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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

11 Take-Aways: Understood.org Panel of Dyslexia Experts Signal Need for Ed Changes

July 16, 2015

Understood.org experts convened July 14 in Washington, D.C. at the Newseum broadcast studio to help inform parents and build their confidence about raising children and youth with learning and attention issues. Panelists included:

  1. Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center 
  2. Barbara Wilson, co-founder of Wilson Language Training, and 
  3. Rachel Vitti, the mother of a gifted child with dyslexia and an advocate for twice-exceptional students and for literacy in general.

Kristy Baxter, former head of the Churchill School in New York City, moderated the discussion.

There were many take-aways from the discussion. Some of mine follow.

  • Students with dyslexia may need accommodations such as extra time or tools that convert text-to-speech, but students need systematic instruction in order to learn to read.  
  • Accommodations support readers because they help students access the curriculum content and keep pace with their peers. 
  • Research is needed in order to determine whether strengths in the brain's right hemisphere are innate or developed. Researchers at MIT this fall will explore this topic.
  • Dyslexic students need a dual approach: Reading instruction to address deficiencies and thoughtful activities that develop/ encourage learning strengths.
  • Learners with dyslexia need to understand and accept that they will not be the best speller, but their other strengths and skills will serve them well in life. Point out accomplished adults with dyslexia in the fields of architecture engineering, graphic arts, music and more that use visual-spatial know-how.
  • Teachers need to offer systematic strategies and techniques as part of a multisensory reading instruction and diagnosis. 
  • Proper teacher training must go in-depth with a practicum, feedback, and means for follow-up. Training is not adequate if it is comprised of workshops alone.
  • The science of implementation shows that in addition to training, teachers need adequate time to teach, students grouped by their instructional needs, and supportive leadership by administrators. 
  • Brain imaging and reading research is informing instruction. Teaching children with dyslexia will take a lot of time in order for students to acquire and master sounds, syllables, sentence structure, and text structure and apply these to achieve fluency and comprehension.
  • Students with dyslexia need social-emotional life skills and experiences that build self-esteem and the ability to self-advocate.
  • Although many schools resist, there is momentum in both public and private schools to teach a child using the methods and techniques that work best for dyslexia.

The Understood.org broadcast included a simultaneous chat during the discussion.  Selected resources follow that were shared during the chat:

  1. Guidance about friendships and self-advocacy
  2. Why partner with your child's school?
  3. A resource explaining Orton-Gillingham multisensory reading
  4. Accommodations to Help Students With Learning and Attention Issues

The broadcast is archived on Understood.org and its YouTube page. 

AIM-VA 

The federally funded Accessible Educational Materials program supports print disabled students in every state, including students with dyslexia, by providing no-cost alternatives to traditional books. To learn more in Virginia, log onto the AIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school adminstrator about AEM under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and an exception to federal copyright law.

Remember to follow AIM-VA on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter at @AIMVirginia and/or follow me @aimnoncat. Subscribe to AIM-VA's new monthly newsletter. Sign up here.

Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss