June 13, 2017

Gut Instincts: Parents are almost always right about their children’s reading struggles

Guest Blog by Dr. Lauren A. Katz, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Co-Director/Partner, Literacy, Language, and Learning Institute (3LI)
Learning Ally’s June 2017 Specialist of the Month

Dr Katz StandingI earned my M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. This program was and still is one-of-a-kind — they have always understood the obviously deep connections between oral and written language.

So, while I imagined I would become a speech-language pathologist, I didn’t expect that I would be conducting diagnostic assessments and providing therapy in the areas of reading and writing.

It was really this program and some wonderful professors who ignited my interest in dyslexia, and this passion was further fueled by my work as a speech-language pathologist at the Lab School of Washington. It was there that I had the great honor of working with and learning from bright and creative students with dyslexia.

I reached the point in my clinical work where I had more questions than answers, and this led me to pursue a Ph.D. During this time, I developed a deep interest and expertise in morphological awareness, and I spent many years conducting research in that area. Eventually, I decided to return to my clinical roots and work directly with children, adolescents, and adults with language-based learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

For me, the greatest reward occurs when I can tell and show a child who believes she is stupid that she isn’t, and when I can then see her face brighten as she smiles and then knows that she will succeed. I feel really good about what I do.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading struggles – Do not ignore this concern. Parents are almost always right about their children’s struggles. Pursue a good diagnostic assessment, and do not wait. If the school will not provide an assessment or wants to wait and see, seek a private assessment.

If the assessment shows that your child is in need of intervention, make sure that the intervention is evidence-based. For dyslexia, structured literacy approaches are key, and intervention should be frequent and intensive. And, for parents trying to navigate the world of dyslexia, Learning Ally, the DyslexiaHelp website, and Sally Shaywitz’s book, Overcoming Dyslexia, are all excellent resources.

I tell parents that in addition to good intervention, it is critical that their children be able to access text that is at or above their grade level.

Sitting at ComputerChildren with dyslexia are at risk for the Matthew Effect (Stanovich, 1986) – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Children who struggle with reading, read less than children who don’t struggle because it’s hard for them to be successful with it and because when something is hard, you don’t do it much. When you read less than your peers, your learning suffers. However, it doesn’t have to when you can “read with your ears” or listen to text. I recommend Learning Ally to all of my clients who struggle with reading.

While audiobooks should never take the place of learning to read, audiobooks ensure continued exposure to grade-level vocabulary, complex syntactic and literate language forms, and information about the world.

Learning Ally LogoLearning Ally is a leading ed-tech nonprofit organization proven to transform the lives of struggling readers with learning differences. Not a member yet? Try a quick start package for your school or an individual membership, and then sign up for our Summer Reading Together – a free summer reading program for Learning Ally member schools and families.

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– Jules Johnson


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