Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Everyone Reading: Dyslexia - Making it Personal

This week I attended the first day of the 2017 Everyone Reading Conference in New York City. The unpredictable New York weather postponed our second day to a future date, but I can honestly say I am incredibly excited to return for day 2. Along with several of my colleagues and administration, we were presented with conference sessions focusing on a range of topics from selecting the right assistive technology tools, to multi-sensory structured language strategies, to learning about a New York State bill that will promote more training on dyslexia for pre-service teachers, to product demonstrations, to the neuropsychology of reading disorders. This is just a snapshot of the sessions available, and it was so hard to choose which session was the right one to attend.

The session that had a profound impact on me was Dyslexia: Making It Personal - A Simulation & Presentation presented by Learning Ally's, Mark Brugger. Mark openly shared his own personal dyslexia journey and the struggles he encountered and persevered through as he advanced in his educational career. Dyslexia is the largest disability group, yet receives far less attention and has an increased misrepresentation when compared to many other disability groups. 

It is important to understand that dyslexia is a real disability, which has been proven through anatomical and brain imagery studies to show differences in brain development and function. Additionally, dyslexia is not: 
  •  rare
  • associated with low intelligence or cognitive ability
  • a vision problem
  • a developmental lag which can be outgrown
  • the result of laziness
  • reading or writing backwards
The attendees were put through several interactive, hands on, orthographic and  phonemic simulations to enable participants to view learning through the eyes of a dyslexic. Within the session, the attendees shared how these simulations left them feeling "dumb", less confident, and wanting to give up...all real life feelings many of our students experience on a daily basis in the educational setting. If this is how the attendees felt in an isolated simulation, it is incredible to think of how many students sit inside of our classrooms daily feeling the same way. 

After discussing the impact of dyslexia, concurrent conditions, early warning signs, potential indicators, methods of screenings and intervention, the conversation turned towards the critical role of parents and educators to recognize and identify the characteristics of the condition and to provide, if/when possible, early intervention to help "rewire the brain", offset genetic vulnerability and implement life long, permanent strategies. Through the provision of extra time, addition of assistive technology, with specific mention of ear reading eBooks/audiobooks, and an intensive, Multi-Sensory Structured Language (MSL) Instruction program students can access what they know by mitigating areas of deficit.

I am looking forward to incorporating this knowledge in all future practices and reading the two books Mark shared...


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