Do you or someone you know have difficulty organizing thoughts in writing or speaking, learning letters and their sounds, memorizing number facts, spelling, reading, or correctly doing math operations? Do you have problems remembering specific names of people, places or things? Would you rather memorize than read or write something? These are possible signs of dyslexia.
Gov. Barbour has declared October Dyslexia Awareness Month in Mississippi to help bring attention to the many children and adults that live with this disorder. As many as one in seven people may have characteristics of dyslexia. Yet, many people are unaware they are dealing with dyslexia. Dyslexia is not due to a lack of effort or intelligence.
In fact, some of the most talented people have been challenged with dyslexia including Thomas Edison, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg and John F. Kennedy. Scientists are not completely certain what causes dyslexia, but they do know that there are differences in how the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and works. How dyslexia impacts people varies widely. The impact of dyslexia is small and easily tackled for some individuals while for others the impact is big and requires a lot of work to overcome. Testing by a trained professional is the only way to confirm whether or not a person is experiencing dyslexia.
The good news is that once a person is identified as having dyslexia there are research-based programs that are proven to help them overcome the challenges of dyslexia. Research shows that people with dyslexia can learn using multi-sensory language techniques. Multi-sensory instruction brings hearing, vision, feeling and movement all together to help the individual learn. For example, a child learning the letter “A” might hear the sound of the letter, see the letter and practice writing the letter in the air all at the same time. The demands of reading and writing at school and at work can be frustrating for the dyslexic individual, but with the right instruction and preparation, these experiences can be remarkably satisfying.
Mississippi is fortunate that for over 10 years our State Legislature has supported grants for training and materials for teachers to address the needs of dyslexic students. More recently, the Legislature has also provided support for screening the reading and math skills of every student in kindergarten through third grade to help identify students that may be confronted with dyslexia or other learning challenges.
About half of the school districts in Mississippi are screening K-3 students this year and all school districts will screen K-3 students in 2010-11. Not every state has such support. Even in these tight budget times, the Legislature has provided this valuable support for our students and teachers.
If you think you or someone you know may be dealing with dyslexia, take the time now to learn more. Who knows what talent is just waiting to shine with some awareness and the right support!
Dr. Kristopher Kaase is deputy superintendent instructional programs and services for the State of Mississippi.