Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Deeper Look Into Dyslexia

I've written about Dyslexia a couple times before, but today I'd like to delve a little deeper. I've been fighting the Dyslexia battle for one of my students for the last year now with absolutely no support....trying to research and find ways that I can be a better teacher for him. Trying to get trainings and resources, and find ways to better assist him. I've been told, "Oh, the district doesn't support Dyslexia," or "It's just a Learning Disability." I've heard that in some districts you don't even say the "d" word!

This lack of support and my determination to help my student has led me to do more and more research on Dyslexia. Through my journey, I've also found that there are many misperceptions of Dyslexia. 

Dyslexia vs. Auditory Processing Disorder

Sound familiar!? I've also heard, "Dyslexia is not real." Well folks, it is real!

These children are not being lazy, nor do they usually need glasses. They are struggling. And yes, letter reversals are normal through the first grade, but after that they should be a red flag! Dyslexia is a language disorder that is neurological in origin, and is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

There is a great amount of evidence that even indicates a change in the brain in a person with Dyslexia versus a person without Dyslexia. Evidence from a number of laboratories using functional brain imaging indicates that there is a disruption of left-hemisphere posterior neural systems during reading tasks when compared to non-dyslexic readers. These findings imply that Dyslexia is a "valid" disorder, and a necessary condition for identification and appropriate treatment. Yet many of us continue to receive no support or tools for teaching these individuals. So as my research continues, I will continue to share it with you. 

We know how important it is to have a correct diagnosis in order to best serve our students, so don't make the common mistake of confusing Dyslexia with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).   

And btw, is Dyslexia THE only disability that does not have an abbreviation?!? :o I am going to give it the abbreviation of DX for the purpose of this post. 

One of  the things I spent a lot of time researching this year was programs for my student. Of course when I first started looking I was just planning to hopefully be able to afford and purchase a curriculum for my student just as I have purchased other programs for my other students. Add to my cart, pay, and wahlah! Not so easy! I found that all of the evidence-based programs offered for students with DX, required extensive training. :0 

I have spent so much time researching Dyslexia that I started logging it as shown below and using it as evidence towards my teacher evaluation. Here are the top 3 evidence-based programs I found. 

For me, I was back to ground zero! Barton seems doable and requires no training, but $3,000 is not in most of our school budgets. Wilson would be impossible for most of us to do considering the 60-lesson practicum requirement. Orton is the one I've read the best reviews on and is totally doable if there is a training in your area. However, if there is not one close to your area, like me, and you have to pay for a flight and lodging, that is going to be a little expensive. It seems that trainings are only located in the states where DX is "acknowledged." If you'd like to see if there is a training in your area, click here for a full list of upcoming trainings. 

I also recently just discovered the Dyslexia Training Institute, which I have not yet added to my "evidence" sheet yet, but love, and they do offer online courses, of course at a price! They also offer an online Orton-Gillingham certification online, but it also requires the practicum that involves working directly with a student with DX. Since I do have a student with Dyslexia I am planning to definitely look further into this site!   

I cannot lie. I have yet to find the perfect resource or system for my DX student. I'm still working on it. But here are some accommodations that have seemed to help my student. 

1. Books in audio format
2. Text to speech software
3. Reduced paper/pencil work; allow oral responses or scribe
4. Explicitly teaching sight words (student says each letter, then word)
5. Repetition, over and over
6. Color coding
7. Tracking dots
8. Finger tracking
9. Larger print
10. Providing what needs to be copied from the board on a small whiteboard in front of student. 
11. Alternating colors of words in a sentence or paragraph. If using written text, you can do this with a highlighter. 
12. Additional processing time
13. And learning to accept inconsistent performance

I also began doing crossing the midline exercises with my student this year. I discovered through my research that children with dyslexia are not able to communicate the right and left side of the brain like we do, which is one of the reasons for reading difficulties. What's interesting is that I found that my student with DX could not cross the midline!! 
We do these exercises every morning now from "Integrated Learning Strategies" to help teach my student learn to cross the mid-line. You can see the exercises and their post here.  

This video will explain it further!

There's also a DX font that you can download for free that was developed by a gentleman that has DX. Watch his video below. 

Download the font here!

Here are some great sites I've also found along the way that you may find as useful too.

Learning Ally is amazing! Over 80,000 audiobooks to choose from & they also offer trainings. 
The Yale Center for Dyslexia
Head Strong Nation

You may also enjoy Gina Cooke's videos to see the meaning behind the spelling of words!

The research is finally beginning to spread in other states, and my district has jumped on board. My district just recently held a mandatory training on Dyslexia for all of our school psychologists. :) YAY! This was the first ever! I tried to attend, but was told it was only for the psychs, but hey it's a start to know that our psychs will now be trained and hopefully screening for Dyslexia. I'm also reading more and more articles about other states talking about Dsylexia too. New Jersey for one, now names Dyslexia as a disability and their state laws even require two hours of training for personnel. I feel like we are finally making some progress!

The research has been there, but just now seems to be showing itself. I am so excited that this "hidden" disability is finally coming out and beginning to be accepted as "real," and that many districts are also jumping on board, including mine. We have to continue to advocate for these students, diagnose them early, and begin providing interventions asap!  


  1. I loved your post! I'm a math teacher but with so many word problems I've noticed a student of mine with dyslexia has difficulty decoding. I downloaded the font and also bought "Hank" chapter books to offer in my classroom library- they're in the dyslexie font! Thank you for the other ideas, I will definitely be looking into those!

  2. Great post Traci! We don't use the "D" word at my school but students with Dyslexia are identified under the "Specific Learning Disability" heading. We also use systematic, research based, phonics based interventions for these students such as Orton Gillingham, Fundations/Wilson and Spire. You shared some great information! I look forward to your future topics on this reading disorder!

  3. Have you tried using the colored overlays? They are plastic colored sheets that cover the text in a book or on a page (I usually cut mine in half). They come in different colors, because dyslexia is different for everyone. I have used them with several of my students. I had a new student last year who came to me struggling. He would struggle to tap out words or recognize common sight words. I brought out my colored overlays, tried a few different will know which color works for them when you see the surprised look on their face. "The letters aren't all over the page." "I can see the words now." I have been using Wilson Reading with my students for 14 years. I went to a two day overview of the program-not sure if that's still offered. There was a director of a private Christian school in our area who had been trained in Wilson. She offered classes and although we weren't "Wilson" certified, we were taught how to implement. It is a great program and easily understood.

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  6. Great Post! Dyslexia is beginning to get the recognition it so rightly deserves. It is people like you and I who are raising awareness and we will make a difference! Thank YOU! There are also Dyslexia resources and training at out of Houston. Basic Language Skills is a research based program and helps my students immensely. I am finishing up my certification in academic language therapy in AUSTIN, TEXAS using the program. I also use Scientific Spelling, Developing Metacognitive Strategies, and Colors and Shapes. I will be hosting a workshop next month for teachers from my district to raise the roof (of awareness) with a dyslexia simulation from the Dyslexia Training Institute! Wish me luck!


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