Aleczander has specific learning disabilities. It’s important for public school special education teachers, and most particularly special education program administrators, to understand that kids who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and oral motor disfluency don’t suddenly develop these learning problems when they hit kindergarten, they are born with them.
Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003 defines dyslexia in this way:
(1) Dyslexia means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.
(2) Related disorders includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.
Kids like Aleczander need multi-sensory instruction which Aleczander now receives. In addition to being enrolled in a third grade classroom at a private school, Aleczander also attends an after school dyslexia program at the Scottish Rite Learning Center.
From the Texas educational code, we read about the major warning signs of dyslexia:
At the Preschool level, children with dyslexia may:
- talk later than most children
- have difficulty with rhyming, have difficulty pronouncing words (i.e., busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower)
- have poor auditory memory for nursery rhymes and chants
- be slow to add new vocabulary words
- be unable to recall the right word
- have trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, and how to spell and
write his or her name.
As a toddler, Aleczander displayed all of these symptoms and his parents sought and received special education interventions for him through the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (Odessa ISD) and through Early Childhood Intervention Services (Permian Basin Rehab Center). After Aleczander and his family moved to San Antonio, parents attempted to enroll Aleczander in similar programs. Sadly, despite his previous assessments and record of special education services, Aleczander was denied admittance to PreKindergarten and wasn’t assessed for any special education services at all until he was six years old.
While enrolled in Public School Kindergarten and First Grade, Aleczander displayed these characteristics of dyslexia as delineated in Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003.
Children in Kindergarten through Third Grade will likely:
- fail to understand that words come apart; for example, that snowman can be pulled apart into snow and man and/or that the word man can be broken down still further and sounded out as /m/ /ă/ /n/
- have difficulty learning the letter names and their corresponding sounds
- have difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
- have difficulty spelling phonetically
- read dysfluently (choppy and labored)
- rely on pictures, context or memory to recognize a word.
During Aleczander’s 2nd grade year, he was no longer attending public school when his parents had him evaluated by a pediatric neurologist. Dr. Jerry Tomasovic provided this information to his parents: “Aleczander has congenital developmental dyspraxia. Public school teachers and therapists who tell you that he will learn to read and write like other children without speech, physical, occupational and academic therapy aren’t misinformed or mistaken, they are lying to you. The severe stuttering that he developed during the previous six months isn’t indicative of epilepsy or a brain tumor, it’s caused by stress.”
Fast forward to today’s video. This is what multi-sensory instruction looks like. Aleczander’s teacher and classmates understand (as no one at the public system ever was able to do) that Aleczander has a learning disability that makes it hard (but not impossible) for him to learn to read and write. Watch as Aleczander uses what looks like a fly swatter to slap one syllable “Popper Words.” These high frequency words have to be memorized by children with dyslexia as most cannot be sounded out phonetically. See Aleczander’s excitement grow as he continues to benefit from his teacher’s enthusiasm, the support of his classmates, and the utilization of the multi-sensory teaching techniques that are also used in his after school dyslexia program.