Is Dyslexia Hiding in your Classroom?
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September 10, 2019

Is Dyslexia Hiding in your Classroom?

by Lynden Punnett Dip.SpLD Dyslexia

A new school year is around the corner. Many teachers will now be welcoming new students to their classrooms. Each student will present some form of a learning deficit be it however small. We all learn in different ways and this is essential for both teachers and parents to understand. One size does not fit all.

Few teachers are trained in what dyslexia looks like in the classroom. If primary teachers do look for it, they tend to look for reversed letters or numbers. By the time students reach grade three or four, teachers have typically stopped looking for warning signs of dyslexia. By this time, children are often really good at hiding their dyslexia, making it even tougher to spot. A difficulty in reading and spelling can be hidden to a certain extent in Primary school however by the time the student reaches the Secondary level his deficiencies are magnified and he could be labelled as a slow learner or having a low IQ. Not the case with Dyslexic students.

The British Dyslexia Association defines Dyslexia as “A learning difference that primarily affects reading, writing and skills.” However it doesn’t only affect these skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing. Dyslexic people may have difficulty in processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact on other areas such as organizational skills.

It is important to remember that there are positives to thinking differently. Many dyslexic people show strengths in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields. Older students living with undiagnosed dyslexia deal with physical struggles like headaches, vision problems, and exhaustion. They also deal in large part with emotional challenges like embarrassment, anxiety, and wanting to disappear. Learning to identify warning signs of dyslexia in a grade 3 –Form 2 student is an ability that can literally save lives.

Here are some warning signs you won’t want to miss. A student with dyslexia:

  • Exhibits frustration; Expresses a dislike for reading; Has no motivation for school
  • Lacks confidence within peer group; Struggles to identify or produce words that rhyme
  • Has trouble rapidly naming people and objects; Tends to guess at words
  • Is slow to learn background knowledge; Shows problems copying or taking notes
  • Has a poor ability to correct written work; Has difficulty understanding what was read
  • Shows problems with math word problems; Uses vocabulary words incorrectly

Personality types that could be hiding dyslexia

Identifying only one of these above challenges in a grade 3 to Form 2 student may not be a reason to suspect dyslexia, but more than one cue in the same student is cause to take notice. Finding a student with dyslexia can be easier when you know the disguises to look for.

The following personality types may hide dyslexia:

  1. The Bully picks on students who either cannot or will not defend themselves. Bullies often lack confidence, so they may be students hiding dyslexia.
  2. The Class Clown appears to love attention and makes it a goal to get laughs, but they may be hiding fear behind those laughs, fear that someone will discover their reading secret.
  3. The Pot Stirrer creates drama without being in the centre of attention, so that you’ll focus on someone else.
  4. The Silent One is shy and/or withdrawn. This student is never in trouble, but rarely participates in classroom discussions. This student will also avoid conflict and stay clear of all drama. It can be tough for a teacher to gauge how much these students are learning.
  5. The Smart Aleck is extremely sarcastic, argumentative, and confrontational. This strategy is just as effective as the Pot Stirrer because the attention is not focused on academic tasks.
  6. The Socialite talks around any topic and with anyone in the room. This hiding strategy often masks the fear of being asked to read.
  7. The Unmotivated/Unorganized One is typically labelled lazy. This student appears to lack the internal drive to succeed academically, but is often completely overwhelmed.
  8. The Child who is Really Smart with strong site words, strong IQ but the “wheels fall off the bus” when reading expectations greatly increase.

How to help students with dyslexia

Once you’ve found these hidden students with dyslexia, what can you do to help them?

i  Difficulty with automaticity makes connecting to new information very difficult. A multisensory approach helps students in grades 3-Form 2 move past anxiety and into memory building. Connecting prior knowledge to new learning can build compensating memory skills.

i  When students in grades 3-Form 2 need content to learn new information, don’t let them struggle with the mechanics of reading. It holds them back from accessing information at the same speed and affects their comprehension. Human read audio books provide high quality access so that the mechanics of reading doesn’t hold them back from reaching their academic potential.

  • Visual processing issues occur when the brain processes differently. These challenges can be helped through specific brain-training activities. Matching games, puzzles, and even simple “I Spy” games can be helpful to train the brain to process more quickly.
  • Dyslexics may also have difficulty remembering the order of events. This means that it might take the student longer to explain what happened and it may appear as if the student is lying. More often than not, dyslexic students feel misunderstood and hopeless about school situations. Inviting these students into a group where they can feel a sense of belonging is a great place to start.
  • Give students with dyslexia the gift of time. The more time they have to develop coping strategies without stress, the better they will deal in the long term. The more you learn about what to look for in identifying dyslexia in older children, the more you can help them.

Ask the average person on the street what dyslexia is, and you will get a plethora of incorrect and absurd responses. So take a moment to read the following sentence:

The bottob line it thit it doet exitt, no bitter whit nibe teotle give it (i.e. ttecific leirning ditibility, etc). In fict, iccording to Tilly Thiywitz (2003) itttrevilence it ictuilly one in five children, which it twenty tercent.

How was that? Frustrating? Slow? What were those two sentences about? Don’t know? Why not? Did your difficulty understanding that sentence have anything to do with your intelligence? You now have the power to help a child with dyslexia who experiences this frustration every time they read.