Many children have difficulty learning to read. Yet, schools throughout Maryland do not teach reading using methods proven to be effective for all students, including those with learning differences like dyslexia. Despite the science underlying these proven teaching methods, many Maryland schools are not using evidence-based reading interventions and don’t recognize dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia early enough. This is a serious problem because reading intervention is most effective when it’s started early.
Many Maryland schools rely on ways of teaching reading that are ineffective for typical students and disastrous for children with dyslexia. For example, instead of teaching systematic decoding (sounding out words), schools still use the disproven “three-cueing” methods of instructing and assessing children, which encourages them to look at pictures and guess at words. Other schools use “leveled” readers that track one data point for progress rather than separate the distinct skills of reading comprehension (understanding meaning) and decoding (sounding out words). Failure to track these skills separately masks early reading problems in bright children. This means that a bright student’s learning differences might not be identified early, so crucial early interventions are delayed.
As a result of this failure to use proven, effective teaching methods, only 35% of 4th graders in Maryland are proficient in reading. The good news is that the same approaches that help kids with dyslexia learn to read are effective for all students, whether or not they have a diagnosed or identified disability. If schools were willing to change, these approaches could be implemented across the board in the general education classrooms, and would benefit all students.
Beyond what is done for all students in the general education classroom, students with language based learning disabilities like dyslexia need structured literacy intervention methods that are explicit, systematic, cumulative, and diagnostic. This scientifically-based approach is supported by the Maryland State Department of Education.
As schools in Maryland continue to ignore decades-old best practices for teaching reading and assessing progress, parents struggle to get schools to acknowledge their child’s dyslexia and other learning disabilities. This is especially true for bright children with learning disabilities who cannot read but use background knowledge or memorization to give correct answers on reading assessments.
Parents of students with dyslexia who are not yet identified as having the disability often hear that their children are “doing fine,” “are doing better than others,” “just need more time,” “are immature,” or are “late because they are boys.” These are unacceptable excuses. One in five students have dyslexia, and the failure to identify them early leads to significant consequences in their personal and academic lives. These students experience the intense frustration of not learning to read, and understandably, they sometimes communicate that frustration the only way they can — through misbehavior, deflection, or avoidance. This is a story we have seen often and hear repeatedly from parents.
We have extensive experience working with parents of children with dyslexia and learning disabilities who are struggling to read. Parents often seek our help with issues like the following:
- A parent suspects that their has a learning disability, but school staff dismiss their concerns, instead blaming the child for not trying hard enough, or the parent for not working with the child at home
- The school team refuses to evaluate the child for a disability, even when there are signs of a problem (or a family history, since dyslexia is genetic)
- The school team will not acknowledge that a child has a disability, even when the parent has outside testing with a diagnosis
- The teacher says the student is making progress in reading, or math, or writing but the parents and the student feel (or know!) this is false
- The child is beginning to dislike school and wants to stay home, or says they feel “stupid”
- The school team says a child is not reading because of ADHD or “just isn’t ready yet”
- The school offers a reading group, math group, or time with the reading specialist but cannot name what specific intervention is being used during those sessions
- The interventions that are being used are not evidence-based
We can work with you to identify your child’s needs, track and document reading progress, and make sure they are getting effective, evidence-based, reading interventions that will increase their academic achievement and emotional well-being.