According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 80 percent of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia. In order to create a learning environment that feels safe, comfortable and empowering for students, schools need to adhere to basic guiding principles. In “Creating a Dyslexia-Friendly School,” Terrie Noland, national director, Educator Engagement for Learning Ally, presented on early intervention for dyslexic students, using the right AT (assistive technology) tools and accommodations for each learner, and creating environments in which students can thrive.
Early intervention is ideal for students with dyslexia. District administrators can help with intervention by creating clear guidelines on testing within their districts, rather than waiting for their state to act on legislation. Principals should ensure these guidelines are executed within their schools.
Since reading and writing is involved in every subject, they should also have all teachers trained to identify the potential indicators of dyslexia. Teachers of all subjects need to make sure they know the dyslexia indicators for their grade level. Although early intervention is key, it is possible to identify and intervene throughout all grade levels.
Choose the Right Tools
Find the right tools that fit each student’s needs as a learner. When providing AT tools and accommodations, administrators can make sure services, like the training needed for the tool, is also there. They can then share those practices across the districts using teacher champions as trainers.
Ensure Proper PD
Principals should make sure teachers get the training they need to use the assistive technology. “If I go into my history class and my history teacher knows that I need an accommodation, how does that make me feel as a learner? It makes me feel like that teacher gets me,” said Noland. When teachers use tools or accommodations, they should start by defining a goal. For example, what is the tool or accommodation needed to be able to take notes?
You don’t have to have a Pinterest-worthy classroom in order for it to be effective, Noland noted. It just has to be an environment in which students can thrive. Administrators can set the tone in their districts that reading and literacy are important by starting initiatives like D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read), and ensuring schools are equipped for them.
Principals can think about what their school libraries look like; do they have multiple genres, are they culturally relevant, will they build students’ reading skills, and do they have books in formats for dyslexic students? Teachers should think about how to set up their classrooms for students to learn most effectively. Noland suggested thinking about whether they would want to be a learner in their own classroom.
“Once you (create an environment) for someone with that dyslexic student in mind, you’ve also served all of your students,” she said.
About the Presenter
Terrie Noland is the National Director, Educator Engagement for Learning Ally. She has more than 22 years of experience as both a trainer and developer of content for educators and administrators. Her focus for the past five years has been on the pedagogical practices needed to create effective environments for students with dyslexia. Terrie has trained groups numbering in the thousands helping to build better understanding of working with struggling readers. She is currently pursuing certification as an academic language therapist.
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