Over the weekend, our team of OG and Structured Literacy curriculum experts had the opportunity to attend The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) 2021 Annual Reading, Literacy & Learning Conference. For anyone affected by dyslexia, including professionals and families, the conference is an opportunity to learn, network, and discover the latest, research-based approaches to help those with dyslexia live productive lives. 

This year’s conference theme, “Envisioning A Future with Structured Literacy – Reading Instruction that Works”, featured speakers from around the world and findings from scientific research that have direct applicability to classroom instruction. For our team, the results from these real-world studies reinforced the urgency of our work with districts and schools to provide teachers with a clear understanding of the Science of Reading and the ability to confidently apply tools and techniques that meet the needs of each student regardless of where they are developmentally.

We refer to this as Day One impact at IMSE. Teacher development and hands-on classroom programming must be rooted in practical classroom application to be effective. As literacy educators, we know what truly works and we know that all students can learn to read. Our programming dovetails beautifully the primary, powerful message heard throughout the IDA conference: that reading is an equal right for all people. 

Particularly noteworthy was the keynote by Dr. John Gabrieli with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He spoke about his years of research and the differences between a typical reader’s brain and the dyslexic brain as well as predictive measures and the importance of early intervention. He underscored the “wait to fail” model in many schools is unacceptable and that there are no more excuses. 

IMSE’s programming is used as core, Tier 1 instruction beginning in kindergarten. We agree with Dr. Gabrieli, there is zero need to wait until a student is diagnosed with dyslexia. Early intervention is key because it changes the brain anatomy – and this intervention includes the quality of “serve and volley” speech at home between parents and children to develop verbal skills as well as personalized classroom instruction in grades K and 1. Waiting to give a child the intervention they need until they qualify for services in 2nd and 3rd grade is too late. 

Another excellent address was the presentation by Dr. Julie Washington, Professor and Program Director in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Georgia State University, about the sociolinguistics of reading titled “Key Considerations for Teaching Reading to Children Who Speak Varieties of English”. Dr. Washington focused on language variation, and highlighted the many different linguistic variations that exist within communities in different states and are not spoken in school. Many minority, native English-speaking students also have to learn Academic or Classroom English (the vocabulary and language of literacy) in order to learn to read. 

She referred to The Mismatch Hypothesis: that for children who speak different varieties of English, during reading the mismatch between the language variety spoken at home and the one used at school (especially in print) increases the cognitive load for students who speak other languages or dialects of English. While this dialect density impacts reading, writing, and spelling, she said, “We have the privilege of living in a time where we know more than ever about the psychology and neurology of reading and dyslexia” and can solve this inequity.

We cannot state it often enough: all students can and should receive the necessary intervention regardless of their diagnosis and social circumstances.

Next year’s IDA 2022 is scheduled to be in San Antonio, Texas and we’re looking forward to being in person once again.


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