Don’t you wish all teachers did this?

Dear Ms. Barton,

I just finished watching the Dyslexia: Symptoms & Solutions video on your website.

I am a permanently certified Elementary Teacher with a Master’s degree in Reading & Literacy, but I am angry and embarrassed that I received no instruction or information about dyslexia in six years of college. You are absolutely right that we need to get this information into college prep courses and out to teachers in our local districts.

Last year, I had a bright girl who struggled with reading. Her reading assessments made little sense. Her reading rate was very slow and her fluency was low, but her reading comprehension was excellent. I recommended her for testing, but the school’s testing showed there was not a large enough discrepancy to qualify for special education or even accommodations. So she struggled with reading the rest of the year, despite working very hard. The obvious difference between her intelligence and her reading struggles continued to bother me.

I ran into her family a few months ago, and I asked about her reading progress. Her mom was worried because her daughter had made no progress. The mom also shared that she, herself, had struggled with reading as a child, and she wondered if her children inherited it from her. She claimed she had been telling teachers of her concern since her daughter had been in first grade, but everyone assured her it was just developmental.

When the mom suggested that her daughter might be dyslexic, I dismissed it. I mean, with my educational background, I should know about something like that, right?

Fortunately, I did the one thing those other teachers failed to do: I looked into it anyway. As I began my research, I was disappointed to find only 2 books about dyslexia at our local bookstore. But one was Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia. I was amazed at how much I learned about dyslexia. And then I found your website and learned even more.

I now realize I’ve had several other students who also exhibited this odd mix of reading struggles and high intelligence, and I continue to worry about them still today.

I have decided to write an article for NEA Today (The National Education Association magazine). I recently searched for “dyslexia” on the magazine’s website and received zero responses. This is a magazine which is read by many teachers, but it appears they have not had one article in recent history about this learning difference.

That just doesn’t make sense when 20% of our population is dyslexic and many are not even aware of it.

2 responses

  1. My story is so similar! I am also a licensed Elementary Ed. and Special Ed. teacher, with a Master’s Degree in Education and embarrassed that I received no training or coursework in dyslexia. In fact, the reason that I started to learn (on my own) about dyslexia is because a parent once asked me if I thought her son had dyslexia. I didn’t even know what it was and had to look it up. I didn’t find much on the internet (this was a few years back) or receive any input from my colleagues. I really kind of dismissed the whole idea, and it didn’t come up again that school year. I still think about this student with much guilt, and wonder how he is doing. If only I knew then what I know now.

    I look back and I KNOW this is when I started digging for any information on dyslexia. I felt so ignorant as a special ed. teacher who could not help this parent and child the way they needed to be helped. The good part is, like you, I started to learn about it and realized that many of my past students displayed signs of dyslexia. No one ever referred to these children as having dyslexia.

    I am angry that our school systems do not educate teachers on this. In order to move forward and help our struggling learners we need to educate people about dyslexia. I have recently started private tutoring as well as working part-time as a Title 1 teacher. I am determined to continue learning about dyslexia and to use this to teach others who are so unaware, as I once was.

    Thank you for sharing your story. We CAN make a difference!

  2. Suzanna Bortz | Reply

    I am also a teacher with a Masters degree, Elementary and Special Education credentials. One sentence in our SpEd training stated students with dyslexia often respond well to Orton Gillingham instruction. There was no mention of what OG instruction was.

    Two mothers at our school taught me about dyslexia and the Barton Reading and Spelling Method. Those women changed my life as a teacher, I am grateful. At the same time I find it unconscionable that teacher training programs ignore dyslexia, especially when OG instruction works.

    Last week I was at a meeting where a teacher used air quotes when she said dyslexia. I couldn’t really be angry with her, two years ago that was me.

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