I am a teacher in a private school with a dyslexic student in my classroom. Our resources are limited by time and availability. My goal is to make reading for this student a successful achievement eventually leading him to become a confident, independent reader who can succeed on his own. He is a very bright boy and he is very unsure of himself. I am also working on my graduate studies in Reading and was wondering if I would be able to speak with someone from your institution. Please let me know what I can do to further assist this child, and to ensure that my class is a Dyslexic Friendly classroom.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I applaud you wanting to create a successful environment for all students. As you are aware, those with dyslexia are so much more challenged than their typical-reading peers.

I would point you to the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. Dr. Shaywitz wrote the book for parents, but it provides some excellent insight for teachers, particularly when she talks about what dyslexia is and isn't, as well as how to intervene. Your library should have it. I heard that she is coming out with a new one since her last edition is 2003, but we could not get any confirmation on it at the IDA conference a few weeks ago. Regardless, her information is current, except she doesn't use the term "structured literacy" when talking about intervention as that term wasn't coined until 2014 by the IDA.

I'm hoping that this student has an IEP because regardless of what you can provide as far as support in the classroom, he is still going to need intensive intervention by someone who has an understanding of the role of oral language in learning to read, spell, and write. It has been my experience, unfortunately, that very few special education teachers have training in structured literacy intervention. The subtabs under this link demonstrate all of the areas that we need to think about for these students. It takes a skilled clinician to tackle this, especially in the context of our public schools.

You might also think about joining your states branch of the IDA . Membership is not that expensive, as far as professional organizations go. Your state organization most likely hosts an annual conference (I know we do in Michigan) that you could attend to garner more information about ways to help students. I do think that if you are mindful of this student's strengths and interests and work to accommodate the weaknesses you will put him on the road to success. Two important accommodations that pretty much every student with dyslexia needs is access to text-to-speech software (audiobooks) and dictation software . Building self-esteem and resilience is a big part of the puzzle. Also, helping to pinpoint another empathetic teacher for next year would be good.

Sharing some of these stories about successful dyslexics might also be helpful - having conversations with this student about strengths, interests, and challenges. Giving him someone he can trust to talk with is HUGE!