Where do you stand on dyslexia?

1-7 October 2018 is Dyslexia Awareness Week and we are on a mission to put dyslexia on the CPD agenda for international schools teachers!

In 2018 the first week of October is dedicated to raising awareness of dyslexia, with the Thursday 4th October as the official World Dyslexia Day. The dyslexic hall of fame includes Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, and many others, proving that being dyslexic should not stop you from pursuing and achieving your dreams. This week we are starting a series of articles about dyslexia, to share knowledge, provide insights and practical tools for teachers.

Dyslexia has an effect not only on literacy skills in students' first language, but also on foreign language learning. In order to ensure that dyslexic students successfully acquire necessary levels of foreign language competence, they need additional support. Given that between 80-90% of students in international schools are L2 speakers of English, educating teachers about dyslexia should be a priority item on the CPD agenda.

Misconceptions about dyslexia are still rife, both among the general public, the educators, or even dyslexia sufferers themselves. One of the common myths says that it is more frequent among boys than girls. The fact is, the prevalence of the difficulty is similar among boys and girls, but boys are more often identified as having dyslexia. Girls remain unidentified because they develop successful coping strategies.

The most easily noticeable signs of dyslexia are difficulties with reading and spelling (this could be due to reduced ability to segment spoken words into sounds and then converting sounds into letters, and the other way round). But the problems with literacy can also be accompanied by poor concentration, reduced working memory capacity, short attention span or poor fine and gross motor skills, apparent for example in hard-to-read handwriting.

More damaging – and more lasting - than the potential impact on students’ academic achievement, is the negative effect dyslexia can have on their self-esteem and confidence. Falling behind in reading from early years of school, they start believing the self-fulfilling prophecy of being “slow” or “not academic”.

What works for dyslexic students, works for all students.

Joanna Nijakowska, Associate Professor in the Department of Pragmatics, Institute of English Studies, University of Łódź, Poland, and a specialist on dyslexia and language learning, points out that teachers can make a number of accommodations, e.g. within the mode of instruction, classroom management, or special conditions during exams (such as additional time) to help students overcome their difficulties. Such solutions create a level playing field for dyslexic students and give them an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge without lowering expectations around their performance.

In everyday teaching practice, you can use these simple yet effective methods, which will benefit the whole class, not just the dyslexic students:
  • Provide frequent repetition and revision material
  • Set achievable goals
  • Use step-by-step instructions
  • Allow oral instead of written performance
  • Provide training in learning strategies
  • Praise effort and achievement frequently, but only when deserved

Where do you stand on dyslexia?
Do you feel ready to test your own assumptions and perceptions about dyslexia? Try to answer the questions in this short survey. Invite your colleagues to do the same and compare notes. Did anything surprise you?
 
The Dyslexia Perceptions Survey
1. Do you agree with the statement that dyslexia is more frequent among boys than girls?
Yes No I do not know
2. Do you agree with the statement that dyslexia is caused by visual perception problems?
Yes No I do not know
3. Do you agree with the statement that children can grow out of dyslexia?
Yes No I do not know
4. Do you agree with the statement that people with dyslexia always have serious difficulties in reading?
Yes No I do not know
5. Do you agree with the statement that dyslexia can be inherited?
Yes No I do not know
6. Do you agree with the statement that dyslexia is more frequent among those who are socially disadvantaged?
Yes No I do not know
 
Do you want to learn more?
The Dyslexia Perception Survey comes from DysTEFL 2 - Dyslexia for teachers of English as a foreign language, an award-winning teacher development project and course, funded by the European Union, and bringing together academics and practitioners from 8 European countries. The course is available online for free, and is accompanied by trainer and trainee notes and materials for face-to-face delivery.
 
References:
Nijakowska, J., Kormos, J., Hanusova, S., Jaroszewicz, B., Kálmos, B., Imrene Sarkadi, A., Smith, A. M., Szymańska-Czaplak, E., Vojtkova, N., Alexiou, T., Košak Babuder, M., Mattheoudakis, M., Pižorn, K. (2016). DysTEFL2 – Dyslexia for teachers of English as a foreign language. Łódź: Department of Pragmatics, University of Łódź.