Reading the letter my daughter wrote about her dyslexia was confronting. No one wants to hear their child say they ‘can’t keep up with the o...

Kathy's Red Letter

14:22:00 My Red Letter Dyslexia Awareness 0 Comments

Reading the letter my daughter wrote about her dyslexia was confronting. No one wants to hear their child say they ‘can’t keep up with the other kids’ and ‘they all learn faster than me’. But the purpose of her letter was to let someone influential know what dyslexia is and how it affects her. So equally I was proud to see her able to verbalise what learning is like for her. 

It is Dyslexia Awareness month and next week is Dyslexia Empowerment week. At this point in my journey I have a better understanding of what the ‘D’ word actually means and I’m proactively researching how to help my daughter and children in my class with dyslexia. But only a few months ago, before Kaiya was diagnosed, I really didn’t understand what that meant or what I needed to do to accommodate for the different learning style of children with dyslexia.

We’ve always known Kaiya had some issues at school. At kinder it was identified she had attention issues. She couldn’t sit still and concentrate like a lot of the other children. Over time at school, we noticed she was taking a lot longer to learn the ‘Magic Words’ and while she loved hearing stories, reading was becoming a challenge. We noticed really unusual things when she read, like she would read and leave out all the little words or add in words. Spelling and numbers seemed to confuse her too.  

We’ve had Kaiya’s eyes checked, hearing checked, she’s been to an OT, a Behavioural Optometrist and Speech Pathologist and she’s had wonderful supportive teachers, not to mention two parents who are teachers! Despite all of this, her learning progress has been slow. She is learning to read and spell but she is significantly behind her classmates.

We had Kaiya assessed by a psychologist in May and we were finally given the diagnosis DYSLEXIA. You can’t imagine the relief that we felt. There is a reason for her challenges and there is so much we can do to help her!

To be honest, we didn’t have a clue what dyslexia was or how it could impact her. Dyslexia essentially is a reading difficulty that usually affects the ability to spell, write and sometimes understand numbers. People with dyslexia often have a slow working memory which means they take longer to process information and have difficulty holding onto lots of information. So they may appear distracted, uninterested, confused or forgetful. It is a life-long neurological condition. People with dyslexia are usually highly creative and see the big picture and have average or above average intelligence.

Kaiya’s report was very comprehensive. It detailed specifically how she could be supported at home and school. Ideas such as using audio books to ensure her vocabulary kept up with those of her peers and allowed her to listen to books she actually would enjoy! Using an ipad so she could access great apps to improve her reading and spelling, including very predictive writing programs. But what intrigued us were the terms ‘explicit, systematic approach’ and ‘multisensory’ learning.

I have been teaching for just over 20 years and I am embarrassed to admit that until recently I didn’t really understand what that meant and what it would look like in my classroom. I had no idea how to effectively support children with dyslexia!  It was never explained to me at university and I’ve not had any professional development. 

So this is where we are at as a family. Learning about dyslexia together. We have learnt that both NASA and Google specifically employ dyslexics because of their creativity and ability to think outside the box. We know famous people like Richard Branson, Prince Harry, Jackie French, Roald Dahl and even Einstein are or were dyslexic. And we know our daughter is equally creative, smart and funny. 

Both my partner and I have spent a lot of time researching MSL and explicit, systematic teaching and have implemented changes to our teaching. We have an enthusiastic audience with our colleagues and are sharing our knowledge and resources. As a staff we are also attending an information session about dyslexia. We are making steps toward helping children at our school with dyslexia. But by no means are we experts. This is just the start of our journey. 

It is highly recommended by psychologists that children with dyslexia have a tutor. We tutor our daughter at home in our own way based on the research we’ve done. It’s by no means the perfect program but it’s a start. So why is it recommended? Simply because dyslexia tutors are trained in Multi-Sensory Learning, backed by an explicit, systematic approach. This is the approach that research shows best supports children with dyslexia. 

So why aren’t teachers trained in this approach? There are many dyslexic advocates pushing for this and schools and teachers are embracing the opportunity to learn and implement change. But the bottom line is this comes down to resources and funds.

My wish for my school, my daughter’s school, is to have the opportunity to make a difference for these children. 

We can do this because we have dedicated, enthusiastic teachers. With support from our community, we could fund MSL training for our teachers. With this training we can provide the support in school that is needed for dyslexic children. Funding could also provide decodable reading books and assistive technology that would in fact support all children. Our school budget doesn’t allow for this, so I’m asking you to consider how our community could!

I asked my daughter to write her red letter to make a difference for children with dyslexia. I hope together we can make a difference. 

Yours Sincerely, 
Kathy

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