What school get’s wrong

Dyslexia is a learning difference characterized by difficulty with reading fluently, the correct spelling of words, learning other languages, and more. However, dyslexia does not affect the intelligence of the individual and often people affected tend to be more creative and better logical thinkers. (“Dyslexia”)

Dyslexia is very common. According to the European Dyslexia Association, 9 – 12% worldwide are affected. This makes dyslexia the most common learning disorder, contrasting the lack of support for people with dyslexia and understanding of it. (“What is Dyslexia”; Mori)

Here is a link by the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity sharing ways to help spread awareness: https://dyslexia.yale.edu/advocacy/toolkit-for-parents-educators-and-students/what-you-can-do/

Firstly, in many schools the term ‘dyslexia’ is not used, sometimes in the form of a complete refusal utilizing the name. This can have several reasons. One motivation behind the rejection of the term is that it can be used to avoid having to implement legally required support systems and aids for kids with dyslexia. Another reason is the worry that the name and it being used could harm the students. This, in turn results in way too little students being diagnosed and getting appropriate help. (Hanford) However, advocates say, that the term ‘dyslexia’, as well as other learning difficulties, should be referred to by that name, in order to open conversation and help getting students the help they need. It is however important, that the correct terminology is used, and not generalized, such as referring to all reading or learning difficulties as dyslexia. (Mitchell)

Another issue in schools is the way language, reading and writing is being taught to children. In the west, there are two main approaches of teaching language: The “phonics” approach and the “whole language” approach. The “phonics” approach refers to teaching kids each letter and the sounds correlating with it and is the way reading has been taught for a long time. In the “whole language” approach, which is newer, kids immediately learn to read the entire word. Reading is being viewed as a natural process of learning. (Hanford) Research has shown, that the “phonics” approach seems to be more effective in helping kids, both with dyslexia and in general, learn to read, however the focus should not solely be on phonics. (Dohms-Harter; Garner; Hanford)

Thirdly, the way language rules are taught are another problem. Kids with dyslexia have a difficulty of relating characters and sounds. This means, that they benefit from structural teaching of how the rules function within a language. For example, the Orton-Gillinghamtutoring approach was designed specifically to aid children with dyslexia in understandinghow the language and its rules work. Private lessons and schools that do exist to help students with dyslexia are very expensive and therefore not accessible to many individuals who could benefit from them. (Hanford)

Possible School Accommodations

There are many accommodations schools can offer for students with dyslexia. For example, schools could offer audio versions of books used in class, so that they are more accessible to everyone. Also, not requiring students to take notes while listening, or making another medium available, such as taking pictures or recording, can make learning a lot easier for kids with dyslexia. Since dyslexia is also marked by difficulty writing, dictating what should be written or discussing thoughts before writing can be very helpful. Tasks that have to be handed in in written form should be marked for content over how correct the spelling is. Additionally, time pressure should be removed, in exams and offer the students other opportunities to show off their strengths. (Sandman-Hurley) Moreover, learning through hands-on experiences can be encouraged and students should be clearly told what the task at hand is and given enough time to finish it. Finally, students with dyslexia should not be pressured into reading out loud. However, they might of course volunteer. (“Accommodations”)

Reference List:

“Accommodations: 10 Tips for Success in the Classroom”. Dyslexia Help, http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/professionals/dyslexia-school/accommodations. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

Dohms-Harter, Elizabeth. “Phonics Gains Traction As State Education Authority Takes Stand On Reading Instruction”. Wisconsin Public Radio, 05 Feb. 2020, https://ls.wisc.edu/news/wisconsin-public-radio-psychologys-mark-seidenberg-says-phonics-is-an-important-part-of-reading-education. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

“Dyslexia”. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, https://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

Garner, Richard. “Dyslexic pupils not helped by reading method”. Independent, 30 Mar. 2014, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/dyslexic-pupils-not-helped-by-reading-method-9223729.html. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

Hanford, Emily. “Hard to Read”. APM reports, 11 Sep. 2017, https://www.apmreports.org/episode/2017/09/11/hard-to-read. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

Mitchell, Corey. “Dyslexia Is Not a Bad Word, Advocates Say. Schools Should Use It”. Education Week, 03 Mar. 2020, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/dyslexia-is-not-a-bad-word-advocates-say-schools-should-use-it/2020/03. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

Sandman-Hurley, Kelli. “Dyslexia in the General Education Classroom”. Edutopia, 23 Oct. 2014, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/dyslexia-in-general-ed-classroom-kelli-sandman-hurley. Accessed 08 Feb. 2022.

“What is Dyslexia”. European Dyslexia Association, https://eda-info.eu/what-is-dyslexia/. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.