Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do teachers know how to treat DYSLEXIA?

I got this email from a concerned viewer who watched the series we did on the news on dyslexia a few months ago. Here's the link to that story.

The teacher is concerned about how schools are not necessarily taking an active role in helping these kids with dyslexia. Many experts believe it's highly underdiagnosed. Here is her letter to me that explains the bigger problem:

Dear Jen,

As a former reading specialist for 32 years at Washington Community High School and currently a tutor of dyslexics using Susan Barton's Orton-Gillingham based system for remediation, I'm familiar with Masonic's Orton-Gillingham and the Wilson Orton-Gillingham-based program. They are all very good. Personally I feel the Barton system is more user friendly and goes further into rules and probabilities in the English language.

One issue that has not been addressed is what role do the teacher universities play? The International Dyslexia Association had as its number one goal for six years to get dyslexia education into teacher curricula--primary, secondary, special education, and master's in reading programs. They have NOT been successful much do their dismay.

Washington High School has two teachers with master's degrees in reading from Illinois State University. They were taught NOTHING about dyslexia. Two years ago, I called the head of the master's program at ISU to find out why the exclusion. She said, "It is not our problem; it's a special education problem." When I told her that special education does not address it from research-based information, she said, "We wouldn't have any place in our curriculum to address dyslexia." I told her that I had looked at her textbooks and could show her where it could be incorporated. She replied, "I'll take it under advisement." I have never heard from her. I asked her to come to our Title 1 classrooms, bring some of her students, and I would show her the dyslexics in my classroom who had fallen through the proverbial cracks, and were never in special education. Of course, that didn't happen either.

The question is--Why are teacher universities not on the cutting edge of the scientifically replicated research on dyslexia from Yale, Johns Hopkins, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Colorado, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, among others. Farleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Neuhaus Education Center in Texas, and Bright Solutions for Dyslexia in California offer a dyslexia specialist certification course in Orton-Gillingham. Notice only two of these are universities. Why aren't other universities addressing dyslexia?

A year ago, I went to Bradley's bookstore and looked through all of the education textbooks that were available at that time, and dyslexia was in one of them--one short paragraph.

I went to a conference at Harvard a year and a half ago called "Learning and the Brain" chiefly about dyslexia and autism. I wanted to make sure that the training that I had gotten through Bright Solutions in California was appropriate for individuals with dyslexia. I spoke with Sally Shaywitz who wrote Overcoming Dyslexia and spearheaded the research at Yale. I went to all the workshops I could fit in in three days to listen to the top researchers in the field and learned that with the simultaneous, multi-sensory, systematic, and cumulative program for teaching reading and spelling that I was planning on using was absolutely appropriate.

I am currently tutoring 18 dyslexics from the area and having great success because Orton-Gillingham is the right method. There is a huge need not being met in public education, and I feel our teacher universities are one entity in this failure that has not been pursued. Please feel free to contact me about this matter.

Sincerely,

Joanna Roper

Metamora, IL

I hope posting her letter brings the issue to light. I know this topic struck a cord with a lot of people when we first aired the story.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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1 comments:

kleser6 said...

I am a 40 year-old mom of four. I am also near the end of a Master of Arts in Teaching program plus Reading Endorsement at George Fox University in Oregon. My oldest child has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and recently, because I kept pushing, is now also eligible for special services under "Specific Learning Disability" in written language. They don't call it dyslexia, but from all I've read, I believe it suits his difficulties. The school has changed nothing in his IEP to reflect the additional SLD eligibility. They are simply not equipped to remediate his learning problem. They are helping him circumvent the necesity of writing when they can by letting him use a laptop (for 30 minutes a day), and by giving him notes from power point presentations, etc.

I have dragged the internet, looking for options for him and for our family. So many times I come across stories of other parents seeking AFFORDABLE solutions for the education of their children. There is obviously a huge and desperate need for more special schools, or other resources, for these families.

In my opinion, it is criminal that the public education system ignores this population of students. In my Masters program, I was completely astonished that we were only exposed briefly, in one class, to the kids with special needs that we will undoubtedly see in our classrooms, expecially since, at least in my neck of the woods, the philosophy is all about inclusion.

It was an additional blow when I realized that in my reading endorsement, dyslexia is just a sidebar topic. It is sad and unjust that the needs of these students go completely unacknowledged and unaddressed.

At this point I will finish my student teaching in April 2009, which leaves me at a crossroads in my life. My son will be going into the eighth grade next year. If he stays in the public school where we live, his language needs will never be met. I don't think I can work in a classroom, knowing there are students who need specialized instruction (of the Orton-Gillingham variet), and who aren't getting it. How can I just stand by?? I see some O-G training in my future.

This nation needs to be made aware of this enormous fault line in our educational system.

Thank you for letting me express my grief!

 
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