Despite Dyslexia having a 140-year history, here in the U.S., Dyslexia Awareness Month was only officially recognized in 2015. Substantial progress that has been made by researchers in understanding the Science of Reading and how students best learn. Evidence has been accumulated through gold-standard methodologies like Orton-Gillingham is now being applied through innovative Structured Literacy programs that are proving helpful for all readers, especially students with dyslexia.
Just as the levels of dyslexia awareness and understanding continue to climb, so too is the involvement of administrators and teachers who are taking a more active role in shaping literacy instruction and selecting complementary, practical programming that aligns with how their students truly learn.
The prevalence of students with dyslexia is estimated to be in the 15%-20% range, so it comes as little surprise that grade school teachers – not just reading specialists – yearn for more hands-on, early literacy professional development training that can be easily applied in their classrooms and drive immediate results.
In a world so extensively based on the ability to read, dyslexia is not just another ‘disability’. Too many young people face dire outcomes because of their inability to read, and the societal ramifications are enormous. Consider that one third of U.S. students do not read at the Basic Level, which represents a rudimentary ability to read. For decades and decades we have agreed to do better; this month, let’s agree that we can do better right now.
We know that popularly employed reading approaches, such as Guided Reading or Balanced Literacy, are not effective for struggling readers. These approaches are especially ineffective for students with dyslexia because they do not focus on the decoding skills these students need to succeed in reading. What does work, according to the International Dyslexia Association, is Structured Literacy, which prepares students to decode words in an explicit and systematic manner.
The Impact IMSE Made on One District
IMSE is collaborating with state and district administrators across the country to seamlessly implement early literacy programming that has empowered thousands of teachers and engaged millions of students from day one. This growing advocacy coincides with awareness about the challenges that struggling readers face throughout their education; especially in schools where children are less likely to have access to the diagnoses of educational psychologists and other private specialists.
To celebrate growing awareness, advancements in teacher professional training, and the continuous data and research that is driving innovation in literacy instruction, we thought we’d share excerpts from a real district administrator from an IMSE school district. Located in Houston, Spring Branch ISD’s literacy professional development program began with dyslexia and has been extended across all general education students due to its success:
Spring Branch ISD is entering our 4th year as an IMSE district. In that time, your team has trained hundreds of our staff including dyslexia specialist, reading interventionist, classroom teachers and administrators. Every training has been extremely professional, and all our staff have returned to their roles better reading teachers for our students.
We chose to partner with IMSE because of your focus on sound pedagogy and a commitment to making all teachers exceptional teachers of reading. We were not looking for a scripted program, rather we wanted our specialists and teachers to have a deep understanding of how students learn to read and a set of powerful strategies for helping all students, including our dyslexic students, become successful readers.
I could not be more pleased with our decision to partner with you. The methodology is the centerpiece of our dyslexia specialists’ work. Our special education teachers use strategies they learned daily with the students in their pull-out time. Our reading specialists utilize their deeper knowledge of phonics and phonemic awareness to better support classroom teachers in their Tier I instruction. The number of students positively impacted at this point is hard to determine, but it is significant, and we are just getting started.
What You Can Do
If your child is struggling with reading, writing, and spelling, avoid the assumption that is because they are not trying hard enough. Instead, speak with the teacher and ask if they are noticing the same issues. It could be signs of Dyslexia.
If you think you or your child may be dyslexic, you can take IDA’s quick assessment that will evaluate and help determine if a person has characteristics of dyslexia.
With so many disruptions in moving to a remote and then hybrid learning environment, a concern specific to students with dyslexia is the continuation or the preservation of early interventions. This is not something that can be put aside. In 21st century America, there should be no reason why any child is left behind in literacy.
Please connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest to get tips and tricks from your peers and IMSE. Read the IMSE Journal to hear success stories from other schools and districts, and be sure to read the OG Weekly email series for refreshers and tips.