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Dyslexia in the Classroom
Humans seem predisposed to focus on what they can't do well rather than on what they can. This is especially problematic for persons with learning disabilities. Since a majority of formal education centers around reading and writing, it is easy for a person with dyslexia to fall into this trap.
Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney are just a few successful dyslexics who demonstrate that dyslexia has its positive characteristics. In fact, once you begin to utilize teaching techniques that work with rather than against the natural learning styles of persons with dyslexia, the benefits of dyslexia can outweigh the drawbacks.
People with dyslexia tend to be visual, multidimensional, right-brain learners. Because visual learners are successful seeing what they are learning, images should be used to help them process information. It is also helpful for a visual learner to be able to see the person who is talking. When giving verbal information, encourage the visual learner to create a mental picture of what is being discussed.
Schools are set up in such a way that left-brain thinkers are able to excel based on what comes naturally to them. Right-brain thinkers, on the other hand, are more intuitive learners. They tend to be spontaneous and respond well to demonstrations rather than explanations. They are better with open-ended questions and they do well when allowed a more hands-on approach to learning.
By focusing on a skill set that is inherently difficult for a person with dyslexia, such as silent reading, worksheets, and multiple choice exams, school becomes an environment of failure. Because we know that success begets success, opportunities for success need to be established in our classrooms for right-brain learners. Once students feel successful and understand there will be daily opportunities to excel, they will be more likely to take risks on tasks that are more difficult for them.
The multidimensional thinking that is common in people with dyslexia is perhaps the characteristic most at odds with a successful educational experience and most needed for successful participation in today's rapidly changing world. Multidimensional thinking allows a person to look at a problem from many angles.
It is reported that Albert Einstein thought of the theory of relativity by imagining himself riding on a lightwave. That's probably not something you would hear from a linear thinker! The ability to view a single problem in different ways and produce a wide variety of solutions is imperative today. It is a way of thinking that should be encouraged with more classroom discussions, open-ended test questions, and hands-on problem-solving activities.
Without a doubt, dyslexia makes the traditional classroom setting difficult to maintain for educators and difficult to succeed in for students. Because all students, regardless of ability, have similarities and differences in learning, we can create a classroom that educates everyone by utilizing teaching techniques that benefit all learning styles.