Three ARK instructional staff (Sheri Hamlow, April Reid and Marni Graveline) attended the Washington State Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (WABIDA) conference in Bellevue on November 3, 2018. The presenter, Dr. Carol Connor, is currently on staff at University of California – Irvine.. She has many years of experience both in the field of speech and language pathology, and literacy; she is currently conducting school-wide research on dyslexia. Dr. Connor presented her research, and our team learned new information and research while our current practices were reinforced. The following are some highlights from her presentation:
Dr. Carol Connor summarized the National Institute of Health’s definition of dyslexia:
- Dyslexia is a severe difficulty in learning to read, particularly with phonological awareness, decoding, fluent reading, and spelling. It is the most frequent academic challenge of students with learning disabilities.
- Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and tends to run in families.
- Dyslexia may occur with other learning difficulties (math and writing) and attention concerns. This co-occurrence is defined as co-morbidity.
- Dyslexia is not reversing of letters because many children reverse letters when they are young. It is not a predictor of dyslexia.
- Dyslexia is not due to lower intellectual abilities. Typically, individuals with dyslexia have higher than average IQ’s.
- Dyslexia is not a failure to achieve. In fact, many individuals continues to lead highly productive lives in a variety of careers.
While there is no cures for dyslexia, there are many interventions and accommodations that can minimize the individual’s learning difficulties; the earlier these interventions are taught, the better the individual can integrate their new skills and strategies into their lives.
Dr. Connor addressed the role of assistive technology. She explained that it is a good strategy for early struggling readers. She emphasized that struggling readers are not lazy; in fact they work harder typical learning students. Technology helps support their efforts and should not be substituted for reading, but supplement their reading. She emphasized using assistive technology does not stop learning to read, but helps students keep up with content, vocabulary and background knowledge while learning to read at the same time.
Potential Assistive Technology Tools:
- Books on tape
- Adult reading to dyslexic reader
- Older students reading to younger students
- Dragon Naturally Speaking for writing
- Other speech to text apps for writing
Teaching students to self-regulate, which is an executive function is important in learning to read and being a student. Dr. Connor spoke of strategies they incorporated into their research.
- Teach games that require shift in the task, inhibiting responses, ignoring distractions and remembering single and multi-step directions
- Include motor movement – for example have students tap head, knees, feet, then reverse order to increase their need to focus and monitor their body movements
- Utilize multi-sensory interventions
The conference was attended by many different people within the state: teachers, tutors, reading specialists, speech/language pathologist, parents and vendors of reading. ARK’s team was able to connect with others and spread the word of ARK’s valuable presence in working with individuals with learning difficulties.