Posted by: iplantes | February 1, 2014

Dyslexia: The Hidden Disability

Dyslexia is often referred to as the hidden disability. (I use the term dyslexia to include all forms of language based learning disabilities) Mobility, vision, hearing and other disabilities are often more obvious to the world, especially in the world of education.  Accommodations for these children are imperative to their functioning in the classroom and in their learning.  For dyslexic students, they are often given the same thing over and over, with the hope of a different result, and are not considered for accommodations that are imperative for their learning.

This week, I listened to a student talk about his path to learning and our school.  This boy is a sixth grade age boy, who was identified as being dyslexic in the third grade. Despite this, year after year, teachers gave him the traditional work that required a trip to the resource room to attempt it or he just would not do it for this boy knew that he couldn’t. He talks of spending days in the resource room just playing on the computer because he knew he had to be in school, but found time in the traditional classroom a waste of time.  Now that he is in a learning environment that understands his learning needs, he is doing work, he is making gains, he is showing his strength as a learner.  He didn’t want to hide from learning, he just needed someone to understand his less than visible disability.

This is not an unusual story for those who work with kids with dyslexia.  We hear stories of struggles and failures.  Yet when these kids are given learning that fits and tools that support, they thrive. So why do so many schools ignore the possibilities to address the achievement of these kids?

My opinion is we need to take a large magnifying glass to dyslexia. We need to show people the challenges, much akin to Rick Lavoie’s Fat City video. Then we need to shine the spotlight on all the great ways technology can support and enhance learning for these students, as well as the instructional methods that are proven to impact skill development.  Technology tools enable dyslexics to engage in the acquisition of knowledge while we still provide the remediation to build their skills.  Seemingly too often, skill development is the focus or just they are provided enough to get through without being provided a true opportunity to interact with the information they are accessing or knowledge they are demonstrating.

Currently attending #ATIA14 (Assistive Technology Industry Association) I am intrigued by the minority of sessions directly addressing the learning disabled/dyslexic population of learners.   There is great information being shared in a broader sense that definitely has implications for dyslexia, and some being shared that I wish just had flashing lights saying please use this to support kids with learning disabilities! Is this “hidden disability” just too quiet to be thought of for such an important conference? Or are educators not aware of the powerful tools to use to support dyslexic students? Whatever the reason, those in the dyslexic community (dyslexics, educators, assistive technology specialists, leaders in the field) need to come together and make dyslexia become DYSLEXIA.  There is a rumbling I hope to support the idea of #dyslexiatech.  Not that we cannot learn and share with the global assistive tech community, but like with each of the components that make that up, there are unique needs to be met for dyslexia.  Voices need to be louder and more prevalent, so that we can ensure that more students can be provided the fabulous supports that exist.

One great start is the creation of @School_Dyslexiahttp://schoolofdyslexia.blogspot.com, where Jamie Martin is working to curate information from people in the field of dyslexia who are working directly with this student population. Seeing the work that an organizations like Headstrong Nation and Dyslexic Advantage are doing along with powerful parent organizations such as @pensf, Smart Kids and the Decoding Dyslexia movement, it is obvious the voices need to become a chorus.  If we add in the continuous work of the International Dyslexia Association, Haskins Labs, and Literacy How, there is a whole musical masterpiece that could arise to uncloak dyslexia.

With the wonders of social media, there is a great avenue for all of us to connect, empower, and do what is needed to ensure that all dyslexic students have a voice, have the tools, and have the instruction that will give them success.

I encourage you to connect with the people and organizations above, as well as the following to bring the discussion of supporting students with dyslexia to a greater decibel.

Carolyn D. Cowen

Lou Salza

Theresa Collins

Ben Powers

Ben Foss

Scoop iT Topics

Students with ADHA and Learning Disabilities in independent and public schools

Dyslexia DiaBlogue

Join in weekly hour Twitter chat via National Center for Learning Disabilities  @ldorg Wednesdays at noon. 

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