In This Episode:
In our first episode of Dyslexia Devoted, we talked about 3 big reasons that kids with dyslexia have trouble in school. While there are more than 3 reasons, these are some of the top barriers for our students who learn differently. First, the lack of proper training for teachers prevents kids from getting the most effective instruction. Second, lack of accommodations or realistic plans to implement them properly prevent students with dyslexia from showing what they know. Then, our final topic is how students with dyslexia often hide their struggles behind social behaviors that stand out or fade themselves into the background to hide.
- Teacher Training
- Behaviors That Hide Dyslexia
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
- Follow on Instagram @ParnelloEducation
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Other Resources I Recommend:
Lisa Parnello - Intro 0:08
Hello and welcome to dyslexia devoted the podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host, Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello Education Services. This show features information stories, candid interviews and experiences with dyslexia at all ages. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted.
Lisa Parnello 0:37
Hello everyone and welcome to our very first episode of dyslexia devoted. In today's episode, we're going to be talking about three reasons why students with dyslexia struggle so much in school. And yes, I know there are far more than three reasons but we have to start somewhere, right. The three reasons that we're going to start with for today are teacher training, accommodations and behaviors. So as we think about teacher training, we know that teachers work really hard, and they tend to get to school long before the kids arrive, or stay long after some combination of the two. But they can only do with what they've been taught how to do and what somebody has shown them is what you're supposed to do when you teach kids. What happens if those teacher training programs didn't teach them the way that our kids learn best. What do we do, then? Let's take my own experience as an example. So I have a bachelor's in elementary education and a master's in special education. But neither one of those programs taught me to teach reading the way that I do now. I started working with kids with dyslexia. And I felt like a failure. I had no idea what I was doing all of the strategies that had worked for years and years of teaching. And those kids were learning how to read, they figured it out. And then I had a student that none of the strategies in my toolkit worked. Everything I tried, and I went to my boss and I said, Hey, I really need to take some more training, or I need to different curriculum, this really just is not working. And thankfully, I had the support. And I was able to do that. And I did a practicum with that student that forever changed the way that I teach reading. And I would never go back to another way ever again. And I worked so hard to keep taking more classes and more trainings to get better and better at helping kids with dyslexia. And I really wish that I had known long ago, what I know how to do now, I remember in my third year teaching, there was a kid named Max, who it took me six months to teach him how to spell his own name, he was forever XAM, and he could not for the life of him ever spell his name the right direction. And I finally figured out a trick that worked that now many years later, I realized was a strategy that I should have started with to begin with. And it's part of how I teach kids with dyslexia now, but that was just a period of trial and error. And it took me six months to figure it out to teach that one first grader how to write his own name, because he knew what the letters were supposed to look like. But order and sounds made no difference to him. And he didn't understand how they worked. We have to give the teachers some grace, because they are doing their very best with the information that they have. And so we really have to start advocating for teacher training programs to include strategies that help kids with dyslexia. Because something really important to think about is the fact that strategies that help kids with dyslexia, help all kids learn how to read, not just kids with dyslexia. Think about people that you've known in your life, I can guarantee you somebody has said, I'm a terrible speller. Well, guess what strategies to teach kids how to read, also teach people how to spell, what if we can prevent people from saying, Oh, I'm a bad speller, because we changed the way that we teach reading and spelling in schools for all kids, so that all kids can be successful, why not use a universal design that makes all kids more successful at whatever they choose to go after in life, and so that they can really learn new content without having that frustration? Although, you know, let's admit it, we have a wonderful time where everyone has a little dictionary in their pocket, and they've got spell checker, and AutoCorrect, and all these other things that make life a lot easier, but they don't fix everything. And sometimes autocorrect does still fail. We really need to change the way that we teach kids to help them be successful. Teachers are often handed a curriculum when they walk into their classroom, or they might sometimes get a one or two day workshop on how to use that curriculum. And they use it to their best of their abilities. Sometimes they tweak it a little or maybe they change the order, but they overall stick to what the curriculum is that they are handed. And in fact, some schools actually have very, very strict rules that you have to use a specific curriculum. So even if a teacher has the training and understanding of a strategy that works better, sometimes they're actually required to use the specific curriculum the district has approved. Even if they know better, they aren't allowed to do better. That can also really be a big hindrance for teachers when their schools are not encouraging them to use strategies that help kids with dyslexia. When you're thinking about the curriculum being used in your child's classroom, it's important to think about what does that curriculum look like? Is it the kind with the leveled readers of ABCDE Have you ever taken a moment to really look at those books, how many different spelling patterns do you see on that level A and Level B book all in one sentence where the sentences might be simple, but the patterns used within them are not necessarily simple at all. If you took away all of those pictures, would that student be able to read any of those words? Could they read a couple of them. And understanding that some of those leveled readers are leveled for tech simplicity, not actually for spelling patterns
that the kids know how to read. And that might mean that a student is reading something that is much more challenging than it seems at first glance. Another really important fact is that sometimes students are restricted in what they can learn about because of their reading level. So if a student is reading at a second grade level, but they're a fifth grader with the intelligence of a seventh grader, it makes it really difficult for that student to find the right books to read in class that really interest them and pique their knowledge, and where they really want to gain more and more information, especially if you have special rules on what kind of books that they can read. For example, I have one of my private clients that I actually had to go advocate for them at their school, because the school required them to only read their just write books. And so during free reading time, the student was only allowed to read certain books at his reading level. So when that student has dyslexia, when you can only limit to the books that are exactly at your reading level, and you're reading below grade level, and that doesn't match your intelligence level, it makes reading horrible. And for a student with dyslexia, anything that makes reading more taxing and more unenjoyable, is the exact opposite of what we're aiming for. We need students to develop a love of learning, we need them to develop the idea that reading can be amazing, because you can learn all these really cool things that you really want to know more about. And so if you add an extra layer of hatred of reading to a student who already has dyslexia, nothing good comes up that. And it's important to understand that there's a time and a place for those just write books. And the student I'm referring to the school knew that he was getting outside support for reading at his just right level. And they knew that he was going to be getting all the skill development he needed at his instructional level already. So there was really not a point that his free reading time should be so heavily limited to books that he could only read without making more than one or two mistakes on a page. Because we really want him to learn how to love reading and learn the books have a purpose in life, and that we can utilize them for fun and not just torture, we really want to make sure that we foster that love and joy of learning as much as possible, especially for a student who's always really struggled to be a good reader. Another big one is not saying the word dyslexia. So often in a kid's IEP, it'll say a disorder of reading. But it won't actually say the word dyslexia, which means they aren't necessarily going to get the curriculum that helps kids with dyslexia. For example, I live in California, and we have this wonderful, comprehensive set of guidelines, called the dyslexia guidelines. But if you never say the word dyslexia, then those guidelines are not really being put into effect. And so even though they sound like a really great idea on paper, and they look really pretty, if you look at the cover of them, I can count on one hand, the number of school districts I've seen that actually use the word dyslexia in any of their IEP reports. And as a educator at a school for dyslexia for about a decade, I've attended IPs for many different districts, and most of them don't use the word dyslexia anywhere in their paperwork, those wonderful dyslexia guidelines do not always come to fruition as being used in the schools. And that's really disappointing because we have an outline and a framework, but it's not always being implemented. And so it really takes a lot of advocacy. And there's all sorts of different ways that you can reach out. For example, there is a movement called Decoding Dyslexia, and there tends to be a branch in each state or region. So we have Decoding Dyslexia, California, or the International Dyslexia Association branches. So I'm a part of NorCal, Ida. Those are different ways that you can look for information on more advocacy in your area to really try to help the movement to help kids with dyslexia in your area. And that movement can involve teacher training, and it can involve trying to find other ways to help students in the classroom by going at it through the route of helping the teachers, because by helping teachers, we then help kids. Next up is accommodations, and accommodations can make it or break it for a child with dyslexia. Accommodations really help because students with dyslexia are often very smart, but they just really can't get their ideas down on paper, or really demonstrate their knowledge and understanding the way other kids might in their classrooms. And so they might read a story that goes in circles or it might be extra simplified because they're trying to make sure that they only write words that they know how to spell. I can't even tell you the number of times I've seen a student right A three sentence essay because they know that their teachers can nitpick on every single capital period and spelling word within that three sentence history article. If you're trying to respond to an article in history, how important is the spelling compared to the idea of learning history so
that history doesn't repeat itself? And we really need to decide if an assignment is matching what you want to measure. If it's not a reading assignment, and it's a history assignment, what is the most important part you want to get out of it? Do you want to make sure that they spell everything perfectly? Or do you want to make sure that they have an understanding of what's really happening in that history content. Another thing to think about is that working memory can also limit what a student gets on the page, because they might have all these great ideas running through their head, but the amount of time and energy it takes for them to put it on paper on a keyboard, and being able to spell all the words out. And it takes a lot of mental effort to apply their spelling skills, when they're still recently learning how to do some of those spelling patterns. And so by the time they get all those words, on paper, they lose track of what they meant to say, if you can separate those two things, the writing and the typing from the expressing the ideas, then you're more likely to get a much more in depth answer. Because it's not quite as taxing on their mental load. If they're just explaining what they know, as opposed to explaining what they know, trying to express it out on paper, try and make sure the spelling is proper trying to make sure it matches what the assignment told them they needed to do. And it's really important that we make it focused for each of their assignments, to decide what is the most important point of this assignment? What do I need you to do to show me you know what I meant for you to learn from this exact task, and making sure that we're not turning history assignments into reading assignments, you want to make sure that the assignment is matching the skills we want the student to show us they know how to do, having students know the rights and what to ask for is really the big one. Because if you don't ask for it, then you're probably not gonna get it, it's really important that we can help them build up a child's ability to advocate for what they need in their classroom. But there's definitely one really big downside, which is embarrassment. Kids never want to look like they're the kid who can't do something. And it can be really embarrassing to raise your hand in the middle of class and say, Hey, Teacher, can I please have an audiobook? Or can I please use speech to decks, it's not something you really want to brag about to all of their classmates. And so it's really important that we teach the kids on how to advocate. And if there is an embarrassing way to do it, maybe find a less embarrassing way, like going to teacher office hours, or helping the child you know, write a letter to their teacher to explain, you know, hey, I have dyslexia, it would really help if I could use these accommodations in the classroom, because I need them to be successful. And really helping the kids know that it's okay that they learned different and they think different because everybody's different. Neurodiversity is what makes the world a wonderful place. And you'd be amazed by the number of CEOs and people who run big companies who have dyslexia, because their brain just works differently. And that can be amazing in so many wonderful ways. But in school settings, a lot of times it does not feel so amazing. So it's really about helping the student know that it's better to ask for help than not get it, that will make them feel better in the long run, as opposed to being a student who's failing their classes, because they didn't ask for the resources that could have helped them be successful in the first place. Another big hindrance is logistics, even if you tell a student that he's allowed to ask for extended time, or she is allowed to use an audio book, or they can utilize, you know, a separate testing space, it's a lot different once you think about the logistics of it. Extended time seems like it makes sense. But if you have three tests in a day, each supposed to take an hour, and then they get an hour and a half for each test, instead of three hours worth of testing, you end up with four and a half hours worth of testing, it ends up making it being a long, exhausting day for a child just because they're allowed to have that accommodation doesn't always mean that works out easier sometimes. And so it's coming up with logistical plans of okay, maybe they don't take all three finals on the same day. Maybe they're allowed to take two finals on one day and the third final on the next day. And really breaking it up. If a student is allowed to use speech to text where the computer will write down the words they say, that seems like a really great idea except for the fact that you're in a class of 30 students all working quietly with a paper and pen or their keyboard. What happens when you have one child saying every thought they have out loud while the rest of the students are quietly trying to get their own work done, and all the other kids are all getting distracted because the one student is using their accommodations can be really important not just to ask for accommodations, but for the logistical plan of how's that actually going to look in the classroom? Is the student allowed to take their laptop to the picnic table right outside the door where the teacher can see them through the window? Is that student allowed to go to a special Testing Center Resource Center in the school where they're allowed to go do their independent work, where they aren't going to disrupt anybody else but
they still get the support that they need? To, and really coming up with a plan to make those accommodations realistic in the actual classroom and school setting is absolutely essential, because you can advocate for all of the accommodations in the world. But if they don't really work out in a practical sense, it doesn't really do any good at all. Another important factor when we think about logistics is trust. And understanding that just because a student has headphones on in the middle of class doesn't mean they're slacking off or listening to music. And being able to trust that a student with dyslexia who's sitting there their headphones on listening to their audiobooks of their text, is actually a student who's staying out of trouble, not getting into trouble. And being able to develop a sense of awareness of what that child needs and their ability to be responsible to utilize those strategies appropriately, and not take away something that is really helping them to stay focused and stay on task and keep up with their classmates. When they can't just sit there and read the novel or the textbook to themselves, they need to be able to have a way to access the curriculum, because it seems like a great idea to let kids work quietly in class. But to a kid with dyslexia, when you're expecting them to sit there and read 10 pages out of a complicated science textbook, it's not as easy as giving them just the extra time, maybe they might need their tutor to help them learn how to sound out the words, or to help them frame their ideas. So being able to give as many accommodations in the classroom as possible. And one of those best easy ones that you can do is the ability to trust them when it's their time to use those audiobooks. I know that there's so many more details that we can go into on accommodation, so make sure that you subscribe to this podcast so that you get the episode that is all about accommodations that's coming up in a future episode, let's take a dive into our third topic of today, which is behaviors. Sometimes kids behavior is actually a way of hiding the fact that they are struggling for different kids behavior can go in totally different directions some kids act out, whereas other kids shy away and hide in the background as much as possible. And it really just depends on their personality. Sometimes being the class clown is way more fun than being the kid who can't read. And it's a lot more interesting to be like, Hey, look at me, I can tell these really awesome jokes, as opposed to reading that book right over there. That's super boring, or aka art, we really need to help our students build up that self awareness to notice when it's happening. So they know that that's the time that they should be asking for help. Sometimes what happens is the teacher doesn't realize that the kid acting out is really just crying for help, and that there's something bigger going on. Other times, you might see the reverse happen where a student might hide away and be as quiet as possible, and look like they know what they're doing. And they turn the book at about the right number of minutes for each page, they should have been reading quietly, they mimic whoever's right next to them and say the same answer just a second or two after them. So it sounds like they know the answer to the question from the reading. And they do anything they can to hide. They're different sides of the same coin, have kids really struggling and instead of asking for help, they are doing anything else just to survive. As much as we really wish kids would ask for help. Think about you as an adult. When's the last time you approach something hard and instantly ask for help? Probably not, you probably suffered through it, or you walked away, or you came back to it. And then you gave up and then eventually you asked for help. And if we can't even do it as an adult, what do you think a kid is going to do in a classroom full of peers that they're trying not to get embarrassed in front of. We as educators and parents have to notice when some of those behaviors are happening, and think about what is causing them, what is making that kid suddenly have to go to the bathroom every single time it is time for writing, which then brings me to some of the different responses you
might see out of a student who's really struggling and should be asking for help. But isn't, there tends to be a fight flight or freeze response to them. This is an emergency dangerous situation, and their brain just can't think straight anymore. They cannot learn and cope during that feeling of struggle. And so different kids look differently. One kid might be having a fight response. And so a fight might be looking like this is boring, and want to do it. And boring, meaning that code for Hello, this is really hard. Or they might break their pencil or they might tear up their paper. Or they might say I already read this, or I already know this or I learned this last year, it can look really different, but generally come out in some sort of arguing kind of method. Another way is a flight response. And in that flight response, that is the student that suddenly needs a drink of water and they need to go to the bathroom every time it's you know, reading time, or they suddenly lost their pencil and need to go dig in their backpack for a long time. Or they walk around the room and go talk to their friend or any type of getting away from the thing that is causing them the most trouble. And lastly is a freeze response. So the kids that are freezing going to put their head down or they're really tired, or they're just staring at their paper not writing anything and they tell you that they're thinking and And nothing's actually making it onto the page. All of those responses are really cries for help. And we really need to help see that when the students are doing that, what was the activity? We were asking of them the right before that behavior started happening? And thinking about where was the breakdown? At what point were they able to do it and then suddenly, they couldn't? So what skill did we switch to asking them to do that suddenly they can't do and creating that academic intervention, not necessarily a behavior intervention, because sometimes those behaviors are really just stemming from an academic struggle, not actually because the kid is trying to be naughty, very rarely will especially those younger students intentionally be naughty. A lot of times it is a hint at something larger at play. And our responsibility as adults is to really break it down and figure out what way needs to help them because they're not quite at the maturity level to really ask for help themselves. So to summarize today's episode, we talked about teacher training, and the ways that sometimes teacher training fails our students because teachers are trying their best, but sometimes they're not given the resources that they need. We talked about accommodations and how important they are for students. And we're going to do a deep dive on some different accommodations and strategies, and programs that we can use for accommodations on a future episode. So stay tuned for that one. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast so that you hear when that episode goes live. And we also talked about behaviors and the way that those behaviors can sometimes mask a student having dyslexia or a different learning difference that is keeping them from accessing the knowledge they're supposed to be learning in school. Thank you very much for joining us today on our very first episode of dyslexia devoted we hope to see you next time.
Thanks for listening to today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Join us for our next episode by subscribing to this podcast as we devote each episode to different aspects of dyslexia. See you next time.