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- Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
Statistically, one in every ten students has some kind of a Learning Disability, official or undiscovered. Some say that the growing number of people with Learning Disabilities is the echo of high technologies of the 21st century. Others just shake their heads - don't create additional problems, guys! Are Learing Disabilities a myth, an illness or a sign of changes that happen in our students as the world rapidly changes around them? As teachers, we must be aware of different kinds of Learning Disabilities. We should know the way to overcome LD students' difficulties on their way to success.
Dyslexia is the most common nickname for a variety of learning disabilities among children. When people don't know which disability they deal with, they call it "dyslexia". So, what is the correct definition of dyslexia?
As the Medical Dictionary definition reads, dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. To add a spoon of honey, kids with dyslexia are usually very bright children, intelligent and creative, with lots of energy, high IQ and ability to think "out of the box".
What Can a Teacher do to Help Children with Dyslexia?
First of all, it is very important to recognize those children who have dyslexia as a learning disability in the class. The faster a teacher recognizes those children, the better it will be for both. Dyslexia usually becomes visible at school, mostly at the language lessons, where a kid must use his reading skills with new, unknown words. Reading foreign language has a lot of decoding, which is very hard for dyslexic kids. So, foreign language teacher is among the first ones to spot specific difficulties of a dyslexic kid in the class. Those difficulties can point at dyslexia as a learning disability. Here are some of the signs that may help to recognize dyslexia:
- A child mixes up letters in the words, or word order in a sentence. For example, he writes "docrot" instead of "doctor".
- He tries to avoid reading and writing as he knows he may not succeed, this may cause to behavior problems in the class.
- He seems to forget even the simple words that he has read, doesn't remember the correct spelling of the word even after few repetitions.
- A kid complains that he doesn't see very well, although he doesn't have any vision problems.
- In general, reading may even cause psychosomatic reactions such as headache or stomach ache.
As a teacher, you should always keep in mind that for a child being different and experiencing failures at school is usually unpleasant and traumatic, so be very careful with labeling the kid as "dyslexic". It is always better to refer it as "specific difficulties in reading", at least until you have dyslexia officially diagnosed.
Try to pass the information to the kid's hometeacher - tell about your observations, give examples of difficulties during the lesson, it is also very important to describe the student's behavior in the class. School's social worker, counsellor or psychologyst may be the next address. Remember that you are a member of a professional team whose aim is to help the kid in the learning process and to protect him from any emotional and psychological damage at the same time.
The next step should be made by the hometeacher and/or school counsellor - that is, informing parents about the signs of the learning disability the kid has. As a professional subject teacher, you could also talk to the parents to explain the difficulties their child is experiencing during your lessons. Another way to contact parents is to pass your phone number or email address via hometeacher. Thus, parents will decide whether they need your opinion on the subject or not.
Now, when the parents are informed and guided by the school counsellor, they will decide whether they should send the child to the diagnostic dyslexia test for this learning disability. The result of this test will show if the kid has dyslexia. At school, having a confirmed dyslexia diagnosis can make a kid's learning process easier and more fitted to his special needs. Benefits may include extended time for tests, ignoring certain types of mistakes, additional teaching aid, tutoring and free individual lessons. And, the most important, improved self esteem and motivation for studying.