WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
Understanding, teaching, and empowering students with language-based learning differences such as dyslexia
Kendra McCuine, M.Ed, teacher and interim director of the Hope Graham Program (HGP) at Bancroft School, writes about the beautiful and amazing dyslexic brain. Read on and discover further proof of what Hope Graham students already know: Dyslexia is a difference, not a disability!
In Our Students’ Words (Part 1)
Much of the time, kids are able to articulate what needs to be said even better than the adults in their lives. For this post and the next, I’m going to let HGP student voices dominate. The following is a speech written by a student for the 8th grade Forum. Forums are a very special tradition in which each 8th grader writes and presents a speech to the entire Middle School on any topic of their choosing. One of our HGP students recently delivered this speech with confidence and poise, and was met with enthusiastic applause upon its completion! I share it with the student’s permission:
“Mom, I have all these ideas in my head, but I can't get them on paper.” I remember saying that when I was in fourth grade. I never wanted to go to school in 4th and 5th grade. I was bullied and I struggled in most of my classes. I never felt like I was good enough. Then I was tested and learned that I have dyslexia. This is my journey through dyslexia.
“You may be wondering what is dyslexia? According to Merriam-Webster, “Dyslexia is a learning disability involving difficulties in acquiring and processing language.” In basic English what this means is that my brain learns differently when it comes to reading, writing and spelling.
“I also learned that I am not alone. An estimated 20% of the population has dyslexia including some people you may have heard of.
“Just because someone is diagnosed with dyslexia does not mean all dyslexics are the same. It doesn’t mean we read letters backwards, that we don’t know our right from our left and most importantly, it doesn’t mean that we are slow or not trying hard enough!
“For me personally, dyslexia makes reading, writing, spelling and time management a challenge.
“Reading had been the easiest of the 4 for me which is different from other dyslexics. In elementary school I was about 1-2 grade levels behind in reading up until 6th grade. That is when I came to Bancroft and the Hope Graham Program and learned specific strategies and skills.
“Tools like active reading, ear reading, which is the ability to listen to books read aloud electronically, and Orton Gillingham tutoring have helped me to have a better understanding of what I am reading and how to be a better writer. Orton Gillingham is a unique approach intended to help individuals with reading, writing, and spelling. It teaches you spelling rules, syllable division, vowel teams, Latin roots, suffixes, prefixes, and what they all mean. Writing and spelling are still a challenge for me, but not nearly so difficult as before.
“Before I came to Bancroft I was very determined to do school work on my own without any help which is a crazy idea. Because of my determination, it took me two weeks to write a memoir in 5th grade that took other kids only 4 days to write. Of course, if I had gotten help I would've gotten it done much faster and it would have been the same quality. It was difficult for me to understand my learning then because I would do really well on work but it would take me excessively long times and a lot more effort compared to others in my class. My teacher would even use my work as examples which always made it seem worth spending that amount of time on.
“I would also spell things extremely phonetically and still do. Words that had the same letters in different orders confused me a lot too. The best examples are who, how, and why which do not have all of the same letters but are very similar. I don't think I could truly 100 percent always know which was which until 6th grade.
“I have been in HGP since 6th grade and it has helped me grow so much as a learner and in my overall confidence. HGP has helped me realize that everyone learns best a different way and that what works for me is not always going to work for someone else. Dyslexia is something you will never grow out of and it means that reading and writing assignments may always take me a bit longer to complete, but with hard work, determination and specific strategies and tools, the sky's the limit!
“And finally I will end with a classic quote:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
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