Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dyslexia in the Classroom

A few years ago, I encountered a little boy in my classroom whom I speculated had Dyslexia. No matter what I did, I could not seem to make any progress with this child. He continuously rubbed his eyes and tried to focus them. It appeared that he needed glasses at first, so I referred him to the nurse only to find that he did not need glasses and that his vision checked out at 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other eye. 

This is when I began to speculate Dyslexia. I talked to the parents about my concerns and found out that the father has Dyslexia. Well, Dyslexia is hereditary. So I began to do some research on ways I could help this little guy...and I'm thrilled to say he is reading!! I'm here today to share his successes with you and what I've learned along the way! 

Some Quick Facts about Dyslexia
1. Dyslexia is a language-based disability that most often affects reading, but can affect other language areas such as spelling, writing, and speaking. 
2. Dyslexia is hereditary.
3. Dyslexia is not curable and is life-long.
4. There is no known cause of Dyslexia. 
5. 15 to 20% of the population has a reading disability (International Dyslexia Association, 2000).
6. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties (International Dyslexia Association, 2000). 

Common Signs
1. Rubbing of eyes
2. Squinting eyes as if they need glasses, but don't
3. Reading and writing numbers and letters backwards or omitting letters.  
4. Lack of progress
5. Very unorganized, scattered
6. Stuttering, trouble communicating clearly
7. Difficulty memorizing information
8. Difficulty completing multi-step directions
9. Frequently writes name backwards or omits letters in name.
10. Difficulties with blending sounds together
11. Reverses words- ex. will read 'tip' as 'pit' or 'dog' as 'bog.'
12. Reverses numbers- ex. will read or write '72' as '27.'
13. Confuses small words- ex. will read 'at' for 'to' or 'and' for 'said.'
14. Frustration
15. Makes up words for written text.
16. Easily loses their place
17. Avoids reading
18. Breaks down if being timed. 

Suggested Accommodations
1. Shortened word/spelling lists. I only give my student 5 sight words and 5 spelling words at a time. He will be in third grade this year. 

2. Enlarged flashcards. I fold and cut a piece of colored cardstock/paper in half and write one word on each half. This has really speeded up his progress on sight word knowledge.
3. Enlarge print. Don't expect them to read this. You can enlarge any print on any copy machine. If you don't know how, I'm sure someone in your school does. 

4. Word Tracking. Require your student to track their words as they read using mini pointers. 

 Or here's a fun way to make your own with a popsicle stick!

Students can also use index cards.
Index cards also work well with math problems and when students are working with double digit numbers.

5. Utilize tracking dots. These are very useful in helping students segment the sounds in a word.

 I own this set below from "One Sharp Bunch" and they have been a blessing, not only for my child with Dyslexia, but for my other beginning readers as well. You can get them in her store here.

These tracking dots have also worked very well with my student to help him with building fluency. He is able to place his finger on each dot as he reads each word, and then slide to the next dot. You can find these fluency drills here. And speaking of drills leads me to mention #6 right away!

6. Do not time students with Dyslexia. Students with Dyslexia do not do well under pressure and especially when being timed. Even on my fluency drills above, I do not time this student. Focus on quality, not quantity, and always allow students with Dyslexia additional time.

7. Use slinkies. Use mini slinkies to help your student "stretch" the sounds in a word. This really entices reading interest as well. Give them a slinky and they can't wait to read! Have them hold the slinky closed under the first letter and stretch it across the word as they stretch the this, "ccccaaaaannnn - can."

8. Use colored overlays. Some research shows that colored overlays are beneficial in reducing visual stress for children with Dyslexia.

I have heard that "Irlen" are the best colored overlays and you can get them at Really Good Stuff here. They also have the window style above and many others to choose from. 

And did you know you can get colored overlay glasses?? I didn't until just recently when a student enrolled at our school that had them. 

9. Dim the lights. Bright lights can be visually distressing for students with Dyslexia. Dim the lights if possible. You can purchase covers made for this. Luckily my classroom lights are set up on two switches, so I only turn one on every day and that works. 

10. Keep visual stimulation to a minimum. Don't make your classroom too visually stimulating. Don't overdo wall or work spaces and keep colors neutral, not too bright! 

Last year, I hosted a Disability Awareness Day at my school! Students went around to different stations to experience what it was like to have certain disabilities. These are the activities I had in my Dyslexia station of what it might feel like to have Dyslexia.  

You can try this test right now!!Pretty hard to do, wasn't it!?

Now try this one!
This is what it might be like for student reading with Dyslexia.

This is what the passage really says!
The reading program I began using with my student a year ago that I feel has made one of the biggest differences is "Read Well." 
While it is not specifically designed for students with Dyslexia, I truly believe it has played the largest role in my little guy becoming the reader he is now! Stage one provides the tracking dots under each word for the students and combines pictures and repetition to ensure student success. Students quickly build reading confidence!! 

I have heard that Linda Mood Bell offers a great reading program for Dyslexia children, but when I looked into it, it was too expensive. I have also heard good things about the Orton Gillingham reading program. While the Read Well program is expensive too, my school owns it, and it's working! 

Through the way, here are two of my best go to resources I have found to be the most beneficial for me.

Dyslexia Handbook
This handbook is awesome and even includes a parent handout.
Dyslexia Daily
You can subscribe to Dyslexia Daily for free to download a free ebook, join discussion forums, get free printables and much more!

Good luck working with your students with Dyslexia! More than anything, just have lots of patience, use the tools I've provided, and watch your little reader grow!

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