What Dyslexia Is

December 30, 2019

Why can’t my son read? I am a teacher and yet he is struggling. I teach students to read all the time and he cannot. He is saying “I am dumb, I am stupid” and I know he is not. What is going on? What is the problem?



Dyslexia occurs in 20% of the population. One out of five people have dyslexia. As teachers, many of us have not been taught about dyslexia. I know from personal experience, I was not taught about dyslexia in my college education. Therefore, everything I have learned, I have learned on my own, and I attribute my son’s struggle to this. Furthermore, this has changed me as a teacher, because as a mom it was heartbreaking to see his struggle; to see his self-esteem plummet into feeling inadequate because he could not read.

Many parents can relate to their own child struggling with reading, but when it comes to reading, I should know how to teach him. I do it every day, teach kids how to read. This is my profession, this is what I do daily. My district has had multiple professional developments on guided reading. I am very familiar with guided reading and it has helped my students, but WHY isn’t it helping my son? What am I missing?

What do I do?

I was first introduced to dyslexia when my son was 5. It was suggested I find an Orton-Gillingham tutor when he was 7. I did not know what that meant. Consequently, my research began as well as my education.

A book, I highly recommend for every teacher is Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. As I began my educational journey, I have read this book numerous times. Dr. Shaywitz is known for her work in the field of dyslexia. There are many other books out there as well, but this was the first book that helped me in understanding what dyslexia is and there is hope.

As a mother, whose child is struggling, this was just what I needed. In addition, as a teacher, who is now becoming aware how many students suffer in the classroom, this was an eye-opening moment.

The questions many ask, what is dyslexia? How do I identify it? What can I do in my classroom to help these students?dyslexia definition


First, realize and understand dyslexia is in your classroom, whether the student is identified or not, it is there. Remember one out of five students have it; it can be mild, moderate, serve, or profound. No two dyslexic students are the same. As a teacher, understanding what dyslexia is, can benefit your students.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition causing difficulty in learning to read. It can effect students reading quickly and automatically as well as the inability to process the sounds and connect sounds to letters. The struggle to decode and encode is very real for a lot of students. Simply being told to try harder is not going to help a student with dyslexia.  In other words, if dyslexia is suspected, always give the benefit of the doubt to the student.

Second, identification of dyslexia can be done in the early school years. Likewise, if there is a concern, formal testing should be completed. Please use this as a guideline for dyslexia symptoms.


Some things to look for

in the early years of schooling are as followed:

~a family history

~rhyming difficulty

~not learning nursery rhymes

~complaining reading is hard and avoiding it

~struggles with segmenting(breaking words apart)

In the upper grades, things to look for include:

~ slow reading fluency

~guessing at words

~difficulty spelling

~trouble reading multi-syllabic words

~not finishing tests on time

~struggling with learning how to tie shoes

~left/right confusion

~reading level is below grade level

~oral comprehension is very high

Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexia


In your classroom some accommodations that can be done by the teacher include (these are suggestions that can be implemented without an IEP/504)

~extra time on test/shorten version of test

~reading story problems aloud to the student for math

~allowing oral answers

~scribing for the student

~providing text to speech

~audio books

~not requiring the student to read a loud

~not taking off for spelling mistakes

~do not take away recess because a class assignment or homework is not completed



However, students with dyslexia can be taught to read. Using the Orton-Gillingham approach (which is a multi-sensory, hands on, structured way to teach reading) can and will benefit students.

Also, there are many online programs where teachers can be certified in the Orton-Gillingham approach. A few are listed below:

Dyslexia Training Institute-dyslexiatraininginstitute.org

Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, ortonacadmey.org

IMSE, Institiute for multi-sensory education, orton-gillingham.com

Another resource for teachers and parents is

Decoding Dyslexia, every state has a chapter, please join your states decoding dyslexia group, dyslexiaida.org

Books to read:

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz

Unlocking Literacy by Marcia Henry

Speech to Print by Lousia Cook Moats

Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties by David Kilpatrick.

Remember to say dyslexia! Spread awareness and educate yourself!oneinfive


The ideas from this post are from my own journey with dyslexia; in regards to my son and what I have learned. Please continue to learn more.


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Hi y’all, I am Patti from The Kindergarten Zone. I am a kindergarten teacher who is passionate about designing educational resources that will save you time and make your life easier. I love sharing ideas on lifestyle, teaching, and ALL things kindergarten. Let’s connect, think of me as your teacher bestie! Read More