We call them by many names. Learning differences. Learning difficulties. Learning disabilities. Reading disabilities. Learning disorders. Learning struggles. Learning challenges. Unique learning styles…
Regardless of what we call them, they do have a way of making the lives of young learners and their families rather miserable. Especially when it comes time to finding the right kind of help.
The right kind of help, you might naturally assume, would be found within our school system. Sometimes it is. For the most part, however, a massive roadblock prevents many schools from providing, or even knowing how to provide, the effective therapeutic intervention services that struggling learners often need.
To Say Dyslexia
Let me start by commending, no, by gushing over the efforts of grassroots organizations like Decoding Dyslexia and Say Dyslexia. Fed up with the fact that our schools typically don’t acknowledge dyslexia or that they even refuse to say the word at all, parents and advocates rallied together to do something about it. Something big.
In fact, take a look at all of the rapidly changing legislation in the world of dyslexia these days:
Progress! Passed Dyslexia Laws in the United States – 2016
The U.S. Department of Education even found itself spelling out specific guidelines for our educators and administrators, clearly stating that not only is it OKAY to say dyslexia, we really, really ought to.
The fact that we required explicit guidelines and new legislation at all breaks my heart. By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, I typically choose heartbreak over anger. When we’re talking about senseless injustice like educational neglect, that means I let my heart break… a lot!
To Not Say Dyslexia
I won’t tell you that I NEVER use the word dyslexia. I actually do. That is, when we’re talking about true dyslexia.
Researchers are still fine tuning what they know and what they don’t know about dyslexia. For a mostly up-to-date video explanation of this particular learning challenge, check out this short TedEd presentation.
The newly articulated Department of Ed. guidelines highlight a key point to anyone who might not have been aware before, that the “specific learning disability” within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does indeed refer to language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia, plus a whole host of additional challenges.
So now, if all goes according to plan, we SHOULD start to see better teacher training in our colleges of education. We SHOULD stop hearing teachers say, “I earned a master’s degree in education and yet I learned nothing about dyslexia.”
Yep. That was the sound of my heart breaking. Again.
Are We Still Missing Something?
Once upon a time dyslexia was thought of as an umbrella term that encompassed the majority of reading and learning challenges. That is no longer the case. Yet if we start “saying dyslexia” in a way that lumps all other learning differences along with it, we run the risk of ignoring the many other reasons children may struggle to learn.
At long last our teachers-in-training will begin to learn how to recognize, measure, and remediate dyslexia. That’s wonderful. But dyslexia is not the only learning difference out there.
If we label our new legislation “dyslexia legislation,” will it be all too easy to miss everything else, with the exception of dyslexia, once again?
Yes, the Department of Education guidelines do spell out the fact that children should be assessed for EVERYTHING they could possibly qualify for under IDEA. And yet, that was already true. Too many children still fell through the cracks.
Will children with auditory, visual, and sensory processing disorders all need their own advocacy groups, their own legislation and their own guidelines to get the proper attention and help that they require?
Will we make giant strides for some of our children only to neglect the others? Will teachers now learn all about dyslexia, but still have no idea how to help their other struggling learners?
So no, I do not often use the term dyslexia. This is not a website about dyslexia. It is about discovering and eliminating whatever may be causing your child difficulty with reading and learning.
Once again, my hat’s off to the parents and advocates who rolled up their sleeves, took action, and made things happen. It’s a terrific start. Please keep going!
I am beyond thrilled that we may finally spare our students the feelings of shame and humiliation that so often accompany difficulty with reading.
I am hopeful that our schools, parents and students alike will recognize that children DO NOT have to simply learn to accept a lifetime of struggle. That there is help. That there is hope.
That said, we’ve got plenty more work ahead of us. Are you in?