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Parents Learn Challenges of Dyslexia

HOPE – Take a simple text, “Little Bo Peep, she lost her sheep,” and drop or transpose any number of letters to produce “Lttl B Pep, sh lt her shep” and you have the challenge parents recently learned in a Dyslexia Parent Night at Clinton Primary School that is the basis for Dyslexia.

Karen Ivers, CALT Dyslexia coordinator for the Hope Public Schools, led parents and students through a demonstration-based program Oct. 24 as part of Dyslexia Awareness Month and emphasized the understanding of Dyslexia as a disorder in the brain.

“Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language,” Ivers noted of the definition of Dyslexia. “Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.” First medically documented in 1895 as “congenital word blindness,” Dyslexia was not medically defined until 1968, and was first recognized for medical screening among school students in the United States by the state of Texas in 1985.

Ivers noted the disorder tends to trend in families.

“One in five children are Dyslexic,” she said. “Think about that number, and you begin to see how many have been affected.”

The instructional program for teaching Dyslexic students is multi-layered, much like peeling back the layers of an onion to begin at the core with simply recognizing the letters of the alphabet and sequencing them in proper order. Decoding the information requires seeing the letter and translating it into a speech sound reflected in the English language.

But, when a child does not visually grasp the letter, he or she cannot decode it, and must be taught to compensate.

The English alphabet of 26 letters is used to produce 44 distinct sounds in speech, singly and in 98 letter or letter cluster sounds, Ivers said.

Those distinctions must be taught to produce “fluency,” or an ability to read accurately at a smooth and even pace. Consequently, Ivers said, students are taught through RAP, or Repeated Accurate Practice; instant word recognition; timed reading for rate; and repeated reading for smoothness.

Understanding how sounds in the English language are produced vocally with tongue, teeth, and lips in combination with air and voice increases the student’s appreciation of sounds combined into syllables, words, and sentences, Ivers explained.

Once that level of understanding is achieved, proper spelling links everything together in patterns that can be readily recalled; so, students begin to learn to take meaning from what the eye reads.

Ivers said hearing the process in demonstration when parents read to children at least 15 minutes per day re-enforces a student’s understanding, vocabulary and literary skills.

Program faculty for the Hope Public Schools includes Ivers, CALT Tina Smith, intervention specialist Doris Kesterson, intervention specialist Pame Hare, intervention specialist Javonna Johnson, and intervention specialist trainee Holly Hooker.

By Ken McLemore

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