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Top 10 School Frustrations for Dyslexic Children

The beginning of the school year is a busy time for families of school-aged kids but it also comes with a lot of frustration for parents of children with learning challenges.

We want you to know that it is not just you! We have compiled a list of frustrations we repeatedly hear from parents of dyslexic children. Have you experienced any of these frustrations with your struggling reader? If so, comment below or share this post to let other parents know that they’re not alone. 

Here are the top 10 school frustrations we hear from families with dyslexic children:

  1. “My smart daughter tells me she’s ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ because she compares her reading to her classmates.”frustrated child in a school classroom

  2. “She comes home from school in tears after being called on to read aloud, getting a bad grade in spelling, or running out of time on a test.”Sad teenage girl cries next to her worried mother

  3. “The school has told me for years that he would ‘outgrow’ his reading problems, and each year he gets further behind.”frustrated child doing homework

  4. “The school wants to hold my child back to repeat a grade just because of his reading level.”frustrated child at school

  5. “The school is teaching him to memorize words, instead of helping him to learn to read in a way his brain can understand.”kids learning reading and writing at school

  6. “The school treats accommodations as cheating and won’t even consider letting my child use audiobooks to learn.”mother and daughter at home listening to audiobooks

  7. “The school gives my child too much homework, and it takes him twice as long as his peers!”child frustrated at home with too much homework

  8. “The school says there is no such thing as dyslexia since they don’t have the resources to test or treat it.”child upset at school because of his learning challenges

  9. “The school’s tests show she isn’t far enough behind to qualify for additional support.”child at school is frustrated with the environment

  10. “I paid for a test that proves my daughter is dyslexic – now the school won’t accept the results!”school administrator reviewing a childs evaluation

We all know schools struggle to help dyslexic children, and we wish schools would get on board with what science says works. In the meantime, we are here to help. Contact us to connect with one of our expert dyslexia therapists or to schedule a free consultation on this page.

Why Good Teachers Miss Dyslexia

All evidence suggests that early identification is key to overcoming dyslexia. Still, we consistently encounter students who aren’t identified or diagnosed with dyslexia for years.

Why is that?

The challenge begins with elementary teachers who, charged with recognizing and acting on early symptoms, become gatekeepers of the initial diagnosis. This is a problem because they are often (a) overwhelmed by their other responsibilities and (b) underprepared to recognize the symptoms of dyslexia. Additionally, schools actually face disincentives to identifying dyslexia–a problem explored in a previous article.

Specifically, several misguided beliefs and attitudes can prevent otherwise wonderful teachers from taking steps toward a dyslexia diagnosis.

Here are 7 Thoughts That Prevent Teachers from Identifying a Child’s Dyslexia:

teacher's desk with an apple, pencil cup holder

1. “He is trying so hard and I don’t want to discourage him!”

When teachers see a likable child who works hard and stays out of trouble, they too often hesitate to admit the depth and scope of his academic challenges. Nobody wants to tell a nice kid that he is failing, so these students are sometimes passed because of their good effort.

 2. “She just isn’t applying herself!”

When a student is really gifted in some areas, rather than identify her with a learning disability, teachers may believe she is just not putting forth appropriate effort in reading. They think if the child would simply work harder, she would “get it,” when the real culprit is dyslexia.

3. “If only he’d pay attention!”

Students with dyslexia may have behavioral challenges due to auditory processing or executive function deficits. They also may misbehave to avoid the embarrassment of failing when reading aloud. If teachers assume reading difficulties are due to attention issues, dyslexia may go undiagnosed.

4. “She doesn’t reverse letters!”

While many students with dyslexia do have difficulty with reversals (writing or reading “b” for “d,” etc.), not all students do. If teachers believe this is the primary symptom to look for, they will not identify many dyslexic students.

5. “He does fine on his spelling tests!”

Too many schools use spelling programs that consist of memorizing lists of words for a final test at the end of the week. With a great deal of effort, many students with dyslexia can memorize how to spell those words. This does not translate into becoming a good speller, however, and masks the root causes of difficulty with spelling and writing.

6. “According to our assessment, she is on grade level!”

In a previous post, I detailed how this measure fails early readers. To summarize, too many schools equate students’ ability to read early reader books–which rely on predictable text, pictures, and high-frequency words (which students can memorize)–with learning to read. A student may appear to be reading on grade level but is not actually learning to read.

 7. “We tested for special education and he didn’t qualify!”

Schools generally cannot justify using federally allocated money to help struggling students until they have fallen far behind their peers in quantifiable ways. However, some students with dyslexia will not fall this far behind for years! While schools are waiting to essentially “build a case” that a student needs additional resources, that child is failing to receive the specialized instruction needed to master reading during the critical early education period.

What Can be Done Differently

Teacher education programs (especially in elementary education) do not prepare teachers to recognize dyslexia, let alone teach students with dyslexia. Parents and educators who are aware of this problem are actively advocating to improve this situation, like our friends at Decoding Dyslexia. In the meantime, parents must be extra vigilant, assuring that their children are making adequate progress.

If you suspect that your child may be slipping through these cracks, I recommend you use this free dyslexia screener we’ve developed, then contact us to talk about additional assessment and treatment options.

On Teachers and Teaching

When I attended the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference this summer, I heard an informative talk by Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Based in Washington, D.C., the NCTQ “advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers.”

Kate had a lot of interesting things to say about how teachers are not being preparedteacher-classroom to teach reading in a way that aligns with “the science of reading,” such as research-based practices and an “explicit, systematic approach” to reading instruction. An earlier NCTQ report, What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning, explains, “Over the last 60 years, scientists from many fields including psychology, linguistics, pediatrics, education, neurobiology, and even engineering have been studying the reading process. This science of reading has led to a number of breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults. By routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings to the classroom, most reading failure could be avoided.”

In a subsequent exchange, Kate invited Lexercise to visit and share materials offered in the NCTQ newsletter and on PDQ, the NCTQ blog. Several weeks ago, Kate posted a blog entry, Loving children is not enough, in which she notes the generally low admission requirements for teacher education programs and the increasing public sentiment (as shown in a new PDK/Gallup Poll) for “more rigorous entrance requirements for teacher preparation.”

A couple of days later, NCTQ published another post in which teachers reflect upon What we wish we had known. While this post is entirely subjective, it suggests some of the shortcomings of training and the range of challenges met by teachers on their first day in the classroom. Significantly, the first comment comes from teacher Sandi Jacobs, who begins, “I wish I had known how to help kids learn how to read.” The next comment, from Katie Moyers, begins, “I wish I’d known more about how to diagnose and then address early literacy and basic math needs.”

In May, NCTQ issued What Teacher Preparation Programs Teach About K-12 Assessment, a report co-authored by Julie Greenberg and Kate Walsh. It emphasizes the importance of teachers learning to interpret student performance data on all kinds of assessments and examines the success of teacher training programs in readying teachers to do so.

While we know that classroom teachers are not trained or qualified to diagnose language-processing disorders such as dyslexia, they are often the first ones to notice when a child struggles to read, write or spell. The more skilled a teacher is at teaching reading, the more sensitive she or he will be to the problems encountered by reading-challenged children, and, we would hope, the more eager to find effective intervention.

If your child has difficulty reading, writing, or spelling, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact us at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.