Dyslexia is a challenge for the education system: how children with reading and writing disorders are taught


Vladimir Mayakovsky, Albert Einstein, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise - what unites these famous people? All of them experienced great difficulties with reading and writing. In modern terms, they suffered from dyslexia and dysgraphia. Scientists around the world have been studying the phenomenon of dyslexia for several years. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and speech therapists have proven that persistent difficulties with reading and writing, which occur in 15% of people, are not a sign of low motivation or pedagogical neglect, but a feature of brain function. Olga Velichenkova, Associate Professor at the Moscow City Pedagogical University (MSPU), Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, talks about who teaches children with dyslexia and how.

Dyslexia in the spotlight
Dyslexia is a print comprehension disorder caused by neurobiological factors. A person with dyslexia reads slowly and with difficulty, while changing places of letters in words, and cannot repeat what he has read. And if in an ordinary child such difficulties go away by the end of the first grade, when the reading skill is automated, then dyslexics can experience them throughout their lives.

Over the past decades, the number of specialists, including speech therapists and speech pathologists, who can accompany dyslexics and help them overcome learning difficulties has grown significantly. If in the 1980s there were only two universities in Moscow that trained speech therapists, today there are many more. At the same time, there is a shortage of the most valuable specialists for overcoming dyslexia - neuropsychologists: they are trained by literally several institutes.

Experts constantly draw public attention to the problem. So, in October (and this month is considered the month of dyslexia awareness throughout the world), Moscow State Pedagogical University and the Association of Parents of Children with Dyslexia hold a scientific conference at which speech therapists, speech pathologists, neuropsychologists discuss the nuances of teaching children who have difficulty reading and writing, and Moms and dads receive practical recommendations.
Dyslexia as a challenge for school
The teaching community as a whole is familiar with dyslexia. But it is too early to say that the school is in all respects ready for the challenge that dyslexia represents, and knows how to teach children with such characteristics, how to adapt the assessment system or how to carry out assessment work for them.

The fact that a student reads poorly, confuses letters, writes them in reverse and does not want to understand what is required of him, is often reproached by the child himself, his grades are lowered, and sometimes it even comes to bullying. And often dyslexia is also accompanied by ADHD (editor's note - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which complicates the situation: mobile, hyperactive, restless, unfocused children, who, moreover, cannot always control their emotions, irritate the inexperienced and unprepared teachers. And the teacher’s recommendation to contact a speech therapist or speech pathologist in such a situation is perceived by parents not as an offer of help, but as punishment.

But today there are not only humanistic, but also institutional problems. Yes, you can learn a lot of speech therapists, but publishing and implementing a textbook with adapted material is a slow process. And there is a problem with educational aids for dyslexics: the program in which children with severe speech difficulties, writing and reading disorders study, is still not equipped with aids, and these children need them like air. There is, say, a primer for children with speech disorders, as well as a textbook on developing pronunciation.
Education programs for children with dyslexia
Currently, schools are implementing two adapted educational programs for children with writing and reading disabilities, one of which involves prolonging the duration of education. It is designed to educate such students in separate classes, where they receive the same education as their peers, but over a longer period of time. It is precisely for such a program that special textbooks with a lightweight theoretical part are needed. They introduce topics that are not in the regular school course of the Russian language, and additional subjects of the philological block: pronunciation and speech development. Unfortunately, so far there are only two textbooks on speech development written for this approach.

The non-extension program involves training in a regular classroom, but with additional classes with a speech therapist and psychologist. Referral to these specialists is given by the PMPC (editor's note - psychological, medical and pedagogical commission). Workbooks and manuals from different authors and publishers can be used in classes. The speech therapist can choose them at his discretion, but the purchase falls on the shoulders of the parents.

A speech therapist who works with a child with dyslexia first of all analyzes the difficulties that a particular student has in mastering writing and reading, and selects the most effective ones from a wide range of game exercises. Such exercises are aimed at bridging gaps in mastering school knowledge and skills, and sometimes at solving specific problems. For example, in a general education program

We do not need to specifically develop phonemic awareness - the ability to distinguish speech sounds. And if the child has disabilities, this may be necessary.

The child's brain is plastic, and results can be achieved in different ways, even if the child has some cognitive deficits. Compensatory techniques work well. If we can’t remember the rule, that means we’ll use special mnemonic devices, funny memory cards, and drawings. It is difficult to repeat theoretical material - we will memorize rhymes, simplify the theory, or generally focus on practical material and functional literacy.

Recognize cannot be silenced
Today, during the mandatory medical examination upon admission to the first grade, a visit to a speech therapist is not required: speech therapy screening is carried out solely at the request of the parents. However, not all mothers and fathers understand that their child needs such a study, so often the problem with reading becomes obvious by the end of the first grade, after which parents and children with speech disorders are sent to PMPK. Moreover, its positive conclusion makes it possible to receive free speech therapy assistance needed by the child for a long time.

But for many mothers and fathers, a referral to PMPK is like a label, something indecent. They are afraid of some terrible diagnosis and try to hush up the problem, pretend that it does not exist, because outwardly the child is no different from the others. So what if he studies poorly, he will grow up and become wiser... It is important for parents to realize that recognizing dyslexia at the beginning of education is much easier and more effective than later solving problems that grow like a snowball. And to get started, before entering first grade, you must visit a speech therapist.

Often families living in the regions cannot find the right specialist - a defectologist or a neuropsychologist - in their locality. They may be advised to contact the Association of Parents of Children with Dyslexia. Together with Moscow State Pedagogical University, the organization has developed programs for online consultation of parents and children with dyslexia with specialists who will help determine exactly what problems the child has and tell them how to act. Consultations are free.

How can parents help a child with dyslexia?
The earlier dyslexia is identified, the greater the child’s chances of successfully mastering the school curriculum, passing exams and enrolling in a university. But parents will also be required to provide their child with all possible help and support, for example, in mastering reading skills at home. And here you can give moms and dads some simple tips.

First, don't compare your child to their peers. Do not try to force him to immediately read a text that is difficult for him, arguing that it is easy for his classmates.

Secondly, train a skill, such as reading syllables, with numerous repetitions in small volumes. For example, you can write three syllables on cards and hang them around the house so that the baby sees them all the time and reads and remembers them every time. Gradually, you can increase the number of syllables on the cards and learn to form the first simple words from them.

Thirdly, use adapted texts. A child with dyslexia who has already learned to combine syllables into words usually reads slowly and with great difficulty. In order for him to get acquainted with the book and continue to improve his reading skills, adapted texts are best suited, where there are no complex words, the sentences are short, and each is located on its own line. These can be both original texts and adapted works of art. It is better for the child to read them in a revised form than not to read them at all.

It is important to understand that dyslexia is not a death sentence, but a need to look at the education process from a different angle. If a person has not achieved the expected level of literacy, this does not mean that he does not have talents. In general, people with dyslexia have vivid imaginations, a keen understanding of 2D and 3D shapes, and are often successful in creative endeavors such as painting or music. But the most important thing is that no child, with or without dyslexia, should have to prove with his other talents that he also has the right to education.

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