Sunday, September 12, 2010

Having a dyslexic child.

I am entering my fourth year as an Orton Gillingham tutor and originally got into it, as so many others do, because of personal experience.  When my son was in kindergarten and the first grade, he seemed very bright and it didn't make sense that he wasn't learning his letters in the same way that the other children were.  Other children with similar curiosities and intellect were picking things up quickly.  Even into the first grade things were slow.  People kept telling me to "give him time" and "he'll get it eventually" because he was so curious and seemed bright in so many other ways.  One very well meaning person even thought all he needed was a colored overlay to put over the print and that would help him read better.  She also suggested that we work with someone who did eye tracking exercises thinking that would help, since he already wore glasses.

This experience is very common for people with dyslexic children.  The reality is that most teachers, unless they have taken the initiative to learn more about dyslexia and what it looks like in children, have no idea what it looks like and how to help these children.  And, the reality is that unless these children get the help they need as soon as possible, they will continue to fall behind their peers and might never catch up.  This is called The Matthew Effect.  Basically it says that the good readers get better while the poor readers continue to fall behind.

 I knew to have him tested in the second grade only because I'm a teacher and I firmly believe in getting an educational assessment for a variety of reason.  But, the biggest reason is so that as parents we would know what was going on with him and be able to make a plan of action to help him learn to read and learn to read better.  As the old saying goes, "Knowing is half the battle."

Armed with test results, I went to the private school he attended and brought all of my recommendations with me.  Some were instituted, some not, and he continued to work with the "reading specialist" provided by our local public school system, and at the same time I found someone Orton Gillingham certified  to work with him.  She started working with him at the end of his 2nd grade year, worked with him over the summer and throughout 3rd grade, and made a world of difference for him.   She will always have a special place in my heart.  Of course, we had to pay for her services out of pocket, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.  She was wonderful.

Therein lies one of the biggest problems.  "Reading Specialists" are NOT required to know anything about dyslexia, its symptoms or its remediation.   Even in my current work at a local university, getting a Reading Endorsement on my teaching license, no one has even touched on dyslexia, what it is, or what to do about it.  Most of these children fall through the cracks.

My son is now in the 5th grade and doing much better.  He has an intervention specialist (who just happens to be a friend of mine) who comes in and works with him twice a week at school.  Last year they worked a lot on his language arts and reading assignments together.  She would help him organize his work and in the 4th grade they worked a lot on prefixes, suffixes, bases in words, etc.  He was fascinated, and his spelling has improved greatly because of it.    He's definitely not typical in terms of remediation for a dyslexic child, but he's been successful so far.  And I am very grateful.

Do you have a dyslexic child?  Do you have children in your classroom who, despite your best efforts just don't seem to get it?  Please let me know.

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