Demystifying Dyslexia: Treatment
What is the best way to treat dyslexia? Well, nothing beats an experienced teacher that uses a variety of researched-based tools. And by experienced teacher, that means a teacher that has experience working with children that have dyslexia. Do not think of it so much in terms of how many years the teacher has been teaching (although that is a good indication of experience). Rather, when you speak to the teacher, it should be apparent that they know what they are talking about.
For research-based tools, the main thing to ask about is what program(s) is the teacher using. This should be a program in addition to the general education curriculum they are provided in school. For instance, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is a well-known program specifically geared towards individuals with dyslexia. Alternatively, the Orton-Gillingham Approach is a great multi-sensory program that focuses primarily on phonological awareness and phonics. In addition, there are other programs (e.g., Wilson Reading System, Read Naturally) that have proven effectiveness as well. Personally, I look for teachers that are well trained in various methodologies and take an eclectic approach. That is, if the teacher is intervening with your child with a particular program, but they find that a specific strategy from another program would be appropriate at a given time, then they do that. That is the experience element. The teacher knowing what strategies to implement when.
In addition to the traditional program, one of the most common disorders with dyslexia is ADHD. And if a child has dyslexia and ADHD, likely the teacher will also need to manage the child’s behavior (e.g., inattention, impulsivity/hyperactivity, etc.). Therefore, tailoring the reading strategies towards the individual’s interests can really go along way.
In your child’s school (provided your child attends a public or charter school), there are dyslexia specialists in the school! Before I specifically identify who they are, I would be remised if I did not acknowledge your child’s general education teacher as a dyslexia specialist. While I am sure there are general education teachers that would not claim to be a dyslexia expert, I can personally vouch for many general education teachers as dyslexia experts. However, general education teachers have the task of working with so many students at once and small groups (i.e., centers) are not long enough or occur regularly enough. In addition, the general education teacher will likely work more on the child’s general curriculum. That is where other reading specialists come in. Sometimes schools have reading specialists at their disposal (e.g., instructional coaches, Title I teachers, etc.), but every public and charter school will have special education teachers. Students generally have to “qualify” to work with a special education teacher, but when they do, they have access to dyslexia specialists. And if your child attends a private school, you still may be able to access special education teachers at the school in which you reside in or that your private school is in.
Anytime I evaluate a child for dyslexia, I address whether or not special education services would be appropriate (from my perspective as a non-school provider). Ultimately, school-based decisions rest within the educational team, but I will consult with the school to ensure that my evaluation and recommendations are well received and feasible to implement. In addition, since I work part-time in the school setting as a school psychologist, I know what it is like (on the receiving end to receive an outside evaluation).
If you suspect your child of having dyslexia, disagree with a previous evaluation, or have had previous evaluations but still have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me at 602.699.4543.