SUCCESSFULLY ASSESSING & TEACHING CHILDREN WITH DYSLEXIA

We recently did an assessment on an 11 year old boy; I’ll call him Jim (not his real name) at an elementary school local to us. It was kind of coincidental that his teacher, I’ll call her Ms L, had been at a Pro D day event we had done about a year ago. Because Ms. L had learned about some of the basic indicators of Dyslexia in children during our 90 minute seminar she suspected Jim’s issues may have included Dyslexia. She contacted Jim’s parents and they called us for more information.

Karey Hope spoke to the parents one night for about 2 hours and described all of the indicators she was familiar with from all the children we have assisted lately. Jim’s parents were able to recognize many of his behaviours and learning issues from their conversation with Karey and we arranged for a full assessment.  We met at their home and spent about 4 hours with Jim doing our series of exercises and tests and made observations as part of our assessment process.

I may have mentioned this before in other blogs but every single time we do an assessment on a school child or young adult we are always amazed at their behavior. Before we start an assessment, part of the background information we ask for is how the child’s past and present school performance  has been and his behavior in school and with friends and family. Invariably we hear about how sad or withdrawn or angry or confused they are and displaying low self-esteem.  The amazing part I referred to above was how polite, engaged and fun these kids become by the end of the 4 hour session.

The parents almost always tell us that they were amazed at how happy, relaxed and confident their children are later that day or the next day. We really don’t know what this is about but I figure it’s because the “testing” procedures are being done by a Dyslexic, Karey Hope, and a very Right Brained thinker, that would be me. We just naturally treat the children the way we would like to be treated and they appreciate that. We also are asking and presenting our many questions in a manner that is natural for us and also natural for them. By the end of the testing process they have spent about 4 hours enjoying a very intense and exhausting, for us anyway, set of questions and exercises that would probably have been impossible for them to do in a regular setting. They also have just spent 4 hours achieving success in all the things we have them do. By regular setting, I mean a school or clinical  environment that is more stressful and intimidating and not very reassuring to a child who already feels there is something wrong with them.

We occasionally do an assessment with a child who we find is not Dyslexic. In every one of those cases the testing process is nowhere near as enjoyable. Probably because these kids may actually be “Left Brained” thinkers and our testing manner was not appropriate for them. Just like most classroom instruction is not appropriate for the Right Brained/Dyslexic child. In fact one of these Non-Dyslexic  children we tested had a hard time completing the testing process, could hardly stay on task and and wanted the process over.

Getting back to “Jim”. The assessment went very well, he had fun, and we had fun. His parents also told us that he was happy and confident the next day. Here’s the best part. When we finish the assessment we explain all of our observations and the recommendations, accommodations and teaching plan to the parents. The parents get 3 copies of the 40 page report so they can share it with any teachers or support staff who is interested at the school of the child. For Jim this was especially beneficial because his teacher was the one who had been at our seminar earlier that year and understood our teaching methods. The parents gave her our report and she immediately started making the simple changes to her teaching style.

The results were dramatic. In less than 6 weeks Jim’s grades have gone from C-‘s to B’s. His parents have told us that his self-esteem has sky-rocketed as well. Ms L told Jim’s mother that the changes she made in her teaching were easy to do, cost no money to implement and had instant results. She also told us that the changes in instruction she made she did for the entire class, not just for Jim so he no longer feels like he needs to compare himself to his peers.

One of the most common and confusing  situations for children is when they start to compare themselves to their classmates and realize they can’t learn like them.  Jim’s mother said Ms L’s teaching style had helped Jim to have the best, most successful and enjoyable year of school he’d ever had.  Talk about a win-win-win situation. Now if we can only get that whole school on board!

It’s this kind of story that keeps Karey and I doing what we are doing.

Thanks for listening

Happy trails.
Howie deGraaf
Editor and Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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