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What Children With Dyslexia Wish Their Teachers Knew

Shelley Hatch, Executive Director Dyslexia Center of Utah,

SLT Structured Literacy Teacher

Fear, anxiety, hope, nervous, invisible, afraid, stomach ache, clown, embarrassed, tears, panic attacks, daydreaming, and more time.

What do all of these have in common?

School for a child with dyslexia!

It’s that time of year once again, where kids are full of excitement and anticipation, shopping for new school clothes and school supplies, wondering who will be in their class and who their teacher will be. Most kids that is.

At the Dyslexia Center of Utah, we tutor 200 students. This last week there were lots of tears as most of our students were dreading the start of another year of school.

You could feel it in the air and see it on their faces.

This breaks my heart! It shouldn’t have to be this way.

These students face many stressful situations throughout the day. Many of those situations involve “what ifs, a big part of fear and anxiety.

Students who struggle reading often feel like they are a failure, and nothing they do will make a difference. They know something is wrong with them because they can’t read words or passages like other kids.

Below are real raw emotions, concerns, and fears that some of our students recently expressed about starting school.

This was Kennedi’s response, “I am very nervous about going back to school. I am afraid kids will make fun of me and that my teacher will get mad when I can’t read. In the past, I wasn’t able to read on the same level as everyone else, and my teacher would not give me the next level. I was embarrassed that all the kids knew I couldn’t read on the grade level. I am learning a lot, but it is still hard to go to school and deal with all that every day.

Felicity, age 10, says that school stresses her out because some of the subjects are hard, like writing and math. She appreciates when her teachers give her extra help in these areas.

To my Teacher, I am 13 years old, please be nice and don't just give packets, don't give out homework every single day, do activities. Thank you, C.L

Dear Future Teacher, I will be starting the 8th grade in just a couple of days and want to share with you some ideas about how you can help me. To start with, I get anxiety when you are most likely to call on me. Please do not call on me unless I raise my hand. And second, I like to get extra instruction. I like to have one on one help if needed. Please set a time limit for homework. I like to be motivated by things like you saying a good thing about what I am going in class. I feel like I need help with my spelling, so having a spell checker would help. And I get slow at writing or typing I need more time with that.Thanks, Z

What stresses you out about school?

“That we have to do math in the morning. EVERY DAY in the morning. EVERY DAY! And when I say EVERY DAY, I mean EVERY MORNING! I don’t like math.” (Emmy – grade 3)

“Math, reading (well, not reading, anymore). Sometimes being the slow one. Getting embarrassed about everything, for saying the wrong thing like 20 times in a row in at least a week.” (Brodrick – grade 6)

“When the teacher tells me to write or read – and math.” (Kaleb – grade 7) “Math, because they do everything hard for me. And if I get it wrong, I have to do it again in Spanish.” (Chloe – grade 3)

“Reading as a group (out loud), timed tests, being put on the spot, and having to read in front of the class. And asking the teacher for help.” (Isaac – grade 6)

“I just don’t really like math because I’m not good at it.” (Teenie – grade 3)

What is hard for you?

“Reading is hard. I just can’t understand all the words, and I mix up the letters sometimes.” (Emmy)

“Math is hard.” (Brodrick)

“Reading and writing.” (Kaleb)

“The hardest thing in school is math.” (Chloe)

“Times tests. Reading as a class.” (Isaac)

“Math and reading.” (Teenie)

What do you like about school?

“I like that we have lots of free time. We could have lunch together and talk, and we don’t have to sit in spots. I like recess because we can play a lot.” (Emmy)

“Having fun, lunch, recess, and a lot of other things. Besides the stuff that happens that’s bad.” (Brodrick)

“Art and recess and lunch.” (Kaleb)

“The thing I like about school is homeroom, because you get to do projects, which is really fun, but the only thing I don’t like about the projects is you have to write a lot.” (Chloe)

“Recess. And when we draw stuff.” (Isaac)

“I like recess, and I also like science and ‘preps’ (specialty classes).” (Teenie)

What do you wish teachers would do to help you in school?

“I wish they would help me have more of a better spot in reading because when you’re not comfortable in reading, you can’t read. You know how when you’re not comfortable, you have to keep moving around? If I had a more comfortable space, I wouldn’t have to move around so much.” (Emmy)

“Longer recesses! Make sure I’m not fidgety and feeling like I should run out and play. Maybe teach people singly.” (Brodrick)

“To help me more, and to give me more time.” (Kaleb)

“I wish that they would be fine with my math and they wouldn’t really worry about it that much. [Also,] they can say and then write it – to see what they said.” (Chloe)

“I wish we could choose art or music, or just have the teacher do art with us. Bring art supplies and have a designated time to do art.

Quit Eurythmy and Spanish.

Keep library for middle school.

Not have us sit straight so long.

Get help from other students – older students, not the same age as me.

Shouldn’t make us stay in for recess to work.

Should NOT whip us!” 😊 (Isaac)

“I don’t really know. What my teacher did that was helpful was if I got my d and b wrong, he would not count it wrong.” (Teenie)

What would you tell someone who doesn’t understand what it means to be dyslexic?

“I would tell them that they’re as smart as the other kids. It’s just that it takes a little bit longer. It’s a little bit harder for them because they get mixed up with the letters. Reading and math is harder.” (Emmy)

“You use your mind differently. I use the back of my brain, being creative, and inventing lots of stuff. It’s fun being dyslexic and it’s also annoying.” (Brodrick)

“It’s when it’s harder for people with dyslexia to learn how to read and write. [But] since we have been doing harder things, we are more prepared for life.” (Kaleb)

“That it’s really hard to read and stuff like that. A LOT of people ask what dyslexia is. It’s this thing where it’s really hard to read, and it’s really hard to spell, too. My brother always tells me that because of my dyslexia, I am always nice to him.” (Chloe)

“Ask someone else ‘cause I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just harder to read. Goodbye and thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!” (Isaac)

“It just means kids that have a hard time.” (Teenie)

Here are answers from a few kids on what they wish their teacher knew:

"I wish we had more recess so I could play soccer (he has a ton of energy and always has to move.)" ( Tommy - grade 4)

"I want more recess. (Also very busy and had a hard time focusing.)" (Hudson - grade 2)

“ I wish they had more faith in me and have me a chance. I can do this.” (Zach - grade 9)

“I’m afraid that I won’t be able to learn the new things I’m supposed to. Because I’ll have 7 different classes, I would like help in organizing my homework." (Clarissa - age 11)

“I’m nervous about going to a new school. What will the bullies be like? I would like my teachers to allow me extra time to complete my work. "(Ryan - grade 7)

"When I’m pressured, I don’t do as well as I could." (Kate)

"I wish I could have extra time to finish my work, instead of staying in during recess time to do it." (Justin - grade 4)

"I would like my teacher to help me catch up with my work." (Asher - grade 2)

"I would like my teacher to help me with spelling out my words. Math stresses me because it’s hard, and I have to stay in for recess to finish. I don’t like missing recess with my friends." (Grace - grade 4)

Ways teachers can help:

  1. Learn about dyslexia.

  2. Know the strengths of this child and let this child show-classmates their strength and talent. It might be using art to draw the story on the board as the class reads out loud. It might be letting them be the class summarizer after the story has been read.

  3. Do not call on a student to read out loud in front of their peers.

  4. Do not pass papers to peers to be graded.

  5. Have students take the test in a quiet space and have the test read to the student.

  6. Give the student several small breaks.

  7. Do Not keep student in during recess to finish work! This student needs recess time more than any other student.

  8. Praise the student/celebrate even the smallest moments. Like not reversing the “b” or “d” as this moment is HUGE for the student.

  9. Have the student do odd or even numbers on assignments.

  10. Write down instructions for students.

  11. Ask students to explain back to the teacher what the assignment is.

  12. MORE TIME!

  13. Make learning FUN!


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