It breaks my heart that I even have to write this. You would think this would never have to be said, but I cannot remain silent.
Teachers! All teachers in every classroom across the United States! Could I please have your attention? What I have to say is so important that I need you to take just 5 minutes out of what I know is a very busy schedule, and please just listen.
Even if this doesn’t apply to you, I bet you know someone who could stand to read this. I’ll make it very simple.
ONE IN FIVE
Teachers, one out of every 5 students in your class fits the dyslexia profile to one degree or another. Dyslexia is NOT rare.
Dyslexia is the number one reason why students will struggle with reading, writing and spelling.
You must understand how to work with students with dyslexia. They have very specific needs.
NO SOUNDING OUT
My precious kids CANNOT sound out words. They can’t. Don’t make them.
I had a parent of one of my students tell me just yesterday that a school librarian slammed her hand on a table and told my dear student to, “SOUND.IT. OUT!”
Oh, Ms Librarian, you don’t understand. You are asking this child to do something they cannot do.
With the correct and proper reading intervention the student will eventually be able to sound out words, but this takes time.
GIVE THESE STUDENTS TIME
Kids with dyslexia need more time. They are working harder than any child in your class.
It’s likely that they struggle with low working memory and/or slower processing speeds. Can you please just wait for them to think through your question? I guarantee that given time they will give you the correct answer.
Also give them more time to complete their work. And for Pete’s sake, please don’t make them miss recess or Fun Friday or whatever to do their work. Just don’t.
You don’t need a 504 or an IEP to be a reasonable and compassionate person.
NO READING ALOUD
If my kids don’t volunteer to read aloud, don’t ask them.
And for the love of all things good, don’t say these words, ” What are you are 1st grader? 3rd grader?” and then follow it up with, “Look everybody xxx read three words, everybody clap for him!”
I wish I was making that scenario up. Unfortunately, it really happened.
It makes me sick to know that there are teachers who interact with my kids everyday who say things like this.
DYSLEXICS ARE ALL DIFFERENT
Some dyslexic children are mildly dyslexic. Others are moderate or severely dyslexic. There are even some who are profoundly dyslexic.
You have to have different expectations for each child.
And, psst, I have a little secret for you! It’s highly likely one of their parents is dyslexic too!
Keep this in mind.
FORGET ABOUT SPELLING
My kids cannot spell. Even if they spell well on the Friday spelling test, they will forget their spelling words by Monday.
The spelling “programs” that schools use are not explicit or systematic enough for a dyslexic student. Let’s face it, Many schools don’t even use spelling programs anymore. If your school does, I can assure you that it is NOT appropriate for dyslexic child.
Don’t expect them to know a spelling rule for something they have not been taught a rule for.
My kids don’t understand silent e. They use them for decoration when they think a word isn’t long enough. Did you know that there are 6 reasons for silent e? Yep!
My kids struggle with vowels. They often can’t tell if a word is supposed to have an o or an i or an e. They have to be explicitly taught how to tell the short vowel sounds, and they have to be drilled repeatedly.
My kids cannot spell sight words. Unless you know a very systematic way to teach them to spell sight words, they won’t be able to spell them for you.
While we are on the subject of sight words, don’t expect my kids to learn sight words from a stack of flash cards. Maybe, just maybe if they have a strong visual memory, they might be able to learn some of them. You need a specific strategy for my kids to learn sight words.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND INTERVENTION
Dyslexic students need two things to be successful in a school environment. They need accommodations. For information about accommodations, read this pdf, Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students. They also need an explicit, systematic, multi-sensory reading intervention.
The only intervention known to be successful with dyslexic students is an Orton-Gillingham based program. They must have this reading intervention. No other program will be successful.
However, if they have auditory issues, they most likely will not be able to begin in an OG program until that is cleared up. Read Why Orton-Gillingham Won’t Work for Your Dyslexic Child to understand this better.
While we are talking about accommodations, please understand this. Accommodations are not crutches. Would you make all the students in your class who wear glasses remove them so they don’t have an advantage over the non-glass wearing students? Of course not! That would be ridiculous.
Let my kids use audiobooks. Let my kids use speech to text options. Give my kids a copy of your notes because far-point and even near-point copying is a challenge for some. Don’t mark off for spelling.
DON’T CALL MY KIDS LAZY
Just don’t do it!
I know many of you are thinking, “I would never…”! I imagine that is true, but there is someone who actually would. It happens more than any of us would like to think.
My kids work longer and harder than any non-dyslexic child in your class!
There parents aren’t making life easy for them when they cut their homework off at time and a half. They are merely trying to have a home life that isn’t stressed to the max.
RECOGNIZE THEIR STRENGTHS
Dyslexic kids and adults are out of the box thinkers. They are artistic and creative. They have knowledge about all kinds of topics that they could share with you as long as they don’t have to write it down.
Dyslexic are very athletic and driven. They are very, very smart. Their IQ scores are typically average to above average.
There is so much about dyslexia that you need to know. Find a speaker in your area to come into your classroom to talk to you and/or your team.
Have your principal set up an in-service with a specialist, so you can learn how to work with the 1-5 students who need you. They need you to be their cheerleader!
If you need more information, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Join our Facebook group for educators.
Thank you for spending a few minutes learning just a little bit about my special kids. Do you have questions you would like to ask? Leave a comment in the comment section below.