As defined by The International Dyslexia Association, “dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.” In other words, it is when a person struggles to read and spell, even with repeated exposure to the components, and they have other related strengths (such as being able to express themselves well verbally or see patterns in related things) that usually go hand-in-hand with good reading and writing.
Although dyslexia can make learning in a typical classroom setting very challenging, with the proper instruction and accommodations, dyslexic students can achieve high levels of academic and career success. It is important for parents to foster self-esteem and resiliency in their struggling students by helping them to develop competencies in areas outside of school. It is also vital that parents help their children develop an awareness and understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, so that the students can eventually advocate for themselves in the classroom and in the workplace.
In his recently published book, Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities, dyslexic author David Flink writes, “While there’s a lot of great advice for parents about LD/ADHD, much of it focuses on how to “fix” children, as if they are broken or diseased. Since environments are really what predict whether students with LD/ADHD can be successful, I think we should focus on “fixing” the environment instead of “fixing” children.” Public schools are legally obligated to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities in order to help them be successful in the classroom. Developing a positive relationship with your child’s school is essential, so that you can advocate for your child and ensure that appropriate accommodations are put in place. Today, along with more traditional accommodations, we also have the benefits of technology that can help create better learning environments for students with learning challenges.
Current research is providing new insight into the dyslexic brain and the most effective methods of instruction for students who learn differently. One strand of research is focusing on the strengths that often accompany dyslexia, including an ability to recognize patterns and see the “big picture.” As we continue to learn more about dyslexia, we will be more empowered as a society to ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach his full potential.
For more information about getting academic support for dyslexic students in the Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts area, start here.