Teacher's Guide to Learning About Dyslexia

My daughter has dyslexia. It took years for us to figure out why she struggled so much in reading and writing. It was so painful to watch her self-esteem deteriorate. This was especially disheartening to me since I was her teacher. In the last couple of years I have learned so much about students with dyslexia and it has become a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Did you know that 20% of people have dyslexia? That means that you probably have more than one dyslexic student sitting in your classroom today. How can you help them?

I am so excited to have a guest blogger today who has lots of tips and resources for learning more about dyslexia and how we can help our dyslexic children.

Hi Everyone! I’m so thankful that Jamie invited me to be a guest on her blog today. Thanks for having me! As a certified dyslexia practitioner who uses the Orton-Gillingham approach to teach children with dyslexia to read, I love that I also get to spend time spreading a wealth of information about dyslexia with wonderful families and teachers. Through the power of social media, The Literacy Nest does just that. After being in education for over sixteen years, I am honored to give back in a meaningful way that also informs readers. Knowledge is power!

In this three part post, I will share some helpful tips and takeaways. Are we ready to begin? Let’s dig in.

Part One

We have certain abilities that are considered instinctual. Learning to walk, talk, eat, run from danger, etc., are all examples. Reading, however, is not an innate ability for humans like walking or any of the others. There are aspects of it that have to be explicitly taught. So knowing that, how do we go about helping unique readers like people with dyslexia?

Over the years, there has been a lot of misinformation about dyslexia. The beautiful thing is that the current field in dyslexia research is exploding! Dyslexia and reading remediation are dynamic topics in the field of education. But if you are someone like I was who isn’t entirely sure what dyslexia is or needs resources for learning more, here are four quick facts.

What Is Dyslexia? The formal definition is as follows:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension, and reduced reading experience can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” (Annals of Dyslexia, Vol. 53, 2003)

Facts about Dyslexia

  1. Dyslexia is hereditary. If you, your spouse or close relative have dyslexia, your child has a higher chance of having it too.
  2. About 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, but only about 1 in 10 people will qualify to receive proper intervention for it.
  3. Early detection and intervention is key. There are new screenings that can detect dyslexia in as early as preschool and kindergarten.
  4. Thanks to MRIs, we now know that the dyslexic brain processes language and information in a different part of the brain than a non-dyslexic.
  5. Dyslexia does NOT equal less intelligent.

Red Flags for Dyslexia

We as educators, don’t have to use the “wait and see” or “wait to fail” approach if we can become more cognizant of specific trouble areas in our students’ learning. You might see any one of the following:

  • Extremely slow reading, poor reading fluency, which affects overall comprehension
  • Weak spelling and decoding
  • Poor phonological awareness 
  • Difficulty with word retrieval, letter name and sound recognition
  • Difficulty with recognizing rhymes

*For a comprehensive list of symptoms

Strengths of Dyslexia

  • Most dyslexic readers have average to above average intelligence.
  • A high percentage of successful entrepreneurs are also dyslexic.
  • They are creative, think outside the box thinkers.
  • Strong visual-spatial abilities, an ability to see in 3D
  • They have the ability to link abstract ideas together.
  • Read more on strengths.
  • Successful dyslexics 

Part Two

Teaching Children with Dyslexia

  • Use a structured, systematic, multi-sensory approach to teaching phonological awareness, phonics, reading, spelling, writing, and handwriting. This is good teaching for all readers, not just for dyslexic learners. There is a large volume of research to support this as best practice. Orton Gillingham is one of the well-respected approaches that has been used effectively for years. Here is a link to one O-G informational site.
  • Provide consistent fluency intervention, and use it with fidelity. If you need specific names of fluency programs, try this list.  
  • Keep audio text readily available in a variety of formats. (listening centers, a computer station, or on a mobile tablet)  Many dyslexic readers are ear readers. When they hear the text and follow along in order they'll gain the most benefits.  Be sure to use audio text where the narrated voice isn’t robotic. Most prefer following along with a human voice.
  • Introduce children to a variety of texts such as magazines, graphic novels, and comics. They might enjoy a different format other than the traditional chapter book, which can seem daunting.
  • As parents, continue reading aloud to your child at night so they hear a proficient reader. These children may have strong listening comprehension, so choose books that are above their reading level to read to them, and foster a love of lifelong reading and learning.
  • Use assistive technologies. Check this Pinterest link to apps that may help a dyslexic reader.

Please keep in mind…

  • Every dyslexia reader is different.
  • Dyslexia has degrees of severity.
  • Certain instructional approaches will help to remediate better than others. Find out which reading programs are based on scientific research, and use them consistently and with fidelity.

Part Three

Dyslexia Resources

  • Overcoming Dyslexia by: Sally Shaywitz
  • The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking The Hidden Potential of The Dyslexic Brain by: Brock L. Eide
  • The Gift of Dyslexia by: Ronald Davis
  • The Dyslexia Checklist by: Sandra F. Rief
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by: Maryanne Wolf
  • The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child's Confidence and Love of Learning by: Ben Foss
  • Dyslexia Wonders: Understanding The Daily Life Of A Dyslexic From A Child's Perspective by: Jennifer Smith
  • Fish In A Tree by: Lynda Hunt

If you’ve read any of the books above or visited some of the websites I’ve mentioned, I’d love to hear about it! 

Thank you so much for reading my post today. I hope it has provided you with valuable insight into the children in your classroom. Feel free to leave me comments or questions below, and please keep in touch with me either on my Facebook page or my blog. Have a wonderful day!