HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -Across the country, 20 percent of students are found to be dyslexic. It is the most common neurocognitive disorder, and experts tell us that the percentage of dyslexic students in the state of Alabama is even higher.
Even though Alabama’s percentage of dyslexic students is higher than the average, the state still does not have the help it needs for those struggling readers.
Claire Waldrop, Certified Academic Language Therapist, tells me that when she moved to Alabama the need for her services was so great that there was no way she could take all the students that were calling her for help.
In fact, Waldrop’s three dyslexic children and the great need in the state inspired her to get extra training that would allow her to teach others how to help. She says no one else in the state has that qualification right now.
Waldrop tells me the average student struggling with Dyslexia needs personal instruction for 45 minutes, 3 times a week to keep up, and that is not happening in most school districts.
She says she hopes the recent change in state laws, enforcing tougher literacy requirements will draw attention to the struggle.
“I hope that it will draw more attention to that and have parents go to their principals and their superintendents and say this is what the science of reading says. This is what we expect from our school districts,” says Waldrop.
Alison Cannon, the mother of a student who struggled with dyslexia but did not know she had it until the 5th grade, says she always knew something might have been wrong but no one ever suggested her daughter Keeton Ann go get tested.
She tells me it created conflict in the home. They would have to spend hours after school doing homework just so their daughter could get good grades.
Luckily she found therapist Claire Waldrop, but Cannon says she wants to know what the schools can do for parents who cannot pay out of pocket to get their child’s help.
She tells me Huntsville City Schools will work with you after you provide a test diagnosis, but it is still up to the family to get the help the student needs.
She hopes the school can start to do more with a new law that toughens reading requirements going into effect next year.
“I really hope teachers become educated on what to look for with Dyslexia,” says Cannon.
“So that they can tell the parents what is going on and let them know earlier. Catching it in 5th grade was almost too late. It is much harder to retrain your brain at that standpoint, 2nd or 3rd grade or even 1st grade is really the optimal time to catch this.”
That new law, the Alabama Literacy Act of 2019, could mean thousands of 3rd graders could be held back if they can’t meet reading requirements.
Waldrop says she’s hoping that this new law will inspire more teachers to become Certified Academic Language Therapists. While, Cannon says the Literacy Act is good because there will be some earlier intervention, and the earlier you catch dyslexia the better. However, there is no solution. Parents are having to pay for private tutoring three times a week or private school is the best help they can get right now.
Huntsville City Schools has taken several steps to make sure that struggling students can get the help they need.
- “Huntsville City schools provide a comprehensive core reading program that addresses the Big 5 + 2: Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Comprehension, Vocabulary plus Oral Language Development and Writing. Our comprehensive core is grounded in the Science of Reading, it includes all strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope Scarborough’s Reading Rope: A Groundbreaking Infographic - International Dyslexia Association (dyslexiaida.org). Scarborough’s Reading Rope (SRR) expands upon the Simple View of Reading (SVR). Our comprehensive core includes differentiated small group instruction allowing teachers to meet the student’s needs.
-HCS core program was revised and has evolved over several years putting us ahead of the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act.
- We have an established screening and a problem-solving team process that determines supports for students with dyslexic tendencies.
- To address students with the characteristics of dyslexia including those who have outside screening documents or diagnosis. We have S.P.I.R.E. in every school. We have trained hundreds of teachers over the years in S.P.I.R.E. We have trained hundreds of teachers using a dyslexia simulation from Shelton School in Texas.
- S.P.I.R.E. stands for Specialized Instruction Individualizing Reading Excellence - the program is written by Orton-Gillingham Fellow Sheila Clark-Edmands.
S.P.I.R.E.® is a research-proven reading intervention program for students with characteristics of dyslexia as determined by a multifaceted screening process. It is designed to build reading success through an intensive, structured, and spiraling curriculum that incorporates phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension in a systematic 10-step lesson plan. The program is highly rated and on the Alabama Literacy Task Force Dyslexia Specific Interventions - Google Sheets approved list. We have a cadre of HCS’ Dyslexia and ARI Reading Specialists being trained to be certified official S.P.I.R.E. trainers/facilitators.
We also provide assistive technology from Text Help https://www.texthelp.com/products/read-and-write-education/for-windows/ (there is google and word formats of the program). We provide accommodations in the classroom and other targeted supports using many multisensory tools and programs. We also use Lexia’s online and face-to-face targeted lessons to differentiated and provide support to students requiring additional supports.
In addition to hundreds of teachers being trained in S.P.I.R.E., we have approximately 250 teachers and administrators trained or currently being trained in LETRS – Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling https://www.voyagersopris.com/professional-development/letrs/overview. LETRS is being provided by the ALSDE and is approved by the International Dyslexia Association. More and more teachers are seeking participation in LETRS. Our teachers use a variety of multisensory resources, and techniques they are learning in their LETRS work.”