Find 1 in 5 Dyslexia Event
Four years ago, our family relocated from Texas to Tennessee. With four boys in tow, I began making my rounds to the schools and getting familiar with the new teachers. As I was getting my youngest, who has dyslexia, registered for the new school year at our local school district, I spoke to his school administrators. The more I discussed my son’s dyslexia, the more I felt the discussion seemed very guarded, and I quickly noticed that none of the school administrators were actually saying the word dyslexia. They would say “Reading difficulties” or “Difficulty with reading comprehension” when school officials would describe my son. However, they would not acknowledge or even say the word dyslexia. In talking with other parents, I learned later that I was not alone in that experience.
A lot has changed in four years. Through the vigilance of the International Dyslexia Association of Tennessee and parent advocacy groups like Decoding Dyslexia, two bills were resoundingly passed in the State of Tennessee. The first bill “Dyslexia is Real” passed in 2014. In July of 2016, the second law, “#Say Dyslexia” went into effect. I am proud to report, the State Governor and local officials are listening to parents and working to address the needs of students across the state. The challenge now becomes giving the students with dyslexia the help they need without overwhelming the schools (financially) or the teachers (with individual students’ work plans), and to empower students by giving them new techniques and methods for decoding dyslexia.
That is why Find 1 in 5 was created, this event was built by design to get parents involved by creating a family fun ‘Steps Event” encouraging families to earn 1.5 fitness steps by visiting 6 fun fact kiosks located on the course. Parents stop, read several dyslexia fun facts and get their next clue on where to find the next fun fact station on the course. The whole family can learn about dyslexia as they go, so even if they are not affected by dyslexia chances are they know someone who is affected by dyslexia.
The Tennessee International Dyslexia Association was very open to the Find 1 in 5 event, so we got right to work. We started researching the top dyslexia solutions for students, there are several great companies that are moving the needle on apps and software that are very accessible to students. Microsoft OneNote has a free app called Learning Tools that provides tools like immersive reading by using dyslexic fonts and dictation so the user can author text verbally. That sounded promising, so I reached out to a friend of mine who shared a similar experience while on the quest for assistive technology solutions for dyslexic students. Martie Wood (a Certified Academic Language Therapist) shared her experienced perspective that when the general public, teachers, and classmates do not understand what dyslexia is, it creates shame. When a student turns those bad feelings about being dyslexic inward, it is harder for her to work through the self-esteem piece than to teach reading and writing to that student. Additionally, Martie feels that the frustration that builds up when students go undiagnosed causes walls to be built that block learning. It causes students to hide their dyslexia and to mistrust those trying to work with them. Even though she knows all of the avoidance tricks and the behaviors that escalate as students feel you getting closer to the truth of it, it can take up to an additional 6 months of academic therapy to break down those walls so that they begin to accept the tools they need. It is EXTREMELY important for the public and the regular education teachers to know what dyslexia is. It is EXTREMELY important to get identified at a young age and get the appropriate help before failure is allowed to occur. That’s why Martie supports that the Find 1 in 5 event for all families (not just for those dealing with dyslexia) is designed to do just those two things. “We must make dyslexia common knowledge, and we must let parents know that schools now will be screening from kindergarten on to see who is at risk for being dyslexic, so they can get help quicker. Teachers are now recognizing that they need to know so much more about dyslexia, and TNIDA is here to assist in that goal.”
Martie recently learned from one of her high school students attending a large parochial school, that all of the students now have laptops with the Microsoft OneNote App on them. They do assignments, group projects, take and receive notes, keep schoolwork organized, and submit finished work through that app, at least in some of their classes. This just started this school year, so she and Martie are helping each other understand how to use Microsoft OneNote. Another private school has also been allowing broad use of personal technology for all high school students so that weaknesses in spelling, organization, and memory can be easily accommodated without involving the teacher or other students. These glimpses of “Universal Access to Learning” are providing amazing relief to those that have dyslexia, but must become available to our public school children.
I am so glad to have the opportunity to be in an age where businesses are putting such a sharp focus on helping children with dyslexia, and it’s my hope that events like “Find 1 in 5” will continue to raise public awareness about dyslexia so more children receive the early intervention and tools they need to succeed.
For more info & to connect with the Microsoft OneNote team, please follow @OneNoteEDU on Twitter and join our #OneNoteQ TweetMeet on October, 4th –our focus will be Learning Tools & Inclusive Learning.
Stephanie Erb owns NeighborMaker Events and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband Dean, her four teenage boys. She is an advocate for dyslexic students and is passionate about special events.
Martie Wood is a Certified Academic Language Therapist, a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist, and a Special Education Teacher working independently, one-on-one, with students that struggle with reading, writing, and spelling in Knoxville, TN.