Struggles behind students who have dyslexia

Students with dyslexia have trouble with reading, writing, listening, spelling and comprehension skills. Teachers can make learning challenging without providing important accommodations.


MacKenzie Conniff

Individual types of dyslexia impact students in different ways. The six categories were created by experts to separate the most common forms of dyslexia from each other. Tutors/educators can construct strategies that are more specific for each individual type of dyslexia using these distinct characteristics. “[Kids with dyslexia] are all different. There’s not one that’s the same,” Rhonda Peterson, a tutor who specializes in teaching students with dyslexia stated.

A popular myth about dyslexia is that it’s rare. Despite this misconception, dyslexia actually affects approximately 20% of the population. It is also the most common neuro-cognitive disorder according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. The reason dyslexia is seen as rare is because it is often mis-diagnosed or passed over. This may be because existing definitions of dyslexia rely on a single indicator when at least six types of dyslexia exist. The way dyslexia impacts students’ learning varies; some find it easier to adapt to learning while others fall behind and need extra help.

An anonymous Lake Stevens High School sophomore has dyslexia and they mainly struggle with remembering things, finishing projects, being productive, and reading comprehension.

“I feel like [my teachers] don’t even know that I don’t work as fast,” they stated. “I don’t think they even know [about my dyslexia]; they treat me the same as everyone else… I don’t think any of them actually use my accommodations or even know what they are.”

This student has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), which is an evaluation of their current academic status along with a workup of the services they will receive and when they are supposed to receive them. Students with an IEP must be provided their accommodations by teachers, and a quick conversation between students and teachers can be helpful in making sure the students are adequately supported. According to their “IEP at a glance”, in the accommodations section, their teachers are supposed to be frequently checking in with them on a regular basis to make sure that they have a good understanding of what the assignment is asking.

“I’m at least an assignment behind every day. They expect me to learn the same way, they don’t acknowledge it or ask me if I need help,” they expressed.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has made it so that students with learning disabilities are to participate in the general education system. It also requires that they be given the support they need in order to meet the standards. When a learning disability is suspected, by the school or the family, students are then evaluated so that they can be accommodated in a way that will help them succeed.

One of the more successful methods of developmental improvement for students who have dyslexia is having a tutor. Rhonda Peterson, a tutor of seven years, specializes in improving the reading and spelling skills of kids with dyslexia. The process Peterson teaches is known as phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of words. Good phonemic awareness begins with the ability to differentiate sounds, syllables and rhymes.

“First, what are you doing with your mouth, where are you saying the sounds, how are the sounds coming out of your mouth,” is how Peterson explains phonemic awareness.

As students learn how to connect speech to sounds, sounds to letters, and letters to meanings, the English language becomes clearer and easier to understand. The student learns when the voice box is engaged (or not) and where the tongue should be for specific sounds. The student also learns how to build sounds using the jaw, tongue, breath, teeth and lips; a strategy that is proven effective for most young learners, even those without neuro-cognitive disabilities.

Another sophomore at Lake Stevens high school who has dyslexia, Selena Alonzo had a tutor from grades 4-7 who helped her improve her spelling and reading skills; however, she still struggles with spelling and reading comprehension.

“I don’t work as fast as other people. Because when we’re spelling stuff out all the time, like when a teacher is having us write some words down from the board, I’ll have to, like, look up, so many different times. Every time I’m like ‘am I spelling this right?” Alonzo expressed.

Both the anonymous student and Alonzo expressed how they work slower than other students, but Alonzo has managed to keep up with her work without accommodations and has improved reading and spelling skills because of her tutor. Even though Alonzo has managed without accommodations, it still impacts her life. Students with dyslexia can be academically successful and with the right support.e