Dyslexia Awareness

South Dakota begins the work of raising awareness and education regarding dyslexia, evaluating it and strategies to address it in K-12 learning environments.

Gov. Kristi Noem proclaimed October to be Dyslexia Awareness Month in South Dakota, one of the few states that did not officially recognize dyslexia as a learning disability until just a couple of years ago.

Noem’s proclamation, which calls for greater recognition of dyslexia and services for those who have it, goes hand in hand with efforts by the South Dakota Department of Education to raise awareness about dyslexia and to educate parents as well as teachers.

The Yankton School District (YSD) will be sending a team of educators to a dyslexia training offered by the state next month.

“I’m certain we will be learning more about dyslexia as it is becoming a greater focus in South Dakota at the state level, and as we begin reviewing our reading curriculum,” said Kathy Wagner, director of Student Services for the Yankton School District. “YSD’s reading curriculum is currently being studied and reviewed by our curriculum committee. Along with district staff, there will be several opportunities for input from parents and community members.”

The process is expected to take two years.

Reading curricula vary in their approach, some focusing on phonics, others on visual word recognition. Individuals with dyslexia learn to read phonetically, associating sounds with meaning, and typically have difficulty with visual recognition, so the selection of reading curriculum can have a huge impact on early readers.

Dyslexia is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty with word recognition, poor spelling and poor decoding abilities, which typically affect an individuals’ ability to learn reading and writing and to expand vocabulary.

Studies of dyslexics have even been able to identify the disorder on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the brain, although current educational screening methods do not include a brain scan.

Prior to kindergarten, YSD students are screened at the Yankton Community Library each spring, and again at the end of kindergarten, to identify students who need the most help reading.

“Reading Recovery teachers use that information along with the Observational Survey (OS) to identify struggling readers and determine which students will participate in Reading Recovery and Title I services,” Wagner said. “YSD has proven success with Reading Recovery.”

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessments are done three times per year with students from kindergarten to 10th grade.  

“This assessment provides student growth data, and identifies strengths and weaknesses in specific skill areas,” Wagner said. “These results are used to drive instruction and determine individualized, differentiated reading groups.”

Children who are learning to read may have difficulties whether or not they have dyslexia, which parents may address with the child’s teacher.

“Parents should ask the teacher if there are any interventions in place for their child, or could be put in place to help the child be more successful. Sometimes, students just need a little extra support to make a difference,” Wagner said. “If the student continues to struggle, parents can refer their child for an educational evaluation by contacting the building principal or teacher.”

Students who are found to have dyslexia may be placed on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to address their needs.

“Dyslexia falls under the umbrella of a specific learning disability in the area of reading,” Wagner said. “YSD looks at the specific needs of each student. YSD’s specialized support is based on specific skills deficits a student may have.”

Reading difficulties caused by dyslexia have been found to originate from a deficit in the phonological component of language, the ability to attend to, discriminate, remember and manipulate sounds at the sentence, word and syllable level.

Students with dyslexia often benefit from multisensory learning, through hearing and touch as well as seeing, as well as through structured literacy instruction, one that systematically teaches phonics and phonemic awareness, Wagner said.

“One way YSD meets the needs of struggling readers in special education is through the Reading Mastery curriculum. Reading Mastery uses a highly explicit, systematic approach of direct instruction to accelerate reading and help students achieve a high rate of success,” Wagner said.

“I cannot emphasize enough that there is no single way to teach reading to all students. As a district, the Yankton School District strives to meet the needs of all students, including those students with dyslexia.”

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For more information go to https://doe.sd.gov/Dyslexia/

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