“Hey! What’s happening? What’s going on here?” These questions expressed a smidgen of the confusion and pain our grandson experienced in second grade. In third grade, Elliott got answers to his questions. His school diagnosed him as a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Our conversation began last spring when Elliott said, “Grandma, I really suffered in second grade. I didn’t understand why the other kids started to read really well and I couldn’t make it work. Nothing in school worked for me.” With diagnosis in hand, he became caught in a web of anger toward school, dyslexia, and most of all — himself. Elliott’s feelings probably matched those of countless other youngsters. How frustrating to be trapped between the realities of above average intelligence along with the limitations of a brain that processes — not wrongly — but differently.
Elliott has always been a smart little guy. He likes insects, enjoys a strong vocabulary, and plays electronic gizmos with dynamite execution. Cute, curious, lively — all the qualities that should have propelled him into academic success. No wonder he felt confused.
This week, I got an up close and personal reminder of why I remain interested in children with dyslexia. One of our grandsons, a quirky third grader, came home with a diagnosis of mild dyslexia in reading and mild dysgraphia in handwriting. I did not feel surprised or dismayed. Through the years, some of the most fascinating children I have met faced similar labels.
His mother sent the school report to me earlier in the week. Sunday evening, walking out of a restaurant, Elliott looked up and said, “Grandma, do you know I have dyslexia?” “Yes, Elliott. Do you know that to even get that label means you have a smart brain?” He nodded. I have great faith in this tall, lanky kid. His brain works in wonderful ways. From the time Elliott was tiny, he amazed me with his interest in most things science. Today, he glibly whizzes through technology, and, with the exception of word problems, he handles numbers well.
Elliott has an older cousin who received a similar diagnosis in grade four. At that time, one of our older grandsons called after school and said, “Grandma, I cried all the way home from school. The teacher said my writing looks like the work of a first grader.” Stories and ideas explode in the brains of both of these grandsons. They have questions exploding and numerous thoughts to express. Creative, insightful, and funny, both boys struggle to put pen to paper. Elliott also works hard to read orally. As a former educator and a forever grandmother, I relish the thinking patterns of these young men.
Dysgraphia, the disability that creates barriers to writing letters and numbers, does not need to destroy a child’s ability to succeed in school. When teachers and parents make adjustments, children with dysgraphia can begin to succeed. Accommodating tools provide alternative ways to produce work.
As a teacher or parent, do you want to experience pleasure? Imagine the excitement of a child who suddenly succeeds after a long, painful struggle. You can’t help but be thrilled at a child’s increased motivation. No accommodation or teaching tool offers a sure “fix”. However, providing help promotes enthusiasm for teachers, parents and for children. Continue reading
When do accommodations enhance education? When do they water down learning experiences? As a former special education teacher, I believe our goal should be to make learning as fluid as possible while maintaining high standards. Accommodations change how a student learns the material. Accommodations do not change the final outcome or difficulty of material. I share the following examples, which students in my classes taught me.
- Instead of reading a text, a child can listen to an audiobook or oral presentation. Many years ago, a third grade boy taught me the importance of teaching content, such as science, at the child’s thinking ability instead of his reading level. This little guy loved technology (before technology could be found everywhere). He succeeded in math and he adored science lessons. He could not read orally. At that time, I was young and operating from the idea that if I could find books with an easy enough vocabulary, he would succeed. This intelligent little boy felt insulted by the “baby” books I asked him to read. Finally, I realized that no matter how simple the words and sentences, this child continued to omit phrases, hesitate, reread, and twist known words. I had to find a way to get the science information from the written text into his brain. I decided to find or create an audiobook or read the words aloud to him. While listening and following along, he began to succeed
by Jamie Martin
You may have noticed a little friendly competition between Apple and Google, the technology giants who are in constant battle to be King of the Hill. During his keynote presentations, Apple’s Tim Cook often jabs at the adoption rate of new versions of Android compared to those of iOS. Google’s inexpensive and versatile Chromebooks are steadily taking over the school market, which once seemed ripe for widespread iPad adoption. Currently, the Apple Watch has slipped past Google Glass as the most intriguing device in the wearables category. The back-and-forth of tech dominance can be dizzying and difficult to follow.
While the debate over which company holds the crown continues, one thing is for certain: The rivalry has been a boon for students with dyslexia. During the past decade, assistive technology (AT) has increasingly become the great academic equalizer for students with language difficulties, and Apple and Google are currently leading the charge. Their strong desire to outdo each other has led each to produce great technology with enough available AT to make them invaluable resources for the dyslexic community. The truth is that if you are a student who has difficulty reading and writing, you can look to either company for helpful accommodations. Better yet, you can study the vast menu of AT options on Mac desktop computers, Chromebooks, iOS devices, and Android devices, and select the combination of tools that will work best for you. Continue reading
“I do not want any child to cry the hours I did as a young person or hear the harsh words I did. I never quit trying to improve; even at 75, I keep keeping on.” One of my cousins recently wrote those words. She continued, “In college my third semester I made an A. Oh man, was I excited. I got to give a 20-minute presentation on my research paper. Talking was my best test to take.”
Every parent and every teacher needs to “get” the grief behind those words. Dyslexia, a widely accepted disability, continues to create feelings of inadequacy. All too often, adults accuse children with this disability as being lazy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In 2013, I retired from the teaching profession. Through the years, I sometimes had the opportunity to work with very intelligent children who struggled to read or write. From personal experience, I share two important facts. Continue reading