This year you may have a child in your class whose reading is virtually non-existent, whose spelling is, to put it charitably, bizarre, and whose handwriting is - well, hard to describe. This child has been tested and found to have an average, or an above average intelligence, and his inadequacies in language arts are well beyond either his control or yours. He is, in fact, dyslectic, and without some specially designed remediation, outside of his regular classroom, he is doomed to years of misery in school, perilously low self-esteem, semi- or total illiteracy, and chronic employment for which he is intellectually over-qualified.

If you are lucky, he will have been enrolled in a special program which has a track record of getting dyslectic children up to or beyond grade level in reading skill in a year of training. However, it takes the whole year to do this, and for awhile the child will still be producing substandard work. During the period while he is learning to read, write, and spell properly, he will need a good deal of patience and understanding from his classroom teacher.

For instance, if, when the other kids have 20 spelling words to memorize, he might be allowed to do 10 (without reducing his grade!). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD HE EVER BE CALLED ON TO READ OUT LOUD IN CLASS. Of course, later in the year when he has improved and asks to be called on, by all means do. If you can wait until he raises his hand and volunteers, you can save him from the kind of embarrassment that makes a kid have a sick stomach every morning before he goes to school.

Dyslectic kids often know a lot of things they have heard their parents talk about, so if you find an area in which he is knowledgeable, by all means let him show his stuff.

The method used by his tutor is designed to by-pass the neurological anomaly in his brain that is preventing him from learning to read. It consists of exercises that force him to use the left hemisphere, which is programmed to handle written language, and which he is not using. The exercises are somewhat analogous to push-ups for football players. The game itself can be compared to reading: we give him the push-ups; when he is "strong" enough, you can help him learn to play the game.

Then there is the business of homework. If he has papers for "Language Arts" to do, for quite awhile they will be awful. This is where tolerance on the part of his teacher is invaluable. The same thing is true for written tests. If he must read something for science or social studies homework, it works well if his mother is expected, and indeed, encouraged, to read it to him until his own skill picks up. Until then, he must get his education through his ears.

One question that most teachers ask is how to mark such a child. Probably the easiest is for the tutor to give you a quarterly mark for him in lieu of a reading grade, which reflects his behavior with her, and the tutor will send home a letter that explains that these marks during the year reflect the effort he is putting into his lessons. At the end of the year, you will get a progress report with the results of post-testing, including a grade level and a sample of his writing. By that time, you should be able to give him a regular reading grade as well, based on his end of the year performance.

---Dorothy van den Honert




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