Understanding the Dyslexia Mindset

NOTE: I will lead a semi-live session at Promising Practices 2024 on this same topic and go much deeper. If you have not registered, then please do so to attend this award-winning conference: Promising Practices. The theme this year is “Limitless! Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning.”

What is Dyslexia?
This term is used rather frequently but is often misunderstood as people only associate dyslexia with the inversion of letters. For a more academic definition, the National Institutes of Health (2023) defines Dyslexia as a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. 

According to Petscher et al., (2018), “Dyslexia is an often misunderstood diagnosis that leads to anxiety in students, parents, and teachers. Many misconceptions exist about dyslexia and the potential for students with dyslexia to be academically successful. The reality is that with simple, yet effective, teaching strategies and appropriate accommodations, any student with dyslexia can achieve.”

With that understanding as foundational, we, as educators, can refer to the concept of having a Dyslexia Mindset to emphasize the strengths, unique talents, potential, and creativity that students with dyslexia. We need to shift away from viewing dyslexia solely as a learning disability or a set of challenges.

Equity in Education for Dyslexia Students
Promoting equity in education for all students is important; however, this blog will focus specifically on students with dyslexia. These students can be supported on any educational level, and we will list several ideas for how teachers and school leaders can promote equity for students with dyslexia.

Administrators who support equity in education for students with dyslexia do the following:

  • Ensure early identification and intervention by implementing screening programs at an early age 
  • Create campus schedules that honor and support Dyslexia Instruction 
  • Provide targeted interventions and support services for students
  • Offer training and professional development opportunities for teachers
  • Provide accessible resources (audiobooks, digital texts, spell check, and word prediction software) 
  • Develop a culture that provides teachers with the freedom and flexibility to explore various instructional methods that are evidence-based to enhance learning for students with dyslexia.

Teachers can foster an inclusive and equitable school culture by:

  • Valuing and celebrating differences in the way students’ brains work
  • Providing resources and support for families of students with dyslexia by establishing and maintaining open communication between parents, teachers, and school administrators
  • Utilizing multisensory instructional strategies that engage multiple senses, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, to enhance learning for students with dyslexia. NOTE: I will have a full handout on these strategies at my Promising Practices session, so please attend!

Looking Forward
Knowing that teachers need specific strategies, here are a few ideas and accommodations that can be implemented into everyday practice:

  1. Verbal, visual, and hands-on learning strategies
  2. Mind maps and graphic organizers
  3. Highlighting features
  4. Magnification tools for key concepts (Larger font sizes >12)
  5. Vocabulary list of keywords
  6. Isolating text within a larger block of print
  7. Explain the “why” (big-picture thinkers)
  8. Clarify and simplify instructions
  9. Provide additional practice and audio recordings
  10. Provide overview of the lesson with lesson notes
  11. For virtual teachers, here is a specific resource to help you support students in the online space: Strategies

Overall, through the use of consistent communication with students, parents, administrators, each of these innovative strategies foster great opportunities for reform, innovation, and growth within our classrooms. Actively gathering feedback from students with dyslexia to then analyze their progress and make active adjustments, is an efficient and effective way to ensure the sustainment of a supportive and inclusive virtual learning environment. 

Remember, supporting students with dyslexia requires no additional degrees or new certifications at all! It simply requires you to have a willing and creative mindset to do what is necessary to ensure an equitable and quality learning experience for all students!  

Conclusion: Real Life Experiences
As we close, I want to leave you with two, specific thoughts – one from a teacher and one from a parent. As you read them, think about how they can help shape your ideas in working with students in your classrooms who have dyslexia.

  1. Teacher providing direct instruction to students with dyslexia – “When it comes to students with dyslexia, the quote that I align my educational philosophy with is that every child can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way, therefore, providing appropriate resources to enhance a learning experience is crucial. As a teaching method, what I believe is the foundation to increase effectiveness in the learning process, is proper organization, empathy, adaptability, and innovation.”
  2. Parent of a student with dyslexia – “Having an open line of communication with my son’s teachers has allowed our family the ability to collaborate with the teachers, which has fostered opportunities of maximized brainstorming to ensure that my son is not only heard, but also supported.”

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