October is Dyslexia Awareness Month
Sherri Weiser

 

Sherri Weiser is St. George's Episcopal School's Director of Resource Services. She is also a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist with 29 years of experience. She originally joined the StG community in 2009 as a Resource teacher and speech-language pathologist, and she co-founded the well-respected Ready, Set, Read! summer program for New Orleans students struggling with the reading process. She became Director of Resource Services in 2015.

 

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Research shows that 1 in 5 people are impacted by dyslexia, and dyslexia often runs in families. Many successful individuals who are leaders in their professional careers have overcome the challenges of dyslexia. In spite of it being one of the most studied and researched learning disabilities, dyslexia is an often-misunderstood term. People often associate dyslexia with a visual issue or a problem with letter reversals. Dyslexia is now known to be a neurobiological learning disability causing individuals to process language differently. Brain imaging has shown important patterns of differences between the brain functioning of individuals without reading difficulties and those with dyslexia. The current consensus based on a large body of research is that dyslexia is not a problem with visual processing of printed information, but a problem with language processing and word reading/spelling at the phoneme, or sound, level. Word recognition is a challenge for children with dyslexia due to their difficulty connecting sounds to letters. Dyslexia is a learning disability present in all cultures and languages which use written text. By definition, students with the diagnosis of dyslexia have average cognitive, or intellectual, skills overall, and present with reading challenges in spite of receiving adequate classroom instruction in reading and writing.

It is typical in the early learning years for children to write letters or words backwards or to confuse letters such as b for d. The presence of these errors when children are writing does not necessarily mean the child has a reading disability. Children with dyslexia will often show two significant difficulties when asked to read grade-level text:

  1. Their ability to recall words from sight will be decreased in comparison to average readers in their peer group. They will noticeably stumble or guess at words while attempting to read.

  2. They will often show difficulties decoding words, meaning they experience many errors in using letter-sound relationships correctly in combination with context to identify words unfamiliar to them. 
     

To support children with dyslexia, early intervention is key. While research shows that dyslexia is not a condition that can be cured or simply outgrown, it does indicate that the earlier children who struggle to read and write are identified and provided intense and systematic instruction, the better. Children with dyslexia benefit from direct, explicit, multisensory instruction in phonics (letter patterns related to sounds) and phonemic awareness (sounds in words). Providing this support early on in students’ educational careers is important to preventing low motivation and decreased confidence around reading. Talking to children about how their brains work and identifying their learning strengths and weaknesses may help them to demystify their struggle and accept support. As students advance in grades, teaching children the tools and strategies they can incorporate based on their learning profiles is important to maximize their educational success. 

St. George’s Resource specialists are passionate about supporting students with dyslexia and their parents/guardians. We are continually advancing our skills in research-based, best practices on the science of reading instruction. We firmly believe that children with dyslexia have many talents to share with the world, and we are committed to helping our students build the foundational skills necessary to succeed academically and beyond. For more information on dyslexia, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is an organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia. Parents and educators can find many helpful resources on IDA’s website. Another well-regarded resource for more information on dyslexia is the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz.

 

Photos: (Top) Mrs. Sherri Weiser works with two Lower School students using white boards; (Bottom) Speech-language pathologist Jill Aucoin explains an activity for Lower School students.

 

  • Resource Services