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What to do about dyslexia? Maintain two column mindset

Categories: Assistive Technology, General, Learning Disabilities

Richard Selznick, PH. DRichard Selznick, PH.D, Director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Health System, and author shares an excerpt from his fourth book "What to do about dyslexia? 25 essential points for parents" explaining why you should have a two column mindset.


What to do about dyslexia?Parents usually want guidance in helping their child overcome their difficulties, and they also often want to rush into things and hurry it along. But as we've discussed, hurrying rarely helps.

Fortunately, there's a way you can think about your child's dyslexia that will help you reduce the urge to rush and will manage any feelings of helplessness on her behalf. When I review assessment findings with parents, I frequently find myself in front of the white board mapping out different ideas and concepts. One of my favorite things to show parents is the notion of a two-column mindset when thinking about what can be done with their dyslexic child.
 

The two columns are:
Interventions Accommodations
(or ways around the problem)

I call this a mindset rather than just a chart because I see these two columns as the things you should start thinking about once you understand the nature of your child 's learning disability. These two categories, interventions and accommodations, should always be in the back of your mind – and occasionally brought to the foreground - as she progresses in school.

If your child is on any medication, such as Adderall or Concerta, then these medications are also interventions. Mind you, I'm not saying that all dyslexic children need all of these interventions. Each child needs to be considered on an individual basis. For some kids, the only intervention, and the only item in that left-hand column of the chart above, will be tutoring, while another child may be getting half a dozen therapies.

The same goes for the right-hand side of the chart, the "accommodations" column. To fill out the "accommodations" column, write down anything that you, your child's teacher, school, or tutor may be doing to help him around the problem.

Keep in mind that some of these may be done informally and may not be drawn up in a 504 plan or an IEP. You may have started many of these accommodations a long time ago, before your child even started remediation.

Examples of accommodations include:
 

  • Previewing words with your child prior to reading.
  • Reading material that you know will be difficult out loud to your child.
  • Using Assistive Technology (AT) and having chapter books read aloud on something like Learning Ally.
  • In the classroom, making sure directions are repeated and your child receives help getting oriented to the task.
  • Providing extra time if that is helpful.
  • Offering note taking assistance.
  • Allowing children to take photos of notes rather than copying notes by hand.
  • Not penalizing for spelling.

 

In my experience, parents tend to over-focus on the Ieft hand column, the interventions, often forgetting how important it is to implement and maintain accommodations. I've observed that as the child gets older (i.e., twelve years and up), it becomes increasingly necessary to keep accommodations front and center. Accommodations and workarounds help empower your child to take increasingly greater responsibility for his own learning, given his learning style and needs.

One example of this is a boy named Mitchell, who had severe learning disabilities and whom I worked with for many years. As Mitchell entered high school, he increasingly embraced a range of AT tools that helped him feel that he was taking charge of his learning in ways that he otherwise couldn't.

As Mitchell explained to me, "At the end of class I wait for everyone to go out and then I take out my phone and take a photo of anything on the board. For any extensive reading, I see if it's on Learning Ally, and if it's not, then I have the material scanned and it's read to me through Kurzweill 3000. I also am getting better at using Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate my ideas for writing. Nothing's perfect, but it certainly is a lot better than not using it."

Takeaway Point

Always maintain a two-column mindset when your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability such as dyslexia. As she gets older, the accommodations on the right side of the chart play an increasing role in her academic performance and everyday life.


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