Pablo Picasso, the world-renowned electric artist. The 35th president of the United States, John Kennedy. Film stars Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Carrey, and Tom Cruise. Even Albert Einstein.
What do these people have in common?
You might be surprised to find out that 5-10% of the population has dyslexia. It’s the most common reading disorder, and in fact can account for for 70-80% of reading difficulties, though it’s expression can be quite mild through very severe.
That equates to a staggering 43.5 million people in the United States alone!
Many people associate dyslexia with ‘flipping’ letters. Many times I have heard the concern, “Johnny flips his ‘b’s’ and ‘d’s’, so he must be dyslexic.”
However, dyslexia is really much more than that.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia is “a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.”
According to the University of Michigan, what causes dyslexia isn’t entirely clear, though hearing issues early in life and congenital and genetic factors may play a role. Regardless of the cause, dyslexia’s interferes with the brain’s ability to decode language. Symptoms can include:
- Difficulty understanding the individual sounds in words & remembering words
- Reversing letters and number sequences
- Flipping letters and numbers and/or writing them backwards past the age of 7 or 8
- Not seeing or acknowledging punctuation in written text
- Difficulty reading different styles of type
- Skipping words while reading
- Difficulty with writing
- Inconsistencies between potential and performance
- Difficulty telling time
Dyslexia, as with other reading disorders, makes what are otherwise rather ordinary tasks for students much more difficult. “Having dyslexia makes everything that involves reading, which is the entire school day, every class and instruction, every math word problem, harder,” notes a Denver Christian School parent.
October is dyslexia awareness month.
Currently Denver Christian has at least one identified (most grades have multiple identifications) student with dyslexia (specific learning disability in reading) in every grade second through twelve.
A Denver Christian School parent noted this about her family’s journey with dyslexia:
“Because going undiagnosed can be frustrating, and Dyslexics are often misunderstood, this is a great time to share information about Dyslexia and raise awareness about this learning difference that impacts members of our community, both diagnosed and undiagnosed.”
A supportive learning community.
Dyslexia doesn’t have a cure, because dyslexia isn’t a disease. Rather, supportive instruction, targeted interventions, and hard work can help those diagnosed with dyslexia succeed academically and beyond.
Understanding that difficulties for dyslexic students is at the phonological level of reading (identifying sounds and decoding), effective interventions include:
- using a specific program with students that breaks down words into the smallest sounds and then systematically builds on these skills
- Utilizing multi-sensory techniques is also incredibly important when finding a program to help dyslexic students
One of the most acknowledged method of working with dyslexic students is the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method. Denver Christian School kindergarten – third grade teachers are not only trained in the Orton-Gillingham method but also incorporate this into their daily lessons.
First grade teacher Jana Swalley explains that “Orton-Gillingham is multi sensory, sequential, and explicit. These aspects of the program help unlock the keys to reading for dyslexic learners or those who have struggled with traditional approaches. I have a student who sees letters as pictures, not letter forms. Using differentiated lessons and 1-on-1 instruction, this first grader is beginning to unlock the ‘keys’ to reading.”
This provides great support for all students – not just those struggling with dyslexia!
Helping all students thrive.
Denver Christian School’s Extend program offers supportive instruction and individualized intervention for our students (right through 12th grade) diagnosed with dyslexia, as well as those with other academic needs. Extend program staff work closely with classroom teachers, educational specialists, classroom paraprofessionals, and parents to help each of our students succeed.
Accommodations such as the use of Learning Ally, voice to text, scribing, and time extensions are only a few of the accommodations used to support our dyslexic students. High school students can access most of these accommodations when they move to the college level due to our extensive documentation!
Our commitment to the success of each student comes from our belief that each child is uniquely created in the image of God.
In honor of them and with appreciation for the parents, families, and teachers who support them, we’re grateful to be celebrating Dyslexia Awareness Month!
About the author
Tracey Twinam, EdD, is the Extend Learning Services Coordinator at Denver Christian School. Dr. Twinam is passionate about seeing all students thrive at school, and fond of binging Hallmark movies and the Food Network after hours.