It is estimated that Dyslexia and other language-based learning differences affect as many as one in five students in Delaware. Until now, most families, parents and students have been left to navigate the school experience without consistent help. Seeing an opportunity and a need, I decided to form a Delaware chapter of an organization that is actually quite new — Decoding Dyslexia.
With a national movement that began in New Jersey only two years ago, Decoding Dyslexia has been embraced by 39 states, and now Delaware will proudly join this effort. Decoding Dyslexia Delaware will hold our first official meeting in Wilmington on October 29.
Discovering that your child may have Dyslexia
Delaware parents of dyslexics know that they need to become advocates for their children in order to secure the best educational opportunities for them. This is often difficult to do because many times dyslexic students have above-average vocabularies and do not appear at first glance to require any assistance. Often they are described as lazy or unmotivated. Parents may be told that such children just need time to mature in order to become better readers. Valuable time is often lost due to such advice. In reality, specific instruction is required for dyslexics to become better readers. Without such instruction by teachers trained in these methods, school becomes an unfriendly and hostile place for the dyslexic child. Many feel isolated and ashamed.
Problems are usually very clear to parents by the end of third grade, when students typically stop “learning to read” and begin to “read to learn.” At this time, students who cannot pull words off the page as fast as their peers miss opportunities to learn new things in subject areas like Social Studies, Science and even Math. Often, self-esteem suffers greatly during this time as students label themselves as “dumb” or “slow.” Adults and children alike often believe that people who read with automaticity and expression are “smarter” than those who do not. Dyslexia can be a downward spiral, affecting the educational, social and emotional life of a child. Parents can see a problem, but often do not know what to do. Decoding Dyslexia Delaware aims to offer guidance and information to support these families.
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding difficulties. These deficits typically result from a deficit in the phonological components of language that is usually unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experiences that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (Adopted by International Dyslexia Association’s Board of Directors 11/12/12)
On a positive note, Decoding Dyslexia Delaware wishes to promote the many positive aspects of dyslexia. For example, dyslexics are often very creative and entrepreneurial. They are highly curious and can see the big picture when others cannot. In fact, once dyslexics students manage to progress beyond the demands of the classroom, they are free to become successful adults. Many successful dyslexics such as Sir Richard Branson, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison had difficulties in school and found success once they put their school experiences behind them. The key here is not letting the educational system dampen their spirit. Dyslexic students are as intelligent as anyone else and can help make the classroom a vibrant place for everyone if allowed to access their talents. Teachers need to be taught how to encourage such access.
Organization to advocate more extensive teacher training
And more and more people are talking about dyslexia, helping dispel myths and develop a more informed public. Celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, Anderson Cooper and Kiera Knightley are speaking out and describing their own experiences. Here in Delaware, we are proud to have formed our own support organization. Delaware officially became the 36th state to join the Decoding Dyslexia movement. Decoding Dyslexia Delaware would like to press for State-mandated comprehensive dyslexia testing before third grade and that schools be required to offer specifically designed instruction delivered with fidelity by teachers certified in teaching methods proven to be successful with dyslexic students such as Orton-Gillingham and Wilson. We would also like to celebrate the dedicated educators in Delaware who already use these methods and advocate for the dyslexic students they teach. We want to work with these educators to press for more extensive teacher training in the area of dyslexia so that all Delaware students will have access to these methods if they need them. We aim to have a forum where parents and anyone interested in learning more about dyslexia can meet to talk about ways to start conversations about what our Delaware schools currently provide for dyslexic students and how schools can work to move forward.
DD:DE will hold an initial meeting at 9:30am on Tuesday, October 29th at BrewHaHa on Concord Pike in Wilmington. Those who are interested but cannot attend are encouraged to “like” our Facebook page for updates on future meetings and events.