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  • Sarah Gale

Teachers criticize the education system during National Dyslexia Awareness Month

Vanessa Kerr has advocated for learning accommodations in her classroom for three years at Jefferson Christian Academy. (Photo Courtesy: Alex Gale)

Teachers for dyslexic students evaluate the education system during the 20th National Dyslexia Awareness Month.

“Awareness is important because then we can understand that everyone learns differently. [We can] give students the time and accommodations they need,” Vanessa Kerr, an English teacher at Jefferson Christian Academy, said.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) organized the first dyslexia awareness month in the United Kingdom in October 2002. In 2015, the U.S Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, proposed by Senators Bill Cassidy and Barbara Mikulski, to designate October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Supporters of the resolution included the IDA, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The resolution medically defined dyslexia and addressed the magnitude of its effects on the population and education system. The resolution requires educational agencies at every level to recognize the impact dyslexia may have on a person’s education.

Kerr says awareness in education is essential. She explained that there is a history of schools neglecting the needs of dyslexic children. Kerr has noticed many teachers label dyslexic students as “lazy.”

Kerr said that some of her dyslexic students transferred from schools where teachers completely ignored them. If a teacher thought a student might be unable to do an assignment, they refused to let the student attempt it.

“The teachers won’t even let them try to do the work,” Kerr said.

Peggy Dyke, a former teacher of 30 years, described similar situations happening to her students. Dyke claims that a teacher not being active in the learning process can lead to severe social repercussions for a child.

“Children with dyslexia are often put down by their peers and even teachers,” Dyke said.

Dyke expressed that teachers should educate their entire classroom on dyslexia and other learning disabilities. She reasons that spreading awareness among children would help turn bullies into understanding classmates.

According to research from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexia is a learning disability that affects an estimated 20% of people in the U.S. The research states that 80-90% of people with a learning disability have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability found in the education system. According to the Dyslexic Center of Utah, one in five people and approximately 80% of students in special education programs have dyslexia. There is a 50% chance that a child will have dyslexia if one of their parents has it.

There is no cure for dyslexia. However, an early diagnosis can lead to an individual receiving tailored help to achieve their goals.

“When we can get them diagnosed early, it helps us [the teachers] understand their learning habits,” Kerr said.

A technique Kerr has found helpful in teaching dyslexic students is finding learning activities that incorporate as many of the five senses as possible. Trial and error help her figure out a student’s different learning style.

Dyke makes sure to spend one-on-one time reading with struggling dyslexic students. She states that it is essential to treat their needs individually outside of regular classroom time.

“I try to provide correction and encouragement,” Dyke said, describing her teaching style.

The government plays a role in providing educational institutions with the tools to aid children with dyslexia. Recently, state legislatures have introduced more dyslexia-specific bills. In the summer of 2021, Hawaii, Idaho and Vermont were the only states to pass any dyslexia-specific laws. This year, however, the Idaho House of Representatives passed House Bill 731, which defined dyslexia and outlined screenings for the disability and literacy improvement plans.

Dyslexia-specific legislation in Florida passed the School Community of Professional Development Act in 2017. The Early Learning & Student Literacy Bill was enacted in 2021, followed by 2022’s Student Progress Monitoring Bill.

“I believe we can change it [the education system] by understanding an individual and learning about a child’s specific needs,” Dyke said.

By Sarah Gale

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