GPL Column: Navigating dyslexia in Indiana

Being an elementary classroom teacher was always a challenge, but when I attempted to homeschool my three children I was in for the ride of my life.

My daughters were quick studies for reading and spelling but my son was not. He added letters, inverted letters, skipped words and even though he could memorize entire chapters of the Bible and had a huge vocabulary, he could not read fluently. Dyslexia runs in my family. My father, brother and numerous cousins have reading deficits. October was Dyslexia Awareness Month so I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of the wonderful resources we have in Indiana.

First of all, the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has defined the signs to look for in your preschool children:

  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning and remembering the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties

Schools in Indiana have been screening children from kindergarten to second grade for signs of dyslexia this fall. The best intervention for this issue is an evidence-based method called Orton Gillingham which addresses the need for multi-sensory, explicit, systematic and sequential phonetic instruction. Teachers continue to be trained in this method with special thanks to the MA Rooney Foundation, Dyslexia Institute of Indiana and Marian University’s Center for Vibrant Learning.

Research shows that 95% of reading failure is preventable by using appropriate instruction and well-trained teachers. Sadly, less than a third of children reading below their grade level receive appropriate instruction, leading to the dismal statistics that currently plague Indiana. The latest test scores show that more than six in 10 Hoosier fourth graders are not proficient in reading.

Early intervention is key. It takes four times as long to successfully intervene in fourth grade as it does in late kindergarten. It is not only life-changing for the child, but it is also cheaper for the school to intervene early.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading progress don’t wait to seek help. The Greenwood Public Library offers a myriad of materials to help navigate you through the dyslexia journey. We have decodable readers, audiobooks — which are great for developing comprehension and vocabulary — and resource materials from dyslexia specialists, along with lists of qualified tutors.

My dyslexia story has a happy ending. After consistent work on phonics, by sixth grade my son was reading on level. He went on to graduate from Purdue’s aviation program, become a naval aviator and is now successful in business. Please seek help if you feel your child might be among the one in five children who struggle with dyslexia.

Anne Guthrie is a Kids Librarian at Greenwood Public Library. GPL staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]