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Dyslexia Never Ends!

Many states, including Indiana, now have passed state-regulated dyslexia laws. When I speak with educators from around the state sometimes our ICAM/AEM conversations lead to Indiana SB 217 which is our state's dyslexia law. Some schools have embraced the law, provide training for teachers, and have rigorous, appropriate support in place for students. Some teachers talk about their district's well-designed procedures for MTSS (Multi-Tiered-System-of-Supports) and have expressed excitement about the OG (Orton-Gillingham) Courses they are completing.

On the other hand, others have told me that no one is actually monitoring progress or enforcing the tenets of the laws. Most often the reasons cited for this are a purported lack of funding for professional development for educators, and meager interest in technology and science-based reading supports for students. I've been told several times that "we are not allowed to use the word dyslexia". I've taught, and I get that school corporations have "cultures". That's a thing. But think of trying to intervene with a learning difference that you are not allowed to name. Let that sink in.

Effective educators do not need a state law mandating them to offer good instruction to all our students, as we've been taught ways to consider all their different strengths, weaknesses and needs. If you have the passion, the knowledge and the tools, you can help even the most downtrodden, self-loathing, struggling student learn to read. There are a plethora of courses, webinars, podcasts and publications that can help us provide reading instruction that is comprehensive, driven by the science of reading, and based on over 100 years of research that has been replicated and published.  

By engaging in your own professional development you can learn how to identify students who have dyslexia, even if for whatever reason they have not been universally screened, such as students who had passed 3rd grade when Indiana SB 217 was enacted in 2018.   After you have identified the signs of dyslexia correctly a few times, you get really good at it. This repeated practice puts your dyslexia antenna in the alert position, and you know to watch for more signals. You learn how to effectively help your students meet their challenges and move on to the next. Because dyslexia never ends.  

The first best practice of an educator is to know your students. Why does this student come in with a hostile demeanor every morning? Why does that student always look like she's been crying? Why does this one and that one exhibit inappropriate and puzzling behaviors, or act out in ways disproportionate to the situation? As a teacher, you may need to admonish sometimes for the sake of everyone's right to learn, but don't let that be the end of the interaction. Explore the "why". Try to develop trust between you and the students you are with during the day. Then it's easier to notice the learning differences that emerge, understand them, and accommodate them.

We must take matters into our own hands, regardless of what the powers that be are or are not enforcing, because of the following (this is not an exhaustive list, but a list of the types of things that keep me up at night:

  • 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th-grade level.  
  • 1 in 4 children in America grows up without learning how to read.  
  • Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.  
  • Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.  
  • 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.  
  • Reports show that the rate of low literacy in the United States directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.

This information came from the website and is similar to other sites I compared. This one happens to be a global movement of millions of young people who see the literacy problem and want to fix it.

Contact a PATINS Specialist for information on technology, tools and classroom strategies to help your struggling readers. Contact the ICAM if you have struggling readers being served under the IDEA and have an IEP. Contact the IERC if your struggling readers have blindness/low vision. Together, for Indiana, we can change the statistics.

Thanks so much!


5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs

5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs 5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs
  1. Where are AEM and AT located in the Indiana IEP system?
    • Provisions and Services page 
  2. screenshot image from IIEP with red boxes around accessible materials and assistive technology areasWhat could be considered AEM for DHH Students?
    • Any materials used in the classroom that need to be in an accessible format for the student to access their curriculum at the same time as their peers such as closed and open captions, transcripts in (but not limited to) foreign language learning classrooms, access to print material in digital formats (This is not an exhaustive list).
  3. What could be considered AT for DHH Students? 
    • Any device or technology used to provide access to the curriculum such as a tablet or Chromebook/laptop for access to live transcript applications, AAC device, FM/DM ear level transmitter/receiver, t-coil, neck loop, induction loop, remote mini microphone, Bluetooth device, built-in or stand-alone sound-field speaker and microphone, book clips, speech to text software/applications, text to speech software/applications (This is not an exhaustive list).
  4. Even if the case conference committee decides that the student does not need AEM and/or AT to provide FAPE do we select “No” and leave the box blank?
    • When a case conference committee decides that the student does not need either AEM or AT to provide FAPE then select “No” in the appropriate box and comment in the box on what was considered, discussed, and the outcome.
    • Note: Leaving the box blank can suggest that the team did not consider or discuss AEM or AT during the conference.
  5. How can our team determine if AEM and/or AT are appropriate for our DHH student(s)? 

Visions of Versions for 2023

This past weekend I was invited to create a vision board for 2023 with a wonderful group of friends. As a newbie to this type of goal setting or planning for the year, I was looking forward to the inspiration I would find in the giant pile of magazines that we’d collected. 

Tall stack of magazines.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to include something about books. Making my way through a stack of professional books has actually been a goal of mine since the start of the 2022-23 school year. At that time, I set a goal of reading a professional resource for at least 60 minutes a week, and while this isn’t a huge amount of time, my to-read stack is decreasing in size (as a sidebar, I found reading The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler to be thought-provoking and profound)! 

Magazine cutouts with the words let's read books.

Not only am I enjoying reading these professional resources about all things education, I’ve found myself in a new book club and reading books for my own enjoyment. Before the last six months, I had never really viewed myself as an avid reader, but now I’m actively reading two books and will start a third soon. As I record these thoughts in this blog, I’m still happily shocked by this shift in my life. This is because I grew up hating to read the books assigned in school. Instead, I flew through all of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, but at one point was told that what I was reading was essentially garbage and worthless. 

One thing that has really come into view over the last handful of months is the fact that I thoroughly enjoy reading with my eyes and with my ears; it simply depends upon the context. For example, I recently purchased the printed book, Solito; A Memoir by Javier Zamora, as this was my last book club book. However, I quickly figured out that I wanted to keep reading it even when I didn’t have access to the physical book, like when I was driving or going for a walk. That meant I needed the audio version too. So I went ahead and purchased it from the Google Play Store (I find digital books cheaper here than on Audible), since it wasn’t currently available for digital access through my local library.

Viola! The reading no longer had to wait on my access to the printed book! I could read with my eyes in bed or read with my ears in the car or on the treadmill. The ability to choose the way in which I read the text allowed me to continue my engagement in the story with less restriction. Having these options allowed me to maximize my time, which is another part of my vision for the year. 

What if we could engage our students in spending more time reading by simply offering them choices in the ways that they can access text? Recent research from the Journal of Neuroscience states that “while the representation of semantic information in the human brain is quite complex, the semantic representations evoked by listening versus reading are almost identical.” This means that when we are focused on building reading comprehension, we should feel confident in letting our students read with their eyes and their ears.


It’s in these choices that we may help our students see themselves as “avid” readers for the first time in their lives-- just like I’m experiencing for the first time in my late 30s. It’s a mixed feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that I may not have realized could be fulfilled in this way, but it’s a feeling that is shaping my self-image and confidence in my intellect.

Plus, we must recognize that we will always have students with documented print disabilities that require access to digital and printed text in various formats to aid comprehension, and the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) is ready and waiting to help you provide these accessible materials at no cost to you. Reach out if you’d like more information on getting started!

There are ways to find accessible digital versions of text for all students, too. Firstly, you can check out audiobooks from your local library through apps like Hoopla and Libby. Other sites like Unite for Literacy and Open Library also offer audiobooks. There are paid options as well such as Epic, Books on Google Play, Audible, and more. 

I look forward to the day where school libraries operate like our public libraries offering print, digital, and audiobooks for all students! Please like or comment if you too have visions of text versions for all students!


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