Dyslexia seems to be a topic that makes some speech-language pathologists uncomfortable. It might seem like an area that we don’t have a role in but that is far from the truth! Today, I’ll be explaining some mindset shifts when it comes to dyslexia and just a few ways on how to serve these students.
WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ME?
Reading is a language-based skill. Reading and oral language are skills that influence each other at many different points in a child’s development (Mather and Wendling, 2012). Dyslexia does not automatically mean language impairment. It can be seen with or without other language deficits. Dyslexia itself is a difficulty with written language rather than oral language. This means that someone with average language skills should be able to use their language skills to help compensate for weaker phonic skills. In turn, a dyslexic individual with more limited expressive and receptive language skills but with intact phonological skills should be able to decode but have difficulty comprehending what they have read. Dyslexic students with language impairments will have difficulty with both decoding and reading comprehension (Mther and Wendling, 2012)
HOW DO WE SERVE DYSLEXIC STUDENTS
>> VOCABULARY: Therapy should include activities that promote the dyslexic student’s vocabulary development. Our role is to provide numerous opportunities and exposures to increase the students’ conceptual, background, phonemic awareness, and word knowledge. Without this foundation, learning to read as well as comprehending what is read will be very difficult. (Carreker and Birsh, 2019)
>> LITERACY-BASED THERAPY: Literacy-based therapy is a method of intervention that utilizes text/literature to help students grow and develop their communication skills. It is functional, has clear generalization to the classroom, and engaging for all age levels, yes even high school. Not sure how to start or what to do? Join Level Up and learn the foundational skills needed to start planning your therapy sessions today! If you are ready to jump with literacy-based therapy that you can find ready made resources HERE.
>> COLLABORATION: By collaborating effectively with parents, teachers, and administration, we can design an education plan that is truly advocating for the student. I think one of the ways we can advocate for our students with dyslexia is by also advocating for ourselves and what we can bring to the table to ensure that our dyslexic students have chances for academic success, economic opportunities as well as to promote lifelong learning (Careeker and Birsh, 2019). For example, individuals with dyslexia will need modifications and accommodations. Something I hear often is, isn’t that cheating? No, you are giving the student access to the curriculum. Not all dyslexic students will need the same accommodations and modifications. When writing these accommodations, you can start by noting one obstacle at a time and then working from there. For example, spelling is a skill that is more difficult than reading. Spelling requires the reader to reproduce an entire word rather than just recognizing it. An accommodation that can be provided is spell check or speech to text. This will allow the student to focus on the content of their writing rather than spelling (Carreker and Birsh, 2019)
>> SUPPORT STUDENTS’ SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING Unless we are dyslexic ourselves, we will never understand what it is like to be dyslexic. We can work with this population for our entire careers, have a child with dyslexia, do research studies on this topic, and still not fully comprehend it. We will never fully understand the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of this reading disorder but we can do our part by reducing the negative stigma around it. By meeting this need, our students are more likely to engage and be responsible in their own learning. Our role is to start at where they are by focusing on their strengths and meeting their needs as well as educating our students on what we know about dyslexia.
The role of reading and writing is not just for comprehension, learning, and communicating but for expression and enjoyment. Let’s continue to educate ourselves to do our part in reducing the negativity that dyslexia holds on our students.
Carreker, Suzanne, and Judith R Birsh. Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills Activity Book. Baltimore, Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co, 2019.
Hogan, Tiffany P. “Five Ways Speech-Language Pathologists Can Positively Impact Children with Dyslexia.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, vol. 49, no. 4, 24 Oct. 2018, pp. 902–905, 10.1044/2018_lshss-dyslc-18-0102. Accessed 8 Oct. 2019.
Mather, Nancy, and Barbara J Wendling. Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention. Hoboken, N.J., J. Wiley, 2012.