Dyslexia: Popular Disability
Educators encounter students from all walks of life. Many students who enter classrooms present various challenges that educators must adapt, adjust and support. There are many students who present different types of disabilities. Disabilities such as, physical, intellectual or mental. One disability that many students are faced with are Language Based Learning Disabilities. Often this disability refers to a student’s ability to process spoken, written, listening, reasoning and reading skills.
If a student demonstrates a lack of age- appropriate language skills this can hinder their development of comprehension and communication skills throughout their life. If a language based learning disability is not addressed appropriately and in a timely fashion, this can prevent a student having a successful academic career as well as a difficulty throughout their adulthood. Students who exhibit a language based disability require specialize and structured instruction that will aide in their need and help them progress successfully.
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Goldstein (2011) found that today, educators face a challenge for providing foundations for literacy for children with or at risk for disabilities. It is crucial that educators are provided with the proper resources to support students who display a language based disability. They need to be able to present key skills and techniques starting from when a child enters school to build a proper foundation in helping that students language disability. When it comes to a language based disability, there are many types that a student can exhibit.
One type of language based disability that will be identified is Dyslexia. It is important to note that because a student demonstrates a language based disability, it does not mean that they are incapable of learning or progressing through life. It is simply a different way that one may processes information and requires specialize techniques on how to better grasp material. When teaching students with Dyslexia, there are numerous teaching techniques and programs that can help the students style of learning.
And when done properly, can therefore lead to a student having a successful academic career. Teaching literacy to students can be complex, especially when it comes to a student who has a special need. Coyne and Koriakin (2017) state that when it comes to students with a literacy challenge, learning to read and comprehend material can pose a huge challenge. It is vital that educators provide meaningful instruction to meet the individual needs of students who have a language based disability. (Coyne & Koriakin, 2017)
Dyslexia affects the part of the brain that processes language. Dyslexia, as defined by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (2017) is due to a difficulty in a phonological processing which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell and write. It is often seen that students with Dyslexia typically do not read fluently. They tend to read at a slower pace and reading for these students requires great effort. Students who have Dyslexia struggle with memorizing, spelling, and understanding material.
A student with Dyslexia may have trouble with decoding the order of letters, trouble with spelling and writing along with difficulty in listening and reading comprehension. Despite Dyslexia being a condition that is lifelong, it is important to realize that Dyslexia does not limit one’s level of intelligence. Students with Dyslexia can function through life learning just like any other student. They just learn at a different pace. Signs and symptoms differ from student to student who have Dyslexia. Not all students will present the same signs at the same time. Some students may show signs of Dyslexia before learning to read.
On the contrary, some students may show signs later in their academic career when literacy skills become more complex. For instance, preschool aged children may show difficulty in recognizing letters and matching the letter to its sound. Elementary school children may have difficulty blending sounds to make a word or they may be unable to recognize sight words. Middle School children may read at a lower lever then how they may speak.
A High School student might have trouble organizing their ideas. Another key point is that students need to be evaluated as early as possible when they start showing signs that raise concern regarding literacy and English Language Arts. The sooner Dyslexia can be identified the better chances that student has on working towards and addressing their need. Evaluating students who pose difficulty in reading is vital. When a student shows signs of difficulty in understanding, comprehending, reading and or writing this causes major frustration with a student. An evaluation must take place to figure out what the student struggles with and how they can be assisted.
This involves gathering information, testing and screening a student. The evaluation needs to start out with the student’s background history. This information is provided by the parents of the student as well as the students teachers. Also included in the evaluation should be the student’s oral skills. How well can the student can process phonological sounds? Word recognition is critical as well. Can the student read and identify individual words, what is the students level of fluency when reading words? Observing how the student decodes words is important also. The student’s ability with letter sound recognition and syllables can give insight in reading unfamiliar words. Testing the student’s ability to spell words from memory.
Can the student use letter sound to form words? Reading comprehension is another key factor when evaluating students with Dyslexia. Often, students with dyslexia can understand listening comprehension but when it comes to reading comprehension they tend to struggle because it involves reading words fluently and decoding the syllables of those words. By gathering this information, one can then be able to identify different elements that contribute to the student’s difficulty with reading and writing.
Once all information is gathered and various test are given to the student then recommendations can be stated and given. Hiving an evaluation is valuable for three reasons, to diagnosis, set up an intervention plan and document the history. When evaluating or diagnosing a student with Dyslexia it is important to identify the source related to their problem with literacy and writing. A process of elimination is done to determine the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, pin distinguishing if the student displays signs of Dyslexia. Once the evaluation takes place and the diagnosis is set a plan must be developed. This plan will be stated on the students Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
The IEP will identify the student’s needs, set specific goals and objectives, the services that the student requires and any special accommodations/modifications that need to be made within the students learning environment. Students with Dyslexia need specialized instruction that fits their need. Everything pertaining to the student’s diagnosis and educational plan needs to be documented. Starting from the student’s initial diagnosis throughout their academic career. By documenting everything it will show the students history with Dyslexia as well as any progressions or lack thereof.
This can aide in any future accommodation for the student once they reach adulthood, whether it be for college or in the work field. Evidence suggest that children have trouble in reading from skills they had in preschool and kindergarten years. Those years are critical because that is when the literacy foundation is formed. If a student enters preschool or kindergarten with signs of Dyslexia and they are not introduced to a strong foundation then that can put a negative impact on how they handle reading and writing in the years to follow.
According to Farver, Nakamoto and Lonigan (2007) in their article found in Annals in Dyslexia, suggest that assessment of literacy skills before formal reading instruction can predict the student’s reading abilities in years ahead. For this purpose, evaluating a student in the early years is vital. Additionally, studies have shown that early intervention for students who shown signs of Dyslexia can improve such disability.
They go on to emphasize that “It is important to be able to identify those children who are likely to develop a reading disability or who are well below average reading ability before they begin formal reading instruction” (Farver, Nakamoto and Lonigan, 2007, p. 162). Findings also showed that, “Most non-English language learners who possess a learning disability are not provided with special education services until the second or third grade” (Farver, Nakamoto and Lonigan, 2007, p. 162). This presents a problem the more time out between the problem the harder it is to address and improve. The article also refers to Kindergarten Readiness test that measures cognitive and academic skills.
Although assessments such as The Kindergarten Readiness test are good, they are also broad. Thus, not targeting direct literacy skill, enabling accurate identification of a student’s literacy capabilities. Screening tools for early detection of reading difficulties such as, the Get Ready to Read screening tool (E-GRTR) have shown to be a more reliable tool in assessing preschool aged children with their literacy skills.
The goal of this screening tool is to provide a brief assessment of a preschool age student literacy skill. It contains, print knowledge, letter-name and sound knowledge, rhyming, initial sound matching compound word blending and knowledge of writing. By providing this screening tool at the preschool level, educators can better identify a student’s strength and weakness when it comes to literacy skills at an early age and address any areas of concern. By implementing such screening tools, a student’s needs can be identified and focused on accordingly.
A student with Dyslexia can benefit from screening tools early on and as a result begin to guide them on a path that will service and support their need. The history of Dyslexia dates to the late 19th century. During this time, most children who had any type of learning disability were considered “medical problems” and medical professionals attended to such issues. In 1877 German neurologist, Adolf Kussmaul took an interest to people who displayed reading difficulties.
To characterize the disorder of individuals who could not read properly he came up with the term “word blindness.” In 1887, Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist, became the first person to use the phrase Dyslexia instead of “word blindness”. The word Dyslexia is derived from the Greek word dys’ which means difficult and lexia’ which means words or language. The first case of developmental dyslexia was described in the British Medical Journal in 1896 by a general practitioner named Pringle-Morgan. Morgan theorize that individuals who showed struggles with reading and writing had “congenital word blindness” and he believed that Dyslexia was caused by visual processing deficiencies.
Then in 1925, American Neurologist and Dyslexia researcher, Dr. Samuel T. Orton developed a theory of how reading complexities start. He believed that children who had difficulties reading reversed their letters. He also believed that these problems were developed by a nonperformance of the left hemisphere of the brain to become dominant over the right hemisphere of the brain.
The left side of the brain controls functions such as logic, language, analytic thoughts and writing. In 1939, Dr. Alfred Struss and R. Heinz Werner published numerous material on children with learning disabilities. They also stressed the value of assessing a child’s educational needs individually. During the mid-twentieth century, children with learning disabilities were no linger under the field of medicine. Such disabilities moved from the medical environment to the educational environment. This is when educational psychology started to develop. Up to this point medical professionals were assessing children who showed signs of learning disabilities.
These assessments were given through Intelligence test. In the 1970s, educational psychologist acquired the role of assessing children with learning disabilities. As the years went by research has continued to delve deeper into Dyslexia and how it can be better understood. Educational programs have since developed as well as independent institutions that provide support to those who struggle with Dyslexia.
Research continues to develop so that educators can be provided with the proper information and resources to help children with this language based learning disability. It is important to understand that when it comes to Dyslexia, it has nothing to do with a person’s sight. Often, children with Dyslexia are described as seeing letters, words and numbers backwards. The problem does not stem from how they visual see letters, numbers or words, contrarily, it is the way the brain interprets what is being seen. Take for instance the clock Drawing Test (CDT). This is a test as described in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Eden, Wood, & Stein (2003), describe the CDT to be used to test the “visuoconstructive ability” of children with and without Dyslexia.
The CDT is used to assess children’s range of visual task. Children with Dyslexia tend to gravitate towards right side task as oppose to the left side. Eden, Wood, & Stein (2003) use the example of opening a book. When opening a book, one views an open book starting from the left page then looking at the right page. However, a child with Dyslexia will look at the right page first. The CDT examines the “hemi spatial neglect” or failure of awareness limited to one side.
The Clock Drawing Test as shown in the article by Eden, Wood & Stein (2003) took 93 children who were enrolled in the Learning Disability Project at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine at Bowman Gray in North Carolina. Among the 93 children were children with and without Dyslexia. Children were given a plain 8.5x 11.0 blank sheet of paper and a pen. A pen was given as oppose to a pencil because of students “immediate response not allowing for corrections” (Eden, Wood, & Stein, 2003, p.219).
Students were then told to draw a clock with all its numbers. The following are the results from the Clock Drawing Test (CDT): The angle, clock size and order of numbers were all viewed amongst all the students. In terms of the angle, “It shows how the values of the children with Dyslexia are lower compared to those without Dyslexia, particularly for the left side of the clock face (numbers 8 and 11)” (Eden, Wood &Stein, 2003, p. 220).
Referencing clock size, there was no difference between the children with and without Dyslexia. Regarding the order of numbers, “None of the children in any group reversed the order of these numbers. This suggest that children with Dyslexia do not have an inability to reproduce the correct sequence of numbers. The children with Dyslexia crowed the numbers into the right side of the clock compared to the children without Dyslexia” (Eden, Wood & Stein, 2003, p.220).
Developmental Dyslexia is associated with the left-hemisphere of the brain. As displayed in the Clock Drawing Test, students with Dyslexia neglected the left side of the clock, squeezing majority of the numbers to the right side. Providing that children with Dyslexia tend to focus on the right side as oppose to the left side. Given these facts, this study showed that individuals with Dyslexia do not have a problem seeing words or numbers backwards. It is more so how their brains interpreted the clocks.
Overall, this is just one example of how a child with Dyslexia may interpret and view material that is shown to them. Dyslexia can be difficult to diagnose. Some individuals may display certain characteristics sooner than others. Those characteristics may be more prominent than others. For an individual to be diagnosed with Dyslexia, a series of test and evaluations must take place to determine the severity of their symptoms. When evaluating an individual who has a language based learning disability, terms such as, screening, assessment and diagnostic testing are generally used.
Screening is an informal test that is used to determine whether an individual is likely to be helped by a specific program. An assessment refers to more extensive testing.It is used to find out more about academic skill levels. Diagnostic testing is when there are several types of test used to get a complete understanding of ones learning needs. When testing for Dyslexia, numerous test need to be given to properly diagnose an individual. Some skills that can be assessed for showing signs of Dyslexia are phonological awareness, decoding, reading fluency, comprehension and rapid naming. These tests can help a professional target an individual’s severity of Dyslexia.
By testing students, several skills can be looked at and professionals can identify one’s needs and provide the proper accommodations. One area that can provide information on a child’s struggle with literacy is testing for Phonological Awareness. It measures an individual’s ability to isolate sounds. An example of Phonological Awareness would be blending sounds. Another piece for testing involves decoding. Decoding is the ability to associate letters and sounds together to create and pronounce words. It can also identify how well one can recognize sight words.
Testing for reading fluency and comprehension is another way to see if someone shows signs for Dyslexia. Reading fluency and comprehension is how well one can read aloud and comprehend what they read. This is important because students need to read words in context. They also need to understand what they read and answer open-ended questions. Lastly, rapid naming can also be a useful test to assess someone who may have Dyslexia.
This examines one’s speed with reading. How quickly a student can identify letters, numbers and colors in a text. Testing for speed is very helpful in knowing if someone has Dyslexia because a student with Dyslexia typically lacks the ability to read and identify words and letters quickly. Overall, screening, assessments and diagnosis testing are all vital components in knowing if an individual has Dyslexia. Each component is different; However, they are all extremely important when it comes to helping a student who may display some form of Dyslexia.
When a student is properly tested and it is done in a timely fashion, a student can benefit from it. Along with Dyslexia comes many misconceptions and misunderstandings about how children with Dyslexia tend to read and comprehend material. Students with Dyslexia show many difficulties when it comes to literacy. Along with the known difficulties that individuals experience there are also many myths that are associated with this language based learning disability. Common misunderstandings can be visual perception problems, children outgrow Dyslexia, boys rather than girls tend to show signs of Dyslexia and children who have Dyslexia can never learn to read.
These are just a few misconceptions that come with Dyslexia and even though they are not true, these myths tend to put negative labels on children with Dyslexia. Because of such myths, children get labeled and tend to go through their academic careers and life with the stigma of not ever being able to read or comprehend material. To eliminate myths about this language based disability, educators along with parents need to educate themselves on the proper strategies and resources that are available to children.
In doing so, children will be successful and show strides in their education. Parents are a child’s first educators. They play a vital role in providing support to their child when it comes to their learning difficulties. A child with Dyslexia can be an extremely hard concept on a parent to understand especially if they have never dealt with such learning needs.
Others may feel guilt when their child possess a language based disability. And some may be in denial. However, a parent feels, it is the parent’s responsibility to do the proper research in providing the best support and services to help their child’s needs. A healthy conversation between caregivers and professionals should take place so that parents understand all aspects of what their child is dealing with. Informing parents of early intervention is a critical key in determining if their child shows signs of Dyslexia. Parents who utilize early intervention services is one major way for caregivers to identify such signs.
By encouraging parents to become engaged in the process of early intervention services, they will better understand what Early intervention is and become more open to the process. Learning for children should have an amply amount of reinforcement, practice and should be an enjoyable experience for a child. There are numerous ways parents can help their children who struggle with literacy.
Veronica Bidwell (2016) states, “children who are showing some of these difficulties are definitely in need of support. If in addition there are problems with attention and concentration and if there is a history of dyslexia in the family then they should really be taken seriously. The important thing to remember is that these children can and will learn but it may take longer and need much repetition and rehearsal.”
According to Bidwell, children with dyslexia require a lot of attention but they can learn like any other child can. A parent’s role in implementing strategies at home can include: expressing a love of books. By reading at home daily with a child who has dyslexia can create a love of reading and that child will not associate books with difficulty. Another strategy parents can do at home is paired reading. Reading with your child together word for word so that your child hears the parents voice in unison can give children confidence when they read with partners in school.
Lastly, playing games that are relevant to the child’s reading abilities can encourage the child and get them engaged in reading. Children who are dyslexic need small step by step instruction to help them become better readers. Reinforcing what the child learns in school at home can improve struggles with literacy. For example, if a child is learning a new letter sound at school, parents can reinforce that same letter sound at home through different techniques.
A child with dyslexia needs to constantly hear and say sounds, letters and words to learn and better comprehend material. Supporting your child in any way can only benefit them in the grand scheme. Parents also should have a plan of action at home with their child so that they become more comfortable and confident readers. As a child gets older, for example, past the primary grade levels, it can be more difficult for a child with dyslexia to catch up to their age appropriate reading level especially if their needs were not addressed in the early years.
Once a child with dyslexia has reached past the primary ages the help and guidance of an educational psychologist is needed to assess the child and see which specific areas need to be the focus. Above all, if a child is struggling with basic literacy skills no matter the severity of the dyslexia, it is the parent’s duty to get as much help and be their child advocate so that the child can learn and perform appropriately. It is known that nutrition plays a vital role in how well a child performs in school. When a child shows signs of a learning disability parents will try to find ways to help their children.
One of those ways can be through nutrition. Some believe that changing a child’s diet can aide in how well that child performs in school. This is not to say that changing the diet of a child who has dyslexia can or will eliminate their learning disability, but it can help keep that child alert focus and energized. With the proper guidance from a nutritionist or pediatrician they can help parents come up with healthy eating plans that can improve a child’s performance in school. Such plans can include, limiting caffeinated beverages, chocolate and other sugary snacks and replacing them with more fruit and vegetable based items. In addition to removing sugar, fat and caffeinated products nutritional supplements such as omega 3 fish oil or cod liver oil to a child’s diet can improve concentration.
Changing a child’s diet and lifestyle is another step parents can take to improve any struggles their child may experience in school. It can improve concentration and focus with the student resulting in better academic performance. Parents are a child’s first advocate in helping them with struggles that they may present at home and at school. On the other hand, teachers are another source to help with supporting students who struggle with language based disabilities. Teachers are a vital source in creating and plans that can help their students who display literacy difficulties.
There are many ways teachers and educators can help students with dyslexia. Students who have a language based disability such as dyslexia can benefit from a variety of intervention programs. Intervention programs help students achieve literacy knowledge as well as provide educators with how to address and offer support to a student with dyslexia. With appropriate help and structured instruction any student who has dyslexia can grow and succeed.
One extremely successful intervention program that helps students with Dyslexia is the Wilson Reading System. According to the Wilson Language Training Corp, The Wilson Reading System (WRS) is an intensive Tier 3 program for students and adults with word-level deficits who are not making sufficient progress through their current intervention, have been unable to learn with other teaching strategies and require more intensive structured literacy instruction. The Wilson Reading
System is the originator program of the Wilson Language Training. This program is used to train educators on how to address the needs of students with dyslexia. This training provides support to literacy educators by implementing professional learning strategies to educators in the field of literacy. Barbara A. Wilson is the co-founder and co-president of the Wilson Language Training Program, founded the Wilson learning center in 1985.
Wilson worked with school districts to create plans that will address the needs of students who displayed literacy problems. She worked to improve the education of teachers so that they can properly tackle these needs that so many students have when it comes to literacy. Wilson’s goal of “literacy for all” is something that Wilson worked hard towards. She believed that everyone no matter their hardship is obligated to have the opportunity to learn how to read and read well. Wilson made it her duty to help those who struggled with reading not be categorized into a group that would not be able to succeed throughout life. Wilson achieved her goal by providing reading and spelling programs for all age groups. Her programs include; Fundations, Wilson Just Words, The Wilson Reading System, and Wilson Fluency.
These programs include a multisensory, structured curriculum geared towards improving literacy skills in struggling readers. The first program in the Wilson Language Training is Fundations. This program is geared towards students in grades Kindergarten-grade 3, providing them with phonics, spelling and handwriting skills. It also contains additional resources for prekindergarten students. Fundations teaches the foundational literacy skills that children in the primary grades to obtain. Fundations gave K-3 teachers carefully structured material that engages students to learn basic literacy skills through a multisensory approach. Fundations comes in four levels starting from level K through level 3.
Concepts that are taught through all 4 levels include beginning reading strategies, vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension strategies and writing skills. Furthermore, Fundations have proven successful in many school districts. Because materials are teacher friendly and multisensory students along with teachers have been able to use Fundations to teach literacy skills in an age appropriate manner to improve literacy in students with dyslexia. Tier 2 of the Wilson Language Training is Wilson Just Words. Wilson Just Words targets students in grades 4-12.
This is also a multisensory approach to literacy but focuses on decoding words and spelling. Just Words address literacy components such as, decoding and spelling, syllable structure, prefixes, roots and suffixes just to name a few. Tier 3 of the Wilson Language Training is the most intensive intervention program The Wilson Reading System. This program is geared towards those individuals who require intensive instruction. The Wilson Reading System is based on the structure of the English teaching language. In the Wilson Reading System, individuals receive instruction in phonemic awareness, decoding and word study, sight word recognition, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, oral expressive language and comprehension. The WRS uses the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.
The Orton-Gillingham is designed to help struggling readers by utilizing the multisensory approach to reading and making connections between letters and sounds, for example, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile senses to help struggling readers comprehend literacy skills. An individual who applies the Wilson Reading System means that whatever intervention they are currently taking part in has not worked for them and they require a more intensified approach.
The Wilson Reading Program is done by a Wilson trained instructor who evaluates an individual’s literacy strength and weaknesses. Wilson Reading System instructors use a “sound tapping” approach in which students tap out each sound with their fingers and thumbs to break down the sounds of letters and words. Overall, Intervention programs like the Wilson Language Training that prepares educators and teachers to implement these programs in their schools is a vital component in helping a student with Dyslexia.
When educators and parents utilize intervention programs it gives them insight on the reading level of students with Dyslexia and this information can further help educators and parents provide support to those students struggling with their literacy skills. Authors Tunmer and Greaney from the journal of learning disabilities (2010) state, “early identification followed by a systematic and sustained process of highly individualized, skilled teaching primarily focused on written language, with specialist support, is critical to enable learners to participate in the full range of social, academic and other learning opportunities across all areas of the curriculum.” (Tunmer and Greaney 2010, p. 239).
There are numerous intervention plans that educators and parents can utilize. By finding the right one for children with Dyslexia can be a tedious process but in the end, can and will benefit a student’s academic performance. Along with various testing and assessments, students with dyslexia can also benefit from Assistive Technology. When discussing the role that Assistive Technology plays in a child’s education, it simply involves a type of equipment and or system that can improve an individual’s learning. It is important to realize that Assistive Technology provides support to a student not to replace classroom instruction. The use of Assistive Technology is highly beneficial because it can help a student with their disability and improve their needs. Assistive Technology can assist individuals with speaking, typing, writing, reading, hearing