Monday, March 2, 2015

My Learning on Dyslexia

The state of Iowa added a definition of dyslexia into code last spring, and it's bringing attention to the learning disability in public schools.  Really I'd liken it to an awareness similar to that of recognizing how many cars of a particular type are on the road once I bought one. Now that there is a definition in code for it, I'm surprised by how many resources there are (and aren't, in most cases) for dyslexia.

My journey started a couple of months ago when I attended a Decoding Dyslexia Iowa evening event. I was an educator-listener attending with my friend who has a dyslexic child; I was support for her. I was also prepared to be in defender of public schools. While there were moments that I felt those hairs on the back of my neck stand up, most of the evening was spent sharing information and seeing schools as partners (yay!). It was helping parents understand that schools had no training in specific strategies to use with dyslexic students and that information and training was a key part in helping the child.

While I believe strongly in partnerships between home and school, I left that meeting thinking that it shouldn't be on parents to educate me or my teachers. As an instructional leader, I should take on the responsibility of understanding it more and deciding how I can best help my team to address the learning needs of students who may be dyslexic. So that's what really started my journey. I didn't want to be the school leader that told some parent, "Because your child learns in different ways, we can't help him/her."

While this post is far from a complete, all-you-need-to-know description of dyslexia, I hope that sharing my learning may help someone else in their journey. There are students we know are there, but aren't reaching well enough. Understanding dyslexia may help some of those students.

To start, these two videos have been helpful for me to understand what dyslexia is and why I should care. This short video explains the brain research behind dyslexia. It doesn't get overly complicated, even though it talks about the neurology behind the disability. Another much longer video (50 minutes), is a documentary that does a nice job of putting faces, families and feelings to the learning struggles. It also talks about what it is and what we can do to make a difference.

I also appreciate simple FAQ's for starting to understand a topic. The International Dyslexia Association offers this set of questions and answers to help. The response to my burning question about how do I help students with dyslexia comes in a simple and extremely complex answer, "multi-sensory approach to teaching." That's my next step in this journey to understand dyslexia.

More to come...