As both a parent and a specialist, Peck brings a uniquely personal perspective to her field. This year, she shared her experience with the Learning Ally community at our digital conference “Spotlight on Dyslexia” (#SPOD22). “My goal is to share insights and resources that I found invaluable in my journey as an educator and a mom”.
Here are the top 10 tips she shared with us:
Look For Early Indicators
It’s a common misconception that dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until students reach higher levels of primary education. In reality, indicators of dyslexia can be identified in students as young as pre-school age.
Peck recounts speaking to her son's preschool teacher. The teacher told her that her son was having noticeable difficulty learning and recalling the letter sounds.
Identifying these signs as early as possible can help save students from significant frustration as they get older. You can check out the 2021 Texas Dyslexia Handbook for age-appropriate indicators of dyslexia.
Explore Your Family History
Dyslexia is a neurological disability. It’s something a student is born with. But many people don’t realize that dyslexia is also genetic.
Peck demonstrated this in her presentation by sharing her family tree. Going as far back as her husband's grandfather, she showed how dyslexia had likely been present in the family for generations. If there is a history of dyslexia in your family, it is important to consider that as you watch your child’s progress.
“Maybe they don’t have a name for it” she adds. “But if you ask questions… actually there was an uncle who struggled with reading”.
Do Your Research
If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, it’s important to do research so you can best understand their experience. You’ll want to become your child’s biggest advocate, so “become the resident expert in your community” says Peck.
Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s book “Overcoming Dyslexia” is a great place to start, Peck recommends. You can also equip yourself with fact sheets from the International Dyslexia Association.
“But be warned of quick fixes” Peck cautions. More specifically, she warns against any intervention that claims to treat dyslexia in the absence of print. This means things like special fonts or colored lenses. “You have to arm yourself with good information,” says Peck.
Seek out Testing and Diagnosis
Getting a dyslexia diagnosis can feel like a big “to do”. There are many different types of assessments. Peck even refers to it as a “labyrinth of testing”.
But running assessments is an important way to understand the unique challenges of your student. “Testing is a roadmap that shows your child’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Peck. Having this information can help you prioritize what to work on.
Recognize Good Remediation
There are many ways to approach dyslexia remediation. If your school system is able to provide services for your student, that’s great news. But it’s important to make sure your child is receiving quality instruction.
When analyzing the quality of your child's program, it’s important to ask:
- Is it evidence-based?
- Is it taught by an appropriately trained instructor?
- Is the instruction implemented with fidelity?
- Are the instructors monitoring your child’s progress?
- Is it systemic and cumulative
Most importantly, the instruction should be multi-sensory. For students who are struggling with reading, engaging their other senses will help them connect better to the material. What’s more, multi-sensory instruction will help to reduce frustration and make learning more enjoyable.
Focus On The Present
The needs of each student as well as the resources available to them may vary greatly from case to case. It’s important to dispel any regret or guilt when advocating for your child. You will always think of what more you could’ve done. But “don’t look back; keep looking forward” says Peck, encouragingly.
“Dyslexia is a disability of privilege” she acknowledges. “Private therapists are expensive. That’s why I ended up becoming a therapist. I went and took the classes cause it was cheaper than me paying a therapist to work with my child”.
But don’t worry. You don’t have to become a therapist to best serve your child. Just focus on what resources are available to you and re-assess what’s working every semester. If you can, become an advocate in your school system so you can help build a community of support.
Know Your Accommodations
When it comes to additional accommodations for students with dyslexia, there is an overwhelming amount of creative solutions to try with your child. Peck recommends trying a few different accommodations every semester to evaluate what works.
“Prioritize two or three,” she says. “And teach your student to advocate for themselves”. Peck highlights that while you are there for your child, it’s equally important that they know what accommodations they are owed. Help your child to feel comfortable speaking up for themselves in the classroom.
Use Technology Appropriately
Lots of accommodations for dyslexia come in the form of new technologies. Learning Ally is a great example of a tech-based solution for students who struggle with reading. The audiobooks and highlighted text on Learning Ally makes for a great reading experience.
Peck also recommends programs like Dragon Speech, a speech-to-text software, and grammarly, which can be useful for dyslexic students when writing essays. The key, according to Peck, is to give your students time to practice these technologies. “My child really liked dragon speech… but in order to make it effective, he probably spent about a month practicing it”.
Talk About strengths and Weaknesses
“Remind your student that it’s okay to have weaknesses,” says Peck. Everyone has them. And everyone has strengths as well. When working with dyslexic students, Peck finds that “they’re all very cognizant that reading is a weakness”, so it’s important not to sweep that feeling under the rug.
We have to normalize weakness, she explains. We all have different things we’re good at, “but our students with dyslexia need to be reminded” says Peck.
Which leads to her final tip:
Allow Space for Students to Pursue Other Passions
“You have to think of your child as a whole child” reminds Peck. Students with dyslexia spend all day in school struggling. It’s important for them to experience things they can excel at. It’s important to build their confidence. School is a long day, and it’s not fun for dyslexic students. “Don’t take them out of hockey because they’re taking too long on their homework”. The best thing you can do is empower your child.
For more resources, as well as our full catalog of digital books, become a member and your child will access the only app specifically designed for students who struggle with reading.
By Michael Manzi