Posted by: minnow | February 5, 2008

Dyslexia and the Public School

Before any of my children were diagnosed with Dyslexia our family made the decision to  home school.  At the time we made our decision my husband was in graduate school.  He was getting a MFA in theatre scenic and lighting design.  His thesis was on how Multiple Intelligences are utilized in the theatre.  To make a long story short, after much research about Multiple Intelligence we took one look at our two oldest children and realized immediately that neither were verbal-linguistic learners so placing them in a setting (like the public schools) where 85 percent of their time would be spent geared toward that type of intelligence made little sense.  (For an overview of  Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence google multiple intelligence and you will have several options from which to choose).  By the time we did put them in school they were already reading (although the younger two not at grade level).

My oldest was never officially diagnosed as Dyslexic so technically I should only claim to have three Dyslexic children not four.  However, the many hours he spent studying (primarily reading) combined with his less than stellar grades once we put him in a traditional school setting are a fairly big clue that if he was to be tested we would discover he is indeed Dyslexic.  I mention this to underscore the fact that we did not know our children were Dyslexic when we put them in public school. 

I already shared the school’s initial reaction when we enrolled our fifth and third graders–fear of neglect and immediate testing.  The resource help each received was geared almost entirely to improving their reading and writing skills.  Unfortunately, the trade off for more time spent on reading skills was less time learning new information.  IEP (individual education plan) meeting after IEP meeting I urged teachers to work at ways to educate my son without depending on his needing to read.  “Yes, yes but his reading is getting better.  On his last fluency drill he pulled his words per minute from 36 to over 100 and only had three mistakes.”  And, how many times did he read the same passage?  Two or three times a day for two or three days.  The passage was memorized, not being read.

By the time my daughter reached middle school her reading level was at grade level so the only extra “help” she got was a controlled study hall, supposedly to help her stay organized.  Certain class policies however lead me to believe little was being done to communicate some of the unique problems many Dyslexics face.  For example, one science teacher hands back worksheets then announces to the class that any student who did not get their assignment back must not have put their name on their paper.  Then he takes those nameless papers rips them in half and announces to the class that those students would need to redo their worksheets.  When I confronted him about this “policy” he stated that he was trying to help his students to be more disciplined and organized.  Perhaps if the student was “just being lazy” this teacher might have a point.  The reality is, this and many policies like it punish Dyslexic students as well as others with learning disabilities for their disability.  Disorganization and missing minor steps is a symptom of Dyslexia.  At the very least my daughter’s resource teacher should have pointed this out to her science teacher and checked her papers for missing names and open blanks before she turned them in.  Instead her resource teacher defended the science teacher.  I was at my daughter’s IEP meeting when this conversation took place so I asked the group what they knew about Dyslexia.  To a person, including the resource teacher, none of them had read a book about Dyslexia, taken a class that included information about Dyslexia, or even attended a seminar on Dyslexia.  I started to ask questions.

More on that next time.



  1. OH MY GOD!!!!! Oh how I can feel the pain of what you wrote. My name is Karen. I not only have dyslexia, and can remember coutless hours trying to retain the information I was reading. I remember being in the first special education class that my mother got started with the prinicipal, and how I was labled “Mentally Retarded” on three seprate ocassions because these so called”Professionals” did not know what dyslexya really was, let alone how to helpe me rise above it. Did I mention I have Cerebral Palsy as well?

    Your entry punctured my heart, as I have faught the system since I was a young child in one way or another. I also won the first Civil Rights Case for my own education, under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you’d like to gain some hope, I invite you and your readers to come visit me at:

    I’d love to hear from you or anyone who would like to share….

    Most sincerely,

  2. […] and English as well.  The more hands-on the better!  (You can read more about their stories here and here or click on the education category […]

  3. […] dyslexic.  (If you’re interested I’ve written about their stories in the past: here, here, here, here, and here).  Suffice it to say, fighting the system to educate my children, to see […]

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