students in 1st to 5th grades were asked to complete the screener. The results were so beneficial to the reading interventionist that the school will be asking all parents of incoming 1st graders to complete the screener, and all teachers will participate in professional development about dyslexia. Read the full article ›
Have each of your students complete the dyslexia screener either on their own or with a parent (depending on student age and ability level). The screener doesn’t provide a diagnosis; however, it can help point teachers, parents, and students in the right direction if there are unidentified reading challenges.
Take a Literacy Pledge
Have your students make a commitment to help improve school for students with dyslexia and learning differences. They can make a pledge on the Reading Horizons website or on the worksheet provided above.
If students make a pledge on the Reading Horizons website, the ideal selection would be the following pledge:
I will speak up and support struggling readers when they are bullied or made fun of for reading difficulties.
Increase Awareness about Dyslexia
If your students feel so inclined, encourage them to share Jefferson’s video in their social media networks.
Share this lesson plan with the teachers at your school or in your network.
Increase your knowledge about dyslexia and how to address it in the classroom. Here are a few webcasts to get you started:
- Essentials for Supporting a Child with Dyslexia - Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
- Don't Stop the Learning: Assistive Technology in the Classroom - Eric Price, M.Ed
- Dyslexia: Best Practices for Instruction and Intervention - Donell Pons, M.Ed., MAT
- Dyslexia: What Every Educator Should Know - Donell Pons, M.Ed., MAT
- Dyslexia Q&A: Expert Panel Discussion - Shantell Berrett, MA and Donell Pons, M.Ed., MAT