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Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic!

"Advocacy and Accommodations" continued

We need to be standing up for people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities in the same way. Perhaps they will live if we don't, but will their spirit survive? It is terribly embarassing to be unable to read—and to have to admit it publicly, such as in a classroom. The humiliation, anger, and shame can cripple a child for life—which is why so many dyslexics drop out of school. So first, we need to protect them from these devastating blows, through education and advocacy. Then we need to do whatever is necessary to make it possible for them to read and be able to express their gifts and intelligences in other areas by making sure they have the necessary accommodations. ​

Not too surprisingly, there is a very good website devoted to legally advocating for our children with the public school system, at writeslaw.com (13).
Please don't "throw your child to the lions", and expect them to advocate for themselves, unless you have taught them how to do so. A child who is mocked for not being able to read may be too angry and embarrassed to ask for the accommodations they desperately need, and not all teachers are educated about the problems associated with dyslexia, and may suggest that the child should "stop being lazy and stop looking for excuses." That would be devastating to the child.

​​I must repeat: people with dyslexia and learning disabilities are NOT lazy; they are NOT stupid and they are NOT looking for excuses. But not everyone knows this. That's why it is so important for the parent to fight for their child. Also, do whatever is possible to help your child uncover their gifted areas. Remember, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein) Everyone else may be climbing trees, but as a 'fish' they are far better at swimming, and will excel in that above their classmates.
Learning Accommodations
Due to the very nature of dyslexia—that a bright child has difficulty reading, writing, and spelling—accommodations can be made to make it possible for the child to learn in their own best way.  
  • Voice recognition software allows dictation of thoughts and answers; it types what the student says, will spell it correctly, and can read it back to the student to allow for editing.
  • Audio books should be a staple for all dyslexic students, especially for textbooks, which are the most difficult to learn to read, due to new and unfamiliar ideas, words, and concepts.
  • Screen-reading software can be used for any computer application. The child can read along as much as possible to learn new words. And with headphones there is no danger of disturbing other children or the teacher.

​Many of these are reviewed here (10), which also provides links for video   demonstrations. 
Classroom  Accommodations
Classroom accommodations are not a change in curriculum. The regular education teachers simply make slight changes in the way they present new information, the way they help the student learn new skills, and the way they test the student. These can allow the student to follow the same lesson plan as the rest of the class and be able to prove their knowledge, even though they are not yet reading, spelling and writing at grade level. 

Simple changes do not mean a separate lesson plan; they can be as easy as:

  • oral tests,
  • untimed tests,
  • reducing or eliminating spelling tests,
  • accepting dictated homework,
  • reducing copying and notetaking tasks,
  • grading on content, not spelling or penmanship, 
  • alternatives to a lengthy written paper,
  • avoiding essay tests whenever possible, and
  • never requiring reading out loud in front of the class.

Also, allow the child to use technology tools the parent is willing to purchase to work around any weak areas, including the learning accommodations listed above. These accommodations will allow the school to grade the child based on actual knowledge of the subject matter, and not necessarily the peripherals like penmanship and perfect spelling which can be so difficult for the student with dyslexia. Additional information and suggestions on ways to implement these accommodations can be found here (7), under the tab 'How To Get Help' and the section 'Classroom Accommodations'.
​​I want to add here that, when a child responds well to their medications and the avoidance of peanuts (or whatever specific), you will NEVER hear the doctor say, "Well, you are doing so well that we are going to take you off all your meds, let you eat peanuts again, and see how you get along." That is what happens when some students are denied accommodations because "they are doing so well; we don't want them to become dependent on this." How utterly absurd! Don't let an uninformed teacher or administrator do such a thing to your child. It would be the same as taking away wheelchair ramps, "because you are getting along so well with them we don't want you to become dependent on having a ramp everywhere you go." 

Some people believe that accommodations are "cheating", especially things like audio books and calculators. Do they also think a wheelchair is cheating? Or handrails in the restroom? Does a child who can get around in their wheelchair have an unfair advantage because they are no longer confined to the table? Are eyeglasses an unfair advantage?

Accommodations are not CHEATING, and they are not UNFAIR. What they really do is LEVEL the playing field so that every child has a chance to demonstrate their intelligence and mastery of a subject.