Dyslexia in Indiana
Decoding Dyslexia-IN aims to raise awareness about dyslexia issues in our state. Please join us in educating others, by sharing how you and your family have been impacted by the challenges and blessings related to your dyslexia journey. Submissions may be sent here.
An Advocate shares her experience:
This story comes from southern Indiana from an advocate who was attending a case conference for a child who is a diagnosed dyslexic. This advocate is a former classroom teacher of over 25 years and a former administrator, both in one of the largest school districts in the state. She is also working on certification in Orton-Gillingham International and the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. She tutors, trains teachers, and has spent time studying under some of the greatest minds in dyslexia research. To say the least, she's an amazing and well-educated advocate.
Here's her story...
While advocating at an educational case conference yesterday, the principal laughed at me. He actually rolled his eyes. He explained how his school was doing the "lastest scientifically researched interventions." He stated that they just didn't need the "old timey" stuff like Orton-Gillingham.
However, in the summer she was tutored with the "old timey" Orton-Gillingham Approach and grew a year and a half in six weeks. Interestingly, the student hadn't shown any progress under the interventions she was receiving at school. She hadn't moved from the August assessment.
(Please note: The diagnosis of dyslexia came from outside of the system because dyslexia is not yet a learning disability recognized in Indiana education code. Currently parents wanting a diagnosis must step outside of the school system to get it. Also, under our current code, schools can reject any outside educational testing or diagnosis.)
(Also note: We greatly admire teachers and administrators. Several of us are both, and parents of dyslexics, too. We share these stories to illustrate the need for awareness, and how the most wonderful and well-intentioned educators can miss the mark if they aren't aware and trained on how to meet the educational needs of the 1 in 5.)
A Parent shares a snapshot of her story:
This comes from my heart. I'm not passing along some random link or cause. I wanted to share our experiences. My post is long, but brief in comparison to our e...xperiences. I hope you might have 60 seconds to read this. And maybe a few more minutes to follow up.
She started kindergarten. She was so excited to go to school. You know you're a bit biased because she's your daughter, but still you think she's bright and intelligent. She has a great sense of humor, not slap stick, but quick witted. Kindergarten goes pretty well. She's had a little trouble later remembering a couple letters and sounds. And counting to 100. She always leaves out the number 39! You kinda feel the teacher suspects you don't work with her enough at home. But truly you have been. At home. In the car. Reviewing and counting (d'oh she skipped 39, again!). Quirks you think. She'll outgrow this.
First grade, things get rougher. Spelling is a struggle. The teacher wants to refer her for speech. (You suspected this would happen. That little lisp- as adorable as it is.). The teacher wonders if pronunciation affects her spelling. She says it a bit wrong and therefore hears it a bit wrong and therefore her spelling is off. You agree. You notice she's been reversing letters in her writing. Well, actually that's been happening before now. But it was the obvious letters. The ones all kids write backwards. You thought, and you were told, she would outgrow this. However, she is suddenly writing letters backwards she never did before. Or even a whole word here or there. Some numbers too. And the other day...she STARTED on the right side of the paper. Where did that come from? You ask the teacher if she thinks your daughter could have dyslexia. She replies she couldn't say, she doesn't know.
So you take that step, into a world you'd hoped you wouldn't have to go. (Only because you, like all parents, want smooth sailing for your kiddo.) You request that your child be tested by the school. The process is long and chaotic and doesn't go smoothly. As you prepare for the conference where the results will be discussed multiple people tell you not to mention dyslexia. But at the conference, during the part where the parents can bring up their concerns, you can't stop yourself. How can you not advocate for your child? You say "we have a concern that she has dyslexia-". The teacher running the conference interrupts you saying "We don't say that word (dyslexia) here." You're baffled and stunned. Wasn't this after all your time to speak? And how does a school not use the word dyslexia???
Yet, in the state of Indiana the education code does not define dyslexia. The department of education believes dyslexia is a medical condition. The medical field says dyslexia is a learning disorder. Teachers don't receive training and support to help dyslexic learners. Children are needlessly struggling and failing to learn to read. To achieve, to experience, school success. It's estimated 1 in 5 people have dyslexia. 20% of the population. Dyslexia affects a person's ability to read and write. Despite having a normal or higher IQ, learning to read can be very difficult. But I can also testify to the fact that dyslexia impacts every area of a person's life, especially self-confidence. The good news is there are teaching methods that work well for dyslexic learners and all learners!
A parents message to school administration:
Yesterday, in class, the teacher called my son to her desk during class. He said that the room was completely silent at the time because people were writing. According to him, she said that she had seen his grades, and she knew he could do better than this. She told him that he was just going to have to start trying and she knew that he was just trying to take the easy way out. She said that in the first term she was willing to give him an A for his memory verses, but in the second term she only gave him a B. This grading period she will only give him a C. If he continued to accommodate in this way, she would “make sure you aren’t passing this class”.
As parents protective of our son’s self-esteem – regardless of whether he has dyslexia or not – we are deeply troubled by her feedback. While we understand that this is our son’s view of the feedback and that you will obviously seek to understand the teacher’s perspective of what was said, there are multiple aspects of this situation that we feel are completely unacceptable, as follows:
1. His 504 has a specific accommodation for memory verses (to be written 3x each instead of having to memorize). This is a legal document fully in force.
2. We consider that providing constructive feedback to the student on their performance in front of their classmates – when the situation is obviously not a disciplinary issue – is completely inappropriate. In all aspects of life, providing someone constructive performance feedback is best done 1 on 1.
– Several of his classmates overheard this conversation, and one student approached him after class asking him if they heard the teacher correctly, that indeed she intended to fail him. As you might expect, while hearing such feedback from one’s teacher is in itself demoralizing, having your peers hear that same negative feedback is another significant blow to a student’s self-esteem.
3. Furthermore, implying that memory verse grades will be specifically docked, despite the permitted accommodation, is in conflict with the agreed-upon 504. If any such expectation were to be considered, it should not be at the purview of an individual teacher without the consult and agreement of the student’s parents who signed the 504.
4. Lastly, the teachers handling of this situation appears to expose a lack of understanding of dyslexia in general. Again, rote memorization of facts or verses is a challenge for a dyslexic – while explaining the overall meaning or context of such material is not. This situation would appear to highlight the possible greater need for a dyslexia awareness program at our school.
A parent shares her story:
My son was tested by his school in 3rd grade (there were signs earlier but the school would not test for a LD until 3rd grade). The results showed the classic reading comprehension low scores as well as other scores that fall in line with dyslexia. I was not familiar with dyslexia and the school administrators didn’t call it that except for one, after a few meetings she briefly mentioned in a phone conversation that his LD would be called dyslexia. That comment didn’t come back to me until over a year later. I was focused on doing all the interventions/modifications the school recommended but nothing seemed to work. It wasn’t until one day while sitting at my desk that the conversation that mentioned dyslexia came back to me. I started looking it up and it was like a door opened and there was light. I called the educator who mentioned it to me and kept doing research and reading everything I could. I realized that from the time my son was in Preschool he was exhibiting signs of dyslexia. Once I educated myself on dyslexia I was able to help the educators implement the appropriate accommodations and help my son have more success at school, he also now tutors with DII. The daily struggles are still there but with the appropriate accommodations and support and knowledge I get from the DII support group things are going much better for my son. We are in a wonderful school system that is willing to listen to me and work together to help my son. I just wish someone would have put emphasis on the word dyslexia in one of our many meetings in 2nd or 3rd grade. I would have loved to have had the information and support much earlier in the game for my son. It is very hard to catch up once you fall behind. One of my son’s biggest strengths is resiliency and that will serve him well.