5 things a 12-year-old wants you to know about dyslexia

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My 12-year-old daughter has a pretty kick-ass attitude about dyslexia. It’s more of a footnote¹ to her life, rather than something that defines or limits her.

Her success is a testament to her hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity–not caused by her learning differences, but by the lack of understanding and support she experienced early on at school. In particular, how the “wait and see” approach (also known as the “failure model“) made school harder than it needed to be for her in the long run.

Given her experience with the education system, what would she like you to know?


5 things a 12-year-old wants you to know about dyslexia:

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Can you see me?

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Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the UN reports that:

“Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them (like information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation) and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives. These obstacles can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes

Dyslexia is the most common of all learning disabilities, affecting an estimated 15% of the population worldwide. It is considered an “invisible” disability, because you can’t see it (though if you know the signs, you can’t miss it!).

Many people with dyslexia don’t like the word “disability” and prefer it to be described as “learning difference.” However, you need psychologist to diagnosis a learning disability  in order to qualify for accommodations or support at school or work.

What barriers do people with dyslexia face?

1. Lack of educational support or awareness – Many schools don’t understand or recognize dyslexia; they don’t identify or provide accommodations, interventions and support to children with dyslexia (and worse – penalize and punish our children).

2. Financial costs – Without school services, parents must pay for a psychological assessments to get a diagnosis; then they must hire private tutors to teaching reading and math; and then there may be the need to hire occupational therapists, psychologists, etc. This continues into adulthood.

3. Lack of support and awareness at work – Many employers don’t understand or recognize dyslexia; they don’t provide accommodations for employees with dyslexia; although it’s considered discrimination in Canada, they may even refuse to hire a person with dyslexia.

4. Lack of support and awareness in healthcare, public services and business – It’s hard to find dyslexia-friendly information or services, such as receiving written information in alternate formats, accessible websites, accommodations for language training at work, or mental health care that recognizes the dyslexia-anxiety connection.

5. Lack of awareness and prejudice in society – Deeply entrenched societal attitudes based on ignorance and fear stigmatize and create shame for children and adults with dyslexia. The word “stupid” is a scar carried for life by even the most successful dyslexic.

What is the impact of these barriers?

Dyslexia in and of itself need not be a barrier to success.

However, structural barriers and discrimination do prevent us from achieving our full potential as human beings. According to Dyslexia International:

“Without identification and effective intervention, the impact of dyslexia can be significant and long-lasting not only for the individual, but for society at large.

The long-term effects of dyslexia on young adults include school failure, depression, increased risk of suicide, delinquency and reoffending.

Without adequate literacy skills to read signs, fill in forms or write emails, social integration is beyond the reach of young people with dyslexia who have no choice but to remain dependent on society.

Surveys show that among the high percentage of illiterate people in prison, a disproportionate number will have dyslexia.”

Literacy is a basic human right. It’s not OK to teach some children to read. We need to teach all children to read, write and work with numbers – and that means recognizing that children (and adults) learn and think differently.

Doing so would change the world.

“On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us remove physical and cultural barriers, build resilient societies and create opportunities that truly leave no one behind.” ~United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities

More information

On November 9,  2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that:

“…adequate special education, therefore, is not a dispensable luxury. For those with severe learning disabilities, it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children…”.

 

Telling our own story/ies

“We deserve a chance…not to be defined by what we struggle with and what we are not, but to be seen as whole people with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. We deserve a chance to add to the narrative on dyslexia that historically had been dominated by (albeit well meaning) non-dyslexics.”

Sarah Fearn, editor’s preface, everything is spherical (2014)

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I sense a change is coming. Our voices are getting louder. Whether it’s on social media or through storytelling or advocacy work, people with dyslexia want/need to tell their own stories.

This is no small thing.

This is an act of bravery, even defiance, in a world that presumes to tell us who we are and how we feel; that we are broken, where we are broken, and how we can (or can’t) be “fixed.” This comes from the strangest places. Not just from the trolls, but even the people who aim to help. So many labels, but very little real understanding.

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Break the code with reading expert Nancy Young (Part 1)

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“…the alphabetic code is a secret to many people (including many educators), and … not knowing this code prevents many children from learning to read and spell proficiently.” ~Nancy Young, educator and author

I have spent most of my life wondering how to break the code.

I learned to read and spell by memorizing words and just plain old guessing. It was hit and miss, try and try again. Today I’m a good reader, and I work with words for a living, but I still don’t come by it naturally.

Two years ago, my daughter started a structured literacy reading program (Orton Gillingham-based). I heard words like “phenomes” and “sounds and symbols.” I saw her learn how to decode words in a systematic way — not by guessing.

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Book review: Secret Code Actions™ – Parent Edition

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When my copy of Secret Code Actions™ — Parent Edition arrived, it barely fit into my mail box. That’s a good thing. At 370 pages, it’s wonderful weightiness is matched by the depth and breadth of its content — it is the ultimate guide to understanding and deciphering the English alphabetic “code.”

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How i didn’t learn to read

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I’m a child and this is how I learnt to read or you could say how I didn’t.

When you think about giftedness you think that reading would be like a first sense, but it’s not. I didn’t learn the way the school teaches, here’s the summary:

Teacher: “Here kids this is how to pronounce the alphabet, now go read.”

Me (in my head): “teacher, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, that was so vague TEACH ME!”

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Photo essay: Understanding dyslexia—the first Canadian conference

More than 200 parents, students, educators and advocates attended the first Canadian dyslexia conference on Nov. 12, 2016 in Toronto. If you missed it, here’s a chance to see what the day looked like:

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Annette Sang, a founding member of of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario and Elaine Keenan, president of the Ontario Branch – International Dyslexia Association, set the tone for the day with a powerful opening statement: “It’s a human right to learn to read.”

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