When a child with dyslexia is reading a class assignment, comprehending the words on the page can be difficult.
For that student, reading homework, copying an assignment from the classroom white board or scribbling down notes during a lecture takes him longer than the average student.
To better understand how a dyslexic child thinks every single day in the classroom, a group of teachers went through a dyslexia simulation last week.
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Having teachers go through that training is the next step parents are pushing for after State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, authored a bill earlier this year that defines dyslexia as a neurological disorder and calls for teacher training to recognize the signs of dyslexia in students.
When a student has dyslexia, it is considered a specific learning disability, said Tracy Powell, a volunteer for the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. Dyslexic students can often mix up letters, have difficulty writing sentences and read at a slow pace.
Parents want more teachers to learn the signs of dyslexia and bring new techniques to the classroom, such as writing sentences in different colors so that it’s easier for dyslexic students to keep their place when reading or copying an assignment.
Powell has been traveling throughout central Indiana to speak with teachers and parents about what help can be given to students with dyslexia. Her simulation gives a glimpse of what a dyslexic student goes through on a daily basis. Students can get easily frustrated, have to concentrate harder than others and need more time to understand or comprehend an assignment.
Kim Neely, a parent and Greenwood Community High School instructional assistant, asked Powell to speak to Greenwood teachers so that they can understand how her dyslexic son feels in a classroom, she said.
During the simulation, Northeast Elementary and Greenwood Middle School teachers were given pages of a book with symbols in place of letters to show how much more effort is needed to read with dyslexia. The teachers were asked to read the book aloud, even though the words on the page looked like a jumble of made-up words and symbols they had never seen before.
Powell told the teachers to “Just keep trying!” “Concentrate harder!” and “Say the words!” to show how encouragement can make dyslexic students upset or frustrated.
Once they got through the 10-page book, Powell asked the class questions about the story they had just read. Because of the extra concentration needed to decode what the symbols represented in the text, they couldn’t remember what had happened in the story.
For Northeast Elementary Title 1 teacher Ann Price, the lesson resonated with her. She now watches how she encourage her students, she said.
Instead of saying, “concentrate more,” she will use more uplifting phrases or give her students more time to work on an assignment. She also will look for signs of dyslexia when students are younger, instead of waiting until second- or third-grade, she said.
“We loved it,” Price said. “Now we want the next step. We want to know how we can accommodate those students.”