Hopeful and not helpless, for dyslexic learners

Amanda Frantz '23, Supervising Photo Editor

EDUCATIONAL ACCESSIBILITY Many students go through their schooling going undiagnosed with dyslexia. However, with the help of accommodations, struggling students can find academic success despite their disability. (Josh Sonnenberg ’25)

While the most common learning disability, Dyslexia differs from many disabilities in that it is ‘invisible’, or doesn’t have any visible characteristics. Among other reasons, this invisibility is why dyslexia is largely underdiagnosed, according to Ella Taylor ’24, who received a dyslexia diagnosis in her sophomore year.

“It’s very common for kids to have it and never know,” Taylor said. “They just think, this is just how I read. I didn’t realize that’s different than everyone else.’”

Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty in language processing, commonly in reading and writing, but also commonly spelling and handwriting. Contrary to common misconceptions, dyslexia is not correlated with any other intellectual or visual disabilities.

“I can do anything as if I didn’t have (dyslexia),” Taylor said. “It just takes me more time to do.”

Dyslexia occurs due to specific differences in areas of the brain responsible for processing language, largely encoding, or relating letters with and identifying sounds. Because of these differences, people with dyslexia often need more time to read.

“It’s not because I don’t know (schoolwork),” Taylor said. “It’s just that if I’m trying to go quicker, I can’t process it at that rate.”

While Mayo Clinic estimates that 40 million American adults have dyslexia, only 2 million have actually received a diagnosis. According to Taylor, the diagnosis process involves several hours of testing and multiple month waiting periods to even get an appointment. Micah Ecclestone ’23 is in the process of receiving diagnosis and agreed on dyslexia’s tendency to go overlooked.

“It’s a lot more common than you’d think,” Ecclestone said. “It’s just that (students) don’t realize because they adapt really well. That’s why it’s so underdiagnosed, because people learn to adapt.”

Ecclestone also reflected on how adapting to learning with dyslexia, or finding one’s own ways to succeed, contributes to difficulty in diagnosing dyslexia, especially at a later age.

“At some point, people may realize ‘I’m not reading properly’ and that’s why they get tested,” Ecclestone said. “But at that point, people think that you don’t need a diagnosis or accommodations because you’ve done well so far.”

However, accommodations can help make education more accessible and equitable for those with disabilities. According to the Binda Dyslexia Center, it takes five times as much energy for students with dyslexia to complete mental tasks compared to those without, and fatigue is one of the most widespread effects of dyslexia in students. Due to its nature as a spectrum, English teacher Ericka Henk says there are many ways for her to help students in the classroom.

“I have noticed that audio helps a lot, specifically listening to audio while trying to follow on the page,” Henk said. “Additional time is especially useful once I know the student and their needs.”

There is no ‘cure’ for dyslexia, but most anyone with dyslexia can succeed academically with proper support and accommodations. While a diagnosis is required for official accommodations, and underdiagnosis remains a prevalent issue, supportive teachers are a key to helping students who are struggling in their classrooms.

“I find one-on-one time helps with kids,” Henk said. “I get to learn a lot about them and their needs. But I’m still learning, and still growing with how to best help.”