How to Advocate for your Dyslexic Child

  • By Laura Cassidy
  • 10 May, 2017

How to Advocate for your Dyslexic Child

Do you have a struggling student that you suspect has dyslexia?

Struggling students in the classroom (reading and or math) are referred to RTI (Response to Intervention). There is variability amongst the tiers in schools as to what is appropriate practice in each tier. The interventions and the instruction is research based which means they are based on theory and not evidence.

Tier 1 is additional resources in the classroom or in a pull out for usually no longer than 8 weeks. For those not showing “improvement”, Tier 2 would pull the child out for instruction in a small group to “catch the child up” on the general classroom lessons. This, again, is for probably no longer than 8 weeks. Tier 3 is individual instruction that would vary from location to location. It is important to know that most dyslexic children in any of the tiers do not have a diagnosis and therefore are not getting instruction specific for the dyslexic child. If the child does not make progress in Tier 3 they are referred for an evaluation to consider Special Education. A parent may ask for an evaluation at ANY time.

The above model does not help a dyslexic child.

Universal screening for dyslexia (Shaywitz Dyslexia Screener) is needed in K and First grade. We know the deficit is present in first grade and does not go away. (Jpeds, Nov, 2015). If your child is at risk of dyslexia, additional testing and an evaluation should be done immediately to make a clinical diagnosis of dyslexia (see blog 5). It should NOT be made on the discrepancy model but on a preponderance of data (see this web site).

Once the diagnosis of dyslexia is made, the child should receive an evidence based instruction, specific to dyslexia. This instruction is not for 8 weeks or 8 hours (see Louisiana Key Academy website).

Teaching these children is difficult but it becomes more difficult as they age so early diagnosis is crucial. The teacher must have a depth of knowledge and training so that they understand the implications of dyslexia in reading, writing, spelling, speaking and math. Dyslexia does not go away. It is for life. If a child does not learn to read in the early years they are less likely to graduate high school and/or college and are at risk of decreased wages and a possible life of crime. (JTXMed,Drs Moody et al)

Accommodations are necessary, such as longer test taking time, but accommodations without serious instruction will not teach a dyslexic child how to read fluently.

 Progress monitoring must be valid and include connected text fluency. Teaching children a few sight words to pass a single test is not an honest assessment of their reading ability. Also, a child may read a paragraph but not be fluent enough to read all the grade level material. One test cannot confirm a diagnosis or progress.

Parents must understand what dyslexia is so they can advocate for their child.


The Dyslexia Resource Center Blog

By Laura Cassidy 15 Nov, 2017

Self esteem is a confidence and a belief in, one’s own value. Children spend most of their days in school and this environment shapes a sense of worth for many children. School can quickly wreck the self esteem of a dyslexic child.

We know that the achievement gap between dyslexic and nondyslexic children is present in the first grade. Nondyslexic children are rapidly improving their reading skills while the dyslexic child is struggling to read simple words or learn the alphabet.  Since most parents and teachers equate reading skills with intelligence the dyslexic child often feels inadequate at school. These bright students do not read at a level that matches their intelligence and they are often called lazy or dumb.

 

Ameer Baraka at US Senate Help Co. testimony on May 11, 2016.

 

“I became a street thug and full of anger because I felt cheated out of an education. I went to school just because I had to as a kid. Many Fridays I would “malinger” because I couldn’t pass the spelling test. Or I would sleep in a project hall way until school was out just to avoid embarrassment. I pushed myself into a hole that I couldn't get out of. My teachers had to know that I couldn't read. My mother ran the streets as a young mother and didn't seem to value my education. But was the final thing that cause me to make my allegiance to the lies of the streets. I was in sixth grade and a girl I liked was in my class. It was the first week of school. We were in English class and the teacher called upon me to read out loud. My palms began to sweat and it was like drops of blood from my far dead. I couldn't pronounce any words and the teacher kept making me go on knowing I couldn't read. Some students laughed while others looked in amazement. From that day forward. I knew that school wasn't the place for me. And the young lady, never really liked me much from that day. The streets became my classroom……”

 

 

And from David Boies at the same hearing:

 

“The debilitating effect that dyslexia can have on a child’s confidence and sense of self-worth is aggravated by the fact that the very time reading and input most dominate reasoning and judgment in conventional test results, is the very time children are at their most vulnerable.    

Recognizing that the difficulty in reading dyslexia causes can be mitigated by training, that alternate ways of acquiring information can be emphasized, and that dyslexia does not imply anything about a person’s ability to reason, analyze, or communicate can give students the patience to continue to work and achieve, and give their teachers and parents the patience to help and support them.”

 

It is important to screen in kindergarten and first grade for dyslexia so those with dyslexia are identified and given evidence based instruction and the assurance of their self worth.

 

 


By Laura Cassidy 02 Nov, 2017

Thank you, Sec. DeVos, parents and advocates. I am here as a physician who took a turn into education for dyslexics. It was a natural turn since we have scientific evidence about dyslexia. Now, we must translate that science into the classroom.

I am here representing Louisiana Key Academy which is in its fifth year and serves 320 children in first through sixth grade. I am also representing the dyslexics that are in every classroom. The one in five- every race, male and female, every economic class and every state and county. Most of these children are not identified as dyslexic. They are struggling academically and neither the child nor the parent understands why.

I quote U.S. Senate Resolution 284 that was passed unanimously this year on a bipartisan basis. It calls for America- Congress, States, LEAs, schools to recognize the SIGNIFICANT educational implications of dyslexia that MUST be addressed. Note the word “significant” and that it “must be addressed” because currently it is not addressed.

Why is it significant? The achievement gap between dyslexics and non-dyslexics is present in the first grade and it does not go away. Universal screening is necessary in kindergarten and first grade so that dyslexic children can be identified as dyslexic. No other name should be given to the child; Not LD, or learning disabled, dysgraphia, or discalculia.

If you came to me as a doctor, with a sore throat, I would look at your throat. I would swab your throat if Strep throat was a possibility. If the lab confirmed Strep throat, I would give you Penicillin. I would not call Strep throat a sore throat and I would not treat Strep throat with a lozenger.

Precise terminology should be used with dyslexia as well so that students don’t sit in classrooms called or feeling lazy or dumb. Who knows what else they feel as they struggle academically.

Despite dyslexics having average to above average IQ’s, we know that dyslexics have lower high school graduation rates, lower college entrance and graduation rates and that some view it as a “school to prison pipeline”.

Educational administrators are determining the lives of individuals with dyslexia so they are determining the sum productivity of America. It cannot be that we only educate a privileged few. We must have universal screening, evidence based instruction, and appropriate accommodations for life for ALL dyslexic students.

We can do this. We cannot say, “this is too hard”, or “too expensive”, or it is a zero sum game and “takes from another group”. This is about solutions. This is America. We solve problems; think of the race to the moon, the internet creation, driverless cars.

Louisiana Key Academy is a best practice model for children with dyslexia based on current science. We (Bill and I) are here because we are committed to advancing solutions for all children with dyslexia- because it is and they deserve, the American dream.


By Laura Cassidy 09 Oct, 2017

The following is Senate Resolution 284 which passed unanimously on October 5, 2017.

 

Calling on Congress, schools, and State and local educational agencies to recognize the significant educational implications of dyslexia that must be addressed and designating

 

October 2017 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month”.

 

Whereas dyslexia is—

 

(1) defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader; and

 

(2) most commonly caused by a difficulty in phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and often, learn a second language;

 

Whereas dyslexia is the most common learning disability and affects 80 percent to 90 percent of all individuals with a learning disability;

 

Whereas dyslexia is persistent and highly prevalent, affecting as many as 1 out of 5 individuals;

 

Whereas dyslexia is a paradox in that an individual with dyslexia may have both —

 

(1) weaknesses in decoding that result in difficulties in accurate or fluent word recognition; and

 

(2) strengths in higher-level cognitive functions, such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, or problem solving;

 

Whereas great progress has been made in understanding dyslexia on a scientific level, including the epidemiology and cognitive and neurobiological bases of dyslexia; and

 

Whereas early screening for and early diagnosis of dyslexia are critical for ensuring that individuals with dyslexia receive focused, evidence-based intervention that leads to fluent reading, promotion of self-awareness and self-empowerment and the provision of necessary accommodations that ensure success in school and in life: Now, therefore, be it

 

Resolved, That the Senate—

 

(1) calls on Congress, schools, and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed; and

 

(2) designates October 2017 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month”.

 

 

Key words include “significant educational implications” that “must be addressed”. This implies that dyslexia is an urgent and serious issue that is currently not being addressed in our current educational system. We need the community of dyslexia to speak out!

Dyslexia involves all aspects of language that relate to the “appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language” which involves a large part of the school day-reading, writing, and speaking.

It is “persistent” and therefore accommodations are for life and not selected tests.

“Decoding and fluency” have to be addressed in the education of these children and that standardized testing which is written for the fluent reader test a dyslexic’s weakness and not their strengths. Strengths include “reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, and problem solving.”

 We have made great progress in “understanding dyslexia on a scientific level” so therefore those with dyslexia should have that term on their IEP and there should be no shame on the child or parents part.

 “Early screening for and diagnosis of dyslexia are critical” so that they receive “evidence –based interventions that lead to fluent reading”.

 

The DRC exists to inform, educate, and advocate for children of dyslexia and their parents and teachers.

 


By Laura Cassidy 26 Sep, 2017

There is a lot of enthusiasm for personalized learning. The definition varies but the theme is “understanding a child’s strengths and weaknesses”. It is also designed to meet the child’s special needs and includes the curriculum, student grouping, quality of teachers, goals and data tracking.

 

Personalized learning for dyslexic students does not look like a child with autism or Down Syndrome or any other disability, as each has their individual needs. It would be a disservice to all of these children. Therefore, I believe that the term, Personalized Learning for Disabilities, is of no value and causes confusion. 80 to 90% of students with a learning disability have dyslexia. So, use the name dyslexia and give these students the personalized learning they need.  

 

Personalized Learning for dyslexics would address their phonologic weakness which can impact reading, speaking, writing, spelling and math. The goal is for them to become fluent readers. The teachers must understand that for these children “to learn to read, the child has to develop the unconscious awareness that spoken words can be pulled apart into the elemental particles of speech (i.e., phonemes) and that the letters in a written word represent these sounds,” (Dr. Sally Shaywitz). It is this understanding that will help the teacher to really grasp the reason the child struggles with not only reading but also spelling and in many cases, speaking, writing and/or math.

 

If a teacher sees these struggles or labels these, as different “processes”, time and resources will be wasted. These dyslexic children don’t need adaptive PE or OT for handwriting. They need teachers that understand dyslexia. They need placement in a curriculum based on current scientific evidence and the National Reading Panel recommendations, including instruction in small groups of six or less with other dyslexic children that are in the same place in the language curriculum. Their teachers should include speech language pathologists who are trained in/and instruct in the curriculum so all speech and language instruction is integrated. Instruction in structured language arts must be ninety minutes daily. Daily math instruction must be delivered, again by a teacher that understands dyslexia and its impact on math including the large language component of math.  

 

 Since, dyslexia is an isolated defect we know that their ability to think critically and reason is average to above average. They need opportunities to showcase their ability to think and reason and to express themselves creatively. There are many famous dyslexics in the movie industry, in the computer industry, in law, and engineering. Classes and activities should be offered to develop these strengths.

Data tracking should follow their phonemic weakness (and fluency) and improvements with the appropriate instruction. Reading comprehension follows fluency. Standardized test, tests their disability, and not their abilities and must be given with extra time and text to voice accommodations if needed.

Personalized Learning for children with dyslexia can be great, if it looks like LKA!


By Laura Cassidy 20 Sep, 2017

There are two important reasons for universal screening of children in kindergarten and first grade:

 

1. A large achievement gap in reading is present in the first grade between dyslexic and non-dyslexic students. This gap does not go away.  Waiting does not improve outcomes.

 

2. We can identify children with dyslexia in kindergarten and first grade and enroll them in an evidence based program. Waiting does not improve outcomes.

 

Without screening and identification, we know these children have a greater chance of dropping out of high school, not enrolling in college, earning decreased wages and a greater likelihood of incarceration. Waiting does not improve their outcomes.

 

A screening test for dyslexia (the DRC uses the Shaywitz Screener) should be reliable and easily administered. The Shaywitz Screener is administered by the child’s teacher. The teacher, after  spending months with the child in the classroom is the person most likely to accurately assess the lack of skills that would identify a child who is “at risk” for having dyslexia. The goal is to see which children are at risk for dyslexia. Once identified, additional testing must be undertaken to ascertain which children are dyslexic. Once identified as dyslexic, the children should be in a group of six or less with a teacher who is truly knowledgeable about dyslexia and instructs the child in phonological awareness and letter identification (as outlined by the National Reading Panel and addressed by What Works Clearinghouse). This should take place for ninety minutes daily and include reading out loud.  

 

Currently, children in the early years of school are identified as struggling academically and given help (usually in reading) without screening for dyslexia. The child is often tested after six weeks and deemed either “ready” to stay in the regular classroom or “needs additional” help.

 

So, the child has been identified as struggling academically, given additional resources, and tested on whether to return to the regular classroom. Again, this has all been done without any screening for dyslexia. We know dyslexia is common and and is responsible for an achievement gap in reading in the first grade.  

 

This is “with holding” life changing treatment and using valuable resources irresponsibly.

 

 If a patient went to their doctor with a sore throat, the doctor would inspect the throat. If there was an infection, often a swab for Strep throat would be done. The swab goes to the lab for testing and if positive, the doctor gives the patient the antibiotic suitable to eradicate the streptococcus bacteria. The doctor would not look at a possible Strep infection and send the patient home with a lozenger nor would the doctor swab the throat, get a diagnosis of Strep, and not give the appropriate antibiotic.

 

Our knowledge of dyslexia is specific like that of Strep throat. Not identifying and giving a dyslexic child evidence based resources is harmful to the child and wastes limited money that should instead be spent to improve outcomes.


By Laura Cassidy 11 Sep, 2017

As we approach Dyslexia Awareness Month we should talk about the importance of using the name “dyslexia” when appropriate, which is when a child is dyslexic. Seems fairly obvious, right?

Dyslexia is a specific entity that should be identified so the child can be given the evidence based instruction needed for success.

Dyslexia is an UNEXPECTED difficulty in reading. Unexpected because they are bright kids but their brain uses an inefficient system to read so they have difficulty connecting the smallest parts of the spoken word to letters.  

On the other hand, lumping dyslexic children with others in a vague category of “Learning Disabilities” does a disservice to children with dyslexia. Doctors don’t call Strep throat a sore throat. It is specifically called “Strep” throat for the bacteria, Streptococcus and the patient is given the appropriate, specific antibiotic.

Children with dyslexia should know they are dyslexic, what dyslexia is, and how to advocate for themselves. They are less likely to get the education they need if they are not identified as dyslexic and more likely to feel that something is wrong with them if they don’t know that they are dyslexic. These bright children that struggle with reading, writing, spelling and/or math need to understand why they are struggling in school. They are smart enough to know that they are different from their peers and they can subsequently have low self esteem, anxiety and act out in class.

It also also time to bust the myths that surround dyslexia:

 

-Dyslexics can be slow readers so they are slow thinkers. No, they can be slow readers but they are quick thinkers.

-Spelling is correlated with intelligence or capabilities. No. The truth is Dyslexics are bright but often very poor spellers.

-Dyslexics can often have trouble with math in the early years or with language heavy math problems so my child ‘s career is limited. No, there are many engineers that are dyslexic.

-My dyslexic child is struggling academically so I should accept that h/her life will be limited. No, persevere and get your child the instruction and accommodations needed for success.

-They cannot put “dyslexia” on my child’s IEP. Not true. Your child will be in the category- Specific Learning Disability but under that, dyslexia CAN and Should be written.

- I am an adult and just found out I am dyslexic but there is no need to speak out. NO! Please be public so you can encourage others and the community of dyslexics will grow stronger.  

 

So, educate yourself and your child. Don’t be embarrassed to use the word “dyslexia”. Encourage your child to use it and make sure anyone involved in your child’s education knows that s/he is dyslexic so like Penicillin for “Strep” throat your child gets the education needed specific to dyslexia.  


By Laura Cassidy 30 Aug, 2017

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month so display “red lights” at home or work to bring attention to the many students and adults with dyslexia. Please join the dyslexic community as we encourage parents and educators to learn about dyslexia, to screen and identify children with dyslexia, and to give dyslexic children the appropriate education.

  Dyslexia knows no income, racial, or geographical boundaries. The long term impact on educational outcomes including high school graduation, college graduation, incarceration rates, and differences in earnings has been well documented. Unidentified and un-remediated dyslexia has severe consequences for individuals and communities.

  80% to 90% of children classified as learning disabled are dyslexic. Most of these children are not identified as dyslexic. October is the time to change this as we tell others about the many children with dyslexia (1n5).

 

    Dyslexia is NOT seeing letters backwards.

 

  Dyslexia is defined as “an expected difficulty in reading”. It is unexpected because they are bright children but they cannot pull apart words into the smallest parts (phonemes) and match them to the spoken word.  

 

  Dyslexia does not go away.

 

  Dyslexia can be identified in kindergarten and first grade.

 

   Children with dyslexia must be taught to read in a way that addresses their phonemic deficit and it CANNOT be done in 6 weeks.

 

    The earlier the correct instruction is started in the classroom the better the result. Ideally, Instruction would start in the first grade and would continue until the child is an accurate and fluent reader.

 

    Dyslexic children are NOT stupid or lazy.

 

    Do not hide your Dyslexia. Be an advocate for yourself and all dyslexics.

 

 


By Laura Cassidy 26 Jul, 2017

My child is struggling at school and I think s/he has dyslexia?

 

Children with dyslexia have a difficult time getting the special services needed in school because schools often use a formula looking at the discrepancy between their IQ and their school achievement.

This gap has to be large per a formula to qualify for special educational services in schools. That can mean that the child must have failure rather than mediocre grades despite much effort put forth by the child. That means failure and shame are often necessary to diagnose a valid entity – dyslexia.

The federal government allows this model but said it cannot be the only method of evaluation. Unfortunately, many schools use this formula as it allows a “fill in the blank”/calculator approach rather than really understanding what dyslexia is and the services a child with dyslexia needs. Instead, the school can and should use a “preponderance” of appropriate data.

 

Children with dyslexia have average to above average intelligence. They read using a different pathway than non-dyslexic students use to read which means they read slower and with much effort. The pathway used is not as “efficient” as a non- dyslexic child. For children with dyslexia to learn to read equal to their IQ, they must be identified as dyslexic and taught in a specific way that works with their alternate reading pathway. If not identified, the child may be labeled as “lazy” or “dumb”.

This “inefficient” pathway slows down reading despite their intelligence. So, they must be identified, given the appropriate instruction, and always get more time for reading and testing regardless of their grade(s).

 

This alternate system is used for reading but not for critical thinking. Parents see these bright children with normal to above normal IQ’s struggle with reading, writing, and speaking which can be confusing. But, it is crucial for parents and educators to understand this concept. A bright child struggling academically needs to be evaluated by appropriate tests for dyslexia.

 And as the quote in DRC Blog 10 from Dr. Sally Shaywitz says, “the disparity within the person, not comparing one person to another..” The discrepancy model will often prevent the child being identified as dyslexic. But, an evaluation of the correct tests/data and discussion with the parents and the child will lead to the identification of children with dyslexia.

 

Please look at the information on our web site and contact us for help or additional information. We are here to help you.


By Laura Cassidy 19 Jul, 2017

Could a child you know be dyslexic? If you as a parent or a teacher have a bright child that is struggling to learn to read in school, please read on. Dyslexia can be identified in kindergarten and if given the proper instruction dyslexic children can read without an audio device. In public schools, the law says the parent or teacher can initiate the process of evaluation for dyslexia. This “child find” is described below in an excerpt from a letter sent out by the U.S. Dept. of Special Education.

 

OSERS/ Melody Musgrove sent out a letter in 2011 regarding “child find”. It said that identification of children with disabilities should be timely and that no procedures or practices delay that identification. It further said that some instances, “LEAs maybe using Response To Intervention (RTI) to delay or deny a timely initial evaluation for children suspected of having a disability.”

It further stated that the “While the Department of Education does not subscribe to a particular RTI framework, the core characteristics that underpin the RTI modes are (1) students receive high quality research-based instruction in their general education setting; (2) continuous monitoring of student performance;(3)all students are screened for academic and behavioral problems; and (4) multiple tiers of instruction that are progressively more intense, based on the student’s response to instruction.” It further says “children who do not respond to interventions and are potentially eligible for special education and related services are referred for evaluation; and those children who simply need intense short- term interventions are provided those interventions.”  

The OSERS/Musgrove letter further stated that “the criteria adopted by the State: (1) must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has an SLD; (2) must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific research-based intervention; and (3) may permit the use of other alternative research based procedures for determining whether a child has an SLD.

 

In other words, as Dr. Sally Shaywitz said …….“very foundation and basis of dyslexia whose definition resides in a comparison between a person’s reading (accuracy or fluency) and his intelligence, level of education, or professional status. Thus, dyslexia at its core and in its definition is disparity within the person, not comparing one person to another.….In diagnosing dyslexia, you are comparing that person’s reading ability to his cognitive ability, educational level, or professional stature.”

 

The Dyslexia Resource Center is here to help parents and educators so that children with dyslexia are identified and given the instruction needed for them to succeed. Issues can arise as when to test for dyslexia, how to test, what kind of instruction is necessary and for how long? How do I know my child will learn to read? Graduate high school?   If you have questions about your child or a child in your class or school, please email or call us.  

 225 384 5484     kreggio@dyslexia1n5.com


By Laura Cassidy 12 Jun, 2017

Accountability matters. In any good organization, transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of success. Transparency is the ability of someone in or outside of the organization to get an accurate assessment of the organization’s structure, mechanics, and finances. Accountability can be harder to assess since it involves knowledge of the industry. The metrics of accountability must be accurate indicators of performance.

 

Education has embraced accountability so parents and tax payers can make decisions for their children and their tax dollars. Schools like Louisiana Key Academy, a school for children with dyslexia, are held accountable by the same standards as a traditional school. Is that accurate accountability?

 

The accountability system’s focus is on standardized tests developed for fluent readers. Reading fluency doesn’t occur quickly or easily for dyslexic students and only with specific instruction.

Schools like LKA take children with dyslexia, despite academic failure, and are given a school performance score based on standardized testing for fluent readers-without consideration of science (inefficient reading systems) or reading grade level of students.

 

Students entering 2nd grade or above at LKA are several grade levels behind in reading. A poor academic performance score for a school working to teach dyslexic children fundamentals of language –reading, writing, and speaking says to the community that the school and the students are a failure.

 

Since most dyslexic children are not identified in schools, there is no normed standardized test data for children with dyslexia as compared to children without dyslexia.

If science(fMRI) acknowledges that dyslexics read using an inefficient part of the brain and that the achievement gap is there in the 1st grade, should that go into the equation of accountability? If a school does not identify a student as dyslexic and the child transfers to a school like LKA after academic failure should LKA be held responsible?

 

Dyslexics, if identified, can get 504 accommodations which includes that the test is “read aloud” to them. For a dyslexic child, the standardized test “read aloud” is still difficult as it is language heavy. Also, “read aloud” does not assess reading instruction which is so crucial for dyslexic children. Do we believe these children should learn to read or should we just give then an audio device? Should we hold schools accountable for teaching dyslexic children to read?

 

And if children with dyslexia have the standardized test read aloud to them, is that accurate accountability? If so, then society has decided that reading is not important, only acquired oral information is important. Does this acquired information hold more promise for a dyslexic than the ability to read connected text? Will a child that cannot read have the confidence, self esteem, and skills to graduate from high school, college, and get a job?

Education must catch up with science so these children are identified and given the necessary education for them to read (and the data for policy makers to develop valid accountability).


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