How do I best support my students with dyslexia during this time of social distancing during COVID-19? Some students have internet access and some do not. Where do I begin?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I have been wondering about some of your questions myself in regard to the education of our children now that our schools (in Michigan) are not reopening this school year.

The question of access for all is a very challenging issue -- one that is solved at the district, state, and federal levels. Regardless of where they live or what they can afford or whether there is a pandemic like COVID-19, students deserve equal access to schooling (i.e., FAPE - Free and Appropriate Public Education). That is why we have a public education system. Resolving the access problem is bigger than us. Some districts have ensured that all students have a Chromebook/iPad/Macbook, etc., but without internet access, having a device is moot. Libraries offered some leveling of the playing field, but now that option isn't even available to our students in need.

Assuming the above was not a problem and students had internet access, in regard to helping students with dyslexia -- the ideal answer is for them to get structured literacy intervention. Ideally, we would want to adhere to what was written into the students' IEPs. Delivering services via the internet takes some creativity and forethought, but it can be done. Perhaps students who were grouped together in school could all log on for a group lesson. I have found that my clients with whom I am now working virtually have a surprising ability (it was surprising to me, anyway) to engage and attend using this format. I suspect that it is because my clients have always known screens, so communicating and learning via this mode is second nature to them.

Possibly you could engage your students in group story building -- one begins a story, the next student picks up and writes/dictates a line or two, and the story continues on. This would be a great way to work on narrative structure. Storymatic is a great story starter set.

    Other ideas that I have:
  • Ensuring that each student has access to audiobooks. Ideally, we want students to track the print as they listen to the audio.
  • Helping parents understand the benefits of reading to and with their child(ren).
  • Providing parents with the titles of appropriate books both for their child to read to enhance fluency (where 95-97% of the words are decodable by the student) and for them to read to/with their child to enhance exposure to literate forms of language, sophisticated vocabulary, and broaden world knowledge.
  • Providing parents with suggestions of authentic ways to enhance their child's reading and writing skills -- cooking together and reading recipes, writing the grocery list, checking off the items when the grocery delivery arrives (after it's been properly sanitized...), writing a daily schedule/to-do list, playing games such as Boggle, Scrabble, Monopoly -- any that require reading, as well as those that don't -- charades, Pictionary, Guess Who?
  • Providing parents with suggestions for appropriate apps that would enhance their child's skill set.
  • Holding a video conference to teach parents how to use these apps or just to answer questions about how they might support their child during this very trying time.

These are just a few ideas that I have. I am sure there are many more creative ways to engage students and families via videoconferencing. In unprecedented times such as this, we need to think outside-the-box!