When I was in elementary school, I had to leave during the language arts portion of the day to a class called Resource. Resource is a class designed for students with accommodations who needed extra help. Everytime I left the class, my classmates would ask me why I would leave to go to another room. I was too scared to tell them I had dyslexia. Doing this everyday became more and more degrading to the point where I associated having a reading disability with being unintelligent because I was not on par with my classmates. I would read passages and the words just looked like a series of letters grouped together. Sentences were groupings of words strung together that had no meaning to me. Comprehension?this was, and still is, my constant struggle. Everyday, I sat at a desk in a class of about thirty students with the teacher three yards away. But, at no point did the teacher?who was nine feet away from me?help me read.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, societies used to be based upon apprentice models. It was an exchange of labor for specialized training. This allowed for students to learn and develop a career in a certain interest with minimal modern education. But then came the Industrial Revolution where the printing press was developed. People had the idea to compile knowledge into books which were used to educate students. This caused a shift away from the apprentice model and created the language heavy educational model that we have used for decades (Bragonier). Language is categorized in three main sections: paramatics, semantics and phonology. Paramaticsis, adjusting to the social context to communicate (Dencla 83). Semantics are the meaning of words and the ability to connect the sounds with the meanings. Phonology is identifying and understanding the sounds of words (Dencla 83). Simplified, dyslexia is the impairment in phonology. This inability to comprehend the sounds and decode takes a serious toll on students with dyslexia because a majority of schools are language heavy. In order for administration and teachers to be responsive to the difficulties exhibited by students with disabilities, specifically dyslexia, it is essential to understand the relevant scientific literature. Educators need to be aware of student hardships and and be willing to implement changes in the classroom by making accommodations for students with dyslexia.
The developmental process of the brain directly impacts the reading process of a student with dyslexia. During the development of the fetus, neurons in the brain travel through a process called cellular migration. Biochemicals and receptors guide the migrating neurons. The neurons connect through synapses; when an axon and dendrite meet, it forms a synapse. These synapses connect parts of the brain to each other. To protect this wiring, a process called myelination occurs in which the axons are insulated in myelin (Denckla). This allows for neurons to travel fast throughout the brain. When there is not enough myelin surrounding the axons, the speed at which signals via neurons are transmitted slows down. It ultimately affects the reading process as well.
In the brain, Broca’s area is located in the left section of the frontal lobe. This area is specialised in forming sentences and speech programming. The Wenickes area is located in the posterior left region of the brain in the temporal lobe. This connects to the parietal lobe, in the mid posterior, as well as the front side of Brocas area and the occipital lobe which allows for visualization association with words (Bragonier). In regular readers there is a strong connection between the temporal lobe and the occipital lobe. When they read, they are able to see and understand the words and meaning (Denkla). Since, in dyslexia, there is a disconnection or damage from the occipital lobe and temporal lobe, they are unable to utilize this connection that is needed (Dencla 89). Therefore they rely more so on the, Brocca’s areas in the left frontal lobe of the cerebrum whereas strong readers rely more on areas toward the back of the brain. Since they are relying more on the right side of the brain, which is inefficient, it causes them to be slower readers (Bates).
When the reading process is introduced to students with dyslexia, it is important for educators to understand the difficulties exhibited and accommodate for them through the use of multisensory learning. In elementary school, teachers ease students into school through games, but, after that, students are taught how to read. Since dyslexia is the impairment of decoding, and part of reading is decoding and comprehending words, children with dyslexia begin to struggle compared to their peers. While these students fall behind, these students have a sense of failure because they are not on par with reading standards (Bragonier). Since schools are generally language based and text heavy, in order to accommodate for dyslexic students, Lesson plans [should be offered] through a variety of modalities [such as] video presentation audio presentation or a graphic or pictorial representation, which enables that dyslexic learner to access the information without having to stumble over text as that barrier (Bragonier). If material is not delivered in either a textile, auditory, or visual way, students will continue to compare themselves to classmates that are on par and their sense of failure will accumulate. Because of this, thirty five percent of students with dyslexia dropout of high school. 50% of all adolescents involved in drug and alcohol rehabilitation have dyslexia. And, seventy percent of all juvenile prison inmates have dyslexia. Because a large portion of students who have dyslexia do not complete primary education or are involved in illegal activities, it is clear that there is insufficient effort on behalf of educational administration and teachers to help support these students.
But, despite advocating for teachers and administrators to understand and accommodate for students with dyslexia, policy such as Individualized Education Plan (IEP) needs to be implemented to ensure the success of these students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states and school districts to develop and implement procedures to assure that all students with disabilities are properly evaluated (IDEA, § 1412, a, 2, 1997) by trained personnel (IDEA, § 1414, b, 2, 1997). If the student is eligible for special education, based on the evaluation procedure, the school district must create an Individualized Education Plan. Even though theoretically, this will benefit students, In Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley (1982), the Court held that the school district was not required to provide the interpreter [for a student with mild hearing impairments] even though the student might achieve at a higher level with those services (Butler and Silliman 300). Hendrick Hudson Central School District created policy to evaluate students. The parents of the student were not satisfied with the results of the evaluation and appealed it to a circuit court. The court explained that it was unnecessary to provide services even though it could possibly benefit the student. Even though this court case applies to a student with a hearing impairment, this still applies to students with dyslexia because both are disabilities that directly impact education. Because the administration was conservative in giving services to the student, the student is at risk of underachieving.
If administration created a more lenient policies regarding the eligibility for an IEP, the success rate of students would increase because the tools necessary would be accessible.
Even though the evaluation process, hypothetically, benefits students, sixty one percent, of classroom teachers say they are somewhat or not very confident in recommending that a child be evaluated for special education for learning issues (National Center for Learning Disabilities). If school districts created a policy that outlined how to recommend a student for an evaluation, teachers would not be as hesitant. But despite this, seventy percent, of classroom teachers in elementary school say a significant challenge they face is lack of resources needed to provide instruction, related services and support to children with learning and attention issues (National Center for Learning Disabilities). Elementary school teachers were interviewed because that is when students are diagnosed with learning disabilities. Even if the evaluation process is established, part of developing a better policy is to create resources which is critical in supporting students with dyslexia.
Even though students with dyslexia do struggle with reading, they exhibit strong talents. But, unfortunately, they are overshadowed by the stigma of dyslexia. Though understanding material through verbal or written communication is difficult, visually, students and adults with dyslexia thrive and are generally above the statistical norm (Rousseau). The arts, engineering, and architecture are all fields in which dyslexics can excel in because they are very visually oriented (Bragonier). Additionally, dyslexics make great entrepreneurs because of their curiosity, creativity, intuition and multidimensional perception (Rosseau). But in order for students with dyslexia to become successful, educators need to be informed with scientific research regarding dyslexia. This way, teachers can provide students with the necessary tools. But, students with dyslexia, as well as students with disabilities other than dyslexia, have to constantly fight administration to get their accommodations. The sad reality is that many students are not given accommodations which ultimately hinders their success academically but also their future success. It is a disservice to students with dyslexia to withhold and deny students proper accommodations. School districts need to create a more lenient evaluation processes to allow students to have access to the supports that will shape the students future.
If teachers do not tap into the potential of students with dyslexia, students may not even see their true abilities and ideas. If students cannot see this, they have a smaller likelihood of contributing to society through their ideas and talents. Since about fifteen percent of Americans have dyslexia (IDA), that is approximately forty nine million four hundred forty seven thousand eight hundred seventy one people with possible untapped potential. If they are unable to contribute to society due to a lack of educational support, our society, culture and government would suffer. For all we know, the next Albert Einstein may not come into existence because of a lack of support. Just imagine that.