Teachers play one of the most fundamental roles in a child’s life, and it is their responsibility to create a class environment where the kids can feel comfortable by providing an atmosphere conducive to learning for all kinds of pupils within their class, building their confidence and self-esteem.
Proficient reading is an essential tool for learning a large part of the subject matter taught at school. A dyslexic child who finds it difficult to read, spell, express one’s thoughts on paper or apply the use of grammar can suffer from emotional trauma and may feel abused or bullied by his peers in the school environment. It is vital for every class teacher to have an understanding of the problems that the dyslexic child might face in the classroom.
We have listed down 8 things every class teacher should know to improve the child’s learning experience:
1- Dyslexia is real. Think about this. Autism affects one in 68 children, and we hear about autism all the time. What you might not realize is that dyslexia affects one in five people, that’s up to 20 percent of the population. Dyslexia is a neurobiological difference in the brain that makes reading and writing harder to learn. Remember that reading and writing are human-made constructs, and not every brain can learn those constructs without explicit instruction.
So it means that every single year in every single class sits a student with dyslexia which is practically an invisible learning disability which the teacher might never know about. Dyslexia can look different in each student. Some may read a little slowly. Some may have extreme difficulty with decoding. Some may be poor spellers. Some may read accurately yet slowly, and then they cannot tell you what they just read. These are all symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia also occurs on a continuum. So it may be mild in one student and severe in another.
2- Dyslexia is not a visual problem. People with dyslexia see words and letters the same way people without dyslexia do. Yes, students with dyslexia do confuse b and d and may say was for saw, but it is not because they “see” the letter or word backward. It is because they failed to learn that the letters change depending on their place in space. For example, the brain understands that a cow is a cow no matter which way it is looking. So when a child learns to read, they have to learn that the spatial orientation of a letter or word will completely change the name and meaning of the word. The takeaway here is that it is not productive for the student with dyslexia when we try to correct what they see instead of how they process the information.
3- Dyslexia is not outgrown. The fact of the matter is that a person is born with dyslexia, and once they are born with dyslexia, they will grow old with dyslexia – it is how a dyslexic brain is wired. However, with the right intervention, they may learn to improve their reading and writing and hopefully be encouraged to embrace their dyslexia. Ben Foss, a dyslexic and author of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, explains,
“Whether your child is on the cusp of being identified or you’ve known about his dyslexia for quite some time, I say welcome to the club! It’s safe here, and you can let go of your fear and anxiety about this identification. Believe me; I know how you feel. I was there, and so were my parents, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that it will get better. Indeed, you’re going to have fun.”
The important thing to realize here is that it is unproductive and a bit destructive to tell parents and children to “wait and see” what will happen. Dyslexia can be identified as early as three years old, and the earlier, the better. The “wait-and-see” approach will never work for a child with dyslexia.
4- Dyslexics are NOT intellectually disabled. When a child with dyslexia is struggling to read, spell, understand or remember what they read, it is not mean they are dumb or stupid. It is common for children who are struggling to be inadvertently marginalized by the educational system because educators do not know how to teach them. The takeaway here is that a child with dyslexia has as much potential as every other student in the classroom.
5- A child with dyslexia needs an explicit, multisensory and systematic intervention. The one thing they do not need is the “eclectic” approach to teaching reading. English is a rules-based language, and it does make perfect sense. When children with dyslexia are taught the structure of the language explicitly, systematically and in a multisensory way, they learn to read and spell. This type of approach is commonly referred to as the Orton-Gillingham method, which can manifest in prepackaged programs like the Wilson Reading System and the Barton Reading and Spelling program. But the program is only half the recipe: The teacher needs to be highly trained for it to be the most effective.
6- Students with dyslexia need accommodations to cope with the class curriculum. Remember that Dyslexia is not an intellectual issue, so when children with dyslexia cannot grasp the curricula via the traditional method of reading and writing, they need accommodations. The most beneficial accommodations are books on audio. It cannot be emphasized enough, how important it is to allow these students to learn via reading by ear. Students with dyslexia usually struggle with spelling and writing. Therefore may tell you a great story verbally and then fail to articulate it in written form. Providing them with speech-to-text learning equipment can help them dictate their thoughts. They have the brains—we need to give them the facilities to prosper.
7- Dyslexia is recognized worldwide. However, It is still common to hear “My school does not recognize dyslexia” or “We don’t work with dyslexia at this school.” The truth of the matter is that every school does or should recognize dyslexia because it is real, it is globally acclaimed and is written into the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for over 35 years.
8- One teacher can make all the difference in the life of a child with dyslexia. It is common for a teacher to be reluctant to utter the word dyslexia. But if a teacher has done his or her research and has suspicions that dyslexia might be the culprit of a child’s difficulty, the resources you give to the parent and the red flags you raise may be the difference between that child having a successful academic career and that child failing to meet his or her potential. Therefore teachers are key players in shaping the child’s future. Thus we should embrace dyslexia and make the necessary changes wherever applicable.