Dyslexia affects about 20 percent of Americans, making it the nation’s leading learning disability.
Those statistics, as compiled by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, helped to convince Mayor Paul Finley to proclaim October as Dyslexia Awareness Month in Madison.
For the Sept. 27 signing at City Hall, Marcia Ramsay, head of Greengate School, accompanied Madison students from Greengate.
Ramsay and colleagues are scheduling events across Alabama to explain dyslexia’s characteristics and steps that people can take to help.
“We intend to provide information to parents, educators and government officials about addressing the needs of dyslexic individuals in our schools and work places,” Ramsay said.
Dyslexia has huge economic and social impacts and affects people of all economic, ethnic and social backgrounds worldwide, she said.
Greengate School in Huntsville “supports and educates bright children with specific learning differences in reading, writing, or spelling (dyslexia) so they may realize their full potential,” Ramsay said.
Dyslexia can led to language problems, such as deficits in processing language. “Greengate students have individualized, daily tutoring and are taught elements of reading and writing with a structured, sequential, multi-sensory approach,” Ramsay said.
Greengate School is a 501(c)3 non-profit, independent school accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Orton-Gillingham Academy.
Also accredited by Orton-Gillingham, Cindy Hall teaches dyslexic students at Faith Christian Academy in Madison (faithacademy.org). “I pull my students from their main classroom for 90 minutes of tutoring every day for reading, spelling, penmanship and language,” Hall said.
Some dyslexic children also have problems with math. To convey multiplying 7 X 5, Hall makes seven piles of five buttons. “An abstract concept then is concrete, and it works,” Hall said.
Dyslexia is genetic with neurological origin, characterized by difficulties with spelling, accurate word recognition and decoding abilities, Ramsay said. Also, problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading can slow vocabulary growth.
“Dyslexia is caused by a difference in the way the dyslexic person’s brain is wired,” Ramsay said, “and not by low intelligence, inadequate teaching or emotional problems.” Dyslexia is not a disease and cannot be ‘cured.’
However, children who receive early and intense instruction that is direct and multi-sensory can become efficient readers and overcome many deficits. “This approach teaches patterns and strategies for decoding language, rather than guessing,” Ramsay said.
Research is helping. Ramsay cited magnetic imaging of the brain and software for voice recognition and conversion of text to speech.
Dyslexic individuals can understand high school and college work. “My dyslexic son just graduated from college in environmental studies,” Ramsay said. “However, many kids drop out because they don’t get the instruction, support and accommodations they need.”