Dyslexia Awareness Month: The Importance of Recognizing Dyslexia Early in the Classroom & Instruction Methods

how educators recognize and teach dyslexic students

October is Dyslexia awareness month! People with dyslexia are often intelligent, creative and highly motivated to learn but they can become frustrated or lose interest if not provided with the tools to succeed in reading, writing, mathematics and more. That is why awareness is important — so teachers, parents and other mentors can understand the unique markers that might help a child receive a diagnosis early and provide helpful support that can lead to truly extraordinary outcomes.

In an article for Pittsburgh Business Times Special Education professor and Department Chair at Carlow University Dr. Keely Baronak explains that understanding dyslexia is important for classroom teachers, special education teachers, and parents. “What’s often lacking are better approaches to diagnoses, earlier intervention for these learners, and ensuring general and special educators are trained to know how to address dyslexia and teach in a way to support students with language-based learning disabilities.

The Dyslexia Resource describes dyslexia as “a language-based learning difference” that “affects the organization in the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read or spelled.” Dyslexia is not a sign of less intelligence or motivation, in fact, many dyslexic learners are above-average intelligence and have learned to work very hard to overcome this difficulty. “Dyslexia can also manifest in difficulties with working memory, attention and organization.” 

Recognizing Dyslexia & Early Intervention

Teachers and parents can have a significant impact on a student’s classroom success by recognizing the signs of dyslexia as children develop and learn. 

The Dyslexia Center and Learning Lab at Carlow’s Campus Laboratory School, which employs the techniques needed for early intervention of dyslexia diagnoses, can make a crucial difference in closing learning gaps and helping students become confident. “Our school actively strives to ensure all students receive the diagnostic, structured and multimodal education they need to be successful readers,” Sarah Sora, director of Center said in the Pittsburgh Business Times article. 

The International Dyslexia Association explains that some specific signs of dyslexia for elementary-aged children may include: 

  • Difficulty with remembering simple sequences such as counting to 20, naming the days of the week or reciting the alphabet
  • Difficulty understanding the rhyming of words, such as knowing that fat rhymes with cat 
  • Trouble recognizing words that begin with the same sound (for example, that bird, baby”, and big all start with b) 
  • Pronunciation difficulties

The dyslexia awareness organization Made by Dyslexia encourages all teachers to take “a day for dyslexia” and spend the day working through several important trainings, including how to spot dyslexia and how to best support it in a general education setting.

Teaching Students with Dyslexia

“Every brain develops the ability to read through the same neural pathways. Neurotypically, budding readers will develop these pathways a lot quicker and more efficiently than others. But in children with dyslexia, this process is disrupted. Through intensive and pinpointed instruction, children can overcome this. But it requires a deliberate effort,” said Dr. Baronak.

Understanding dyslexia is important for all teachers because specific teaching tools have shown to help learners with dyslexia find great success in school and future – often challenging – careers. But curricula must be “specifically designed for students with dyslexia.” 

Successful dyslexia education programs are often multisensory, systematic and specific language-based reading programs, utilizing a “structured literacy approach,” which according to the Dyslexia Resource, means “all teaching is systematic and cumulative, which means dyslexic students can depend on the materials being presented in a logical order from the most basic concepts to more difficult ideas.”

The National Council for Special Education describes how “pupils with dyslexia learn effectively when information comes in through many sensory channels simultaneously. This is often referred to as multisensory instruction,” which combines listening, speaking, reading and writing in a way that links the visual, auditory, movement and touch senses.  

Carlow education students interested in helping students with dyslexia learn have a couple of pathways to get there, including the Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction: Dyslexic teaching. This graduate-level teaching track can be finished in one or two years, and includes coursework understanding dyslexia, phonological awareness and learning to develop curricula that can help students with dyslexia learn skills and mechanisms for language.  Additionally, Carlow’s graduate certificate program in dyslexia teaching provides four courses aligned to the International Dyslexia Association standards for educators and teachers of reading. These include phonological awareness, structured literacy, diagnostic assessments and multisensory teaching methods.

If you would like to learn more about dyslexia, the International Dyslexia Association provides an expansive digital free library of digital tools and community resources.