A Dyslexia Solution

posted May 10, 2018, 1:47 PM by David Kimball   [ updated May 10, 2018, 1:57 PM ]

If we pay attention to even the little things our students are saying, or not saying, we teachers can garner great insight into how to better meet their needs to become better learners, thinkers, and problem solvers.

Sara (not her real name) has been struggling with learning for a long time. She often has bad attitudes, so students like her can be easily written off as “will not learn” as opposed to having difficulties learning.  However, lately Sara has changed her attitude in my class and has really improved in her learning efforts.

Outstanding, but progress was still slow and she got frustrated a lot. And then I heard part of a conversation she was having with a fellow student and the word dyslexia was said. My ears perked up.

“Sara, do you have dyslexia? “

“Yeah, I’ve had it for a long time and have just learned to deal with it.“

That got me thinking about the dyslexia font and decided to try it with her, so I added Dyslexia Unscrambled to my Chromebook and showed it to her.  And you know what? It worked! The way the font weights different parts of the letters makes words almost normal to Sara’s eyes. You are right, I did not like “almost normal” and did some more research.  Turns out there is a solution.  Beeline Reader adds hues of colors in just the right spots of the words to make reading easier for those with dyslexia.

Well, I installed the app on my Chrome book and called Sara over to see if this worked. And it did as well!   Beeline Reader will work on any web page and any Google doc the student has editing privileges on. For shared documents with view only privileges, have the student make a copy into their own drive folder and then the Beeline app will work on that Google doc as well. Afterwards, that copied document can be deleted. Another option is to copy and paste the passage into a new Google doc.

Oh, and if you are wondering whether a student has dyslexia, why not have them look at a page with the dyslexia font and see if it helps?

OK, so teachers have two solutions to help dyslexia students read a bit better and thus take their learning to their next level.  One is Dyslexia Unscrambled and the other Beeline Reader.  Both of these Chrome extensions can be added directly by the student and will be available to them no matter what Chromebook they use.

Dyslexia Unscrambled is free for unlimited use and Beeline Reader has limited free use and $2 per month for unlimited use.

Back to Sara.  She is now reading at a much higher level than before and very grateful for being able to ready “normally”.   I had a talk with her about it and she tells me that she never told anyone because she did not want to be singled out like others have been for being stupid or different, including a very vivid story of how her sixth grade teacher treated her that helped to justify an increase in bad attitudes and further teacher and student condemnations.  I was also guilty for the last few months of presuming that Sara did not want to do the work as opposed to her having difficulty with the basics.

This fear of hers was confirmed by a fellow teacher who told me that Sara had asked him to not make her read out loud in class because it was difficult for her to read and she did not want to be embarrassed.

Now, did this solve all of the problems?  Of course not.  There are other things she can do to further properly manage her dyslexia and bad attitudes, but this small solution did take Sara to her next level of learning, reducing excuses to succeed at a higher level.

My take away from this? Pay attention to what my students are saying, not saying, doing, and not doing, and be willing to laser focus at the heart of why they are choosing to not learn at my expected level and then get them the help and tools they need.

I do not always succeed, but this one sure feels good.

What solution have you created to help a student get to their next level of learning and understanding?  Tell me your story and if it is detailed enough I will get it published here for others to benefit.