Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time – Part 2

A few years back, I wrote a blog No Ifs or Buts – Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time claiming that there is no question about it – dyslexics deserve extra exam time.

As my kids grow, I hear many discussions regarding the fairness and the pros/cons of providing extra exam time.

My view is simple: if a kid needs the extra time to succeed than we as parents must do all we can to enable them this extra time. It is important for a child to grow with the feeling of success, and though grades are not everything they do provide our children a scale to judge their success.

Other parents may claim that this is not fair. That some parents/kids abuse this benefit. But as parents of dyslexic children, this is not our concern. We must make sure that our smart and talented kids will succeed despite their reading and writing difficulties.

 

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

We would like to commend the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity “You are not alone” message:

1 in 5 people have dyslexia. It crosses racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. You are part of a community of successful people who overcame dyslexia.

Dyslexia Declaration of Rights for Yale students:

1)    Accurate Diagnosis:  Students who have a suspected area of disability are entitled to an assessment, regardless of whether they are in a public, private, or charter school.

2)    Use the Word Dyslexia: Schools must use the word “dyslexia” so that proper diagnosis and evidence-based instruction and intervention can be applied.

3)    Evidence-based Instructions: All students deserve to have a written plan of action from the school, specifying the evidence-based intervention, frequency, and measurable objectives. This must be arrived at by a consensus between parents and teachers

4)    Accommodations: Accommodations must be provided to ensure that the students’ abilities, not their disabilities, are being assessed. Examples: extra time on tests, speech-to-text or text-to-speech technology, foreign language waiver or alternative.

5)    Dyslexia-Friendly Environment: A supportive environment that promotes educational and professional progress must be provided to enable dyslexic individuals to flourish to their full potential.
Ghotit commends Yale and wishes other educational institutions to adopt Yale’s level of commitment to dyslexic student body.

For more info on Yale Dyslexia & Creativity forum

Communication in a Mobile World for people with Dyslexia

A lot has changed in the way we communicate. We have become the always-on generation.

Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we do business. Smartphones and tablets allow employees to be more responsive and provide immediate service.

Smartphones and tablets are today part of any educational setting, starting from elementary school all the way to college.

Today, if you are a person with dyslexia or dysgraphia, it is not enough to have assistant technology installed on your Windows or Macintosh laptop. In todays’ always-on connected world, you will often need to answer an immediate email or post on a social media directly from your Android smartphone or tablet.

If you are one of those “always on” people, then you need a writing assistive technology that will be available for you from any of your devices.

Ghotit offers an “Always on” solution. The “Always on” solution enables you to utilize Ghotit advanced writing algorithms from either your Windows or Macintosh laptop or desktop and then enjoy these same capabilities from any of your Android devices.

Ghotit Assistive Technology

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader software includes advanced writing and reading assistive technologies tailor-made for people with dyslexia and dysgraphia:

• Context and phonetic spell checker
• Grammar and punctuation checker
• Proofreader
• Reader that can read out any document
• Word prediction, contextual & phonetic
• Integrated word dictionary US, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African dictionaries

How Does Dyslexia Impact on the Writing Process?

Originally published by the University of Leicester

It is often commented that the characteristics of dyslexic students’ written work might equally be found in the work of a non-dyslexic student. The problems with composition that students with dyslexia experience may be accompanied by difficulty with spelling and handwriting. Students may try to choose words they can spell rather than those they want to use. Those with short-term memory problems may have difficulty transcribing a mentally composed sentence, thus much backtracking is required which disrupts the flow of thought. When this is coupled with reading difficulties, it is easy to see why written tasks are laborious. The techniques of editing and refining demand extra stamina and time, and need to be done in separate stages. To be effective, this requires good pre-planning and time management. Paradoxically these may be the very skills that students with dyslexia may find particularly challenging.

Those students who are familiar with their own problems and are used to academic study are often highly disciplined to the task and start work on assignments as soon as they receive them. Others will need some explicit help in pacing themselves and in the understanding of the separate stages of the writing process. It is also worth noting that many of the errors will not be picked up by a standard spell checker or, in some cases, by the student’s proof reading.

In any event, it is likely that the final outcome of the work presented may not reflect the time and effort that has gone into its preparation.

When giving feedbacks to students, it may be useful to bear the following points in mind:

  • students need to understand why they have gained or lost marks and if spelling, punctuation and grammar are considered an essential part of the brief, it is important to let them know this in advance;
  • prompt, legible and detailed feedback is especially helpful. Dyslexic students need encouragement on what they have achieved and explicit information about how they can improve their work;
  • feedback about exam performance is as important as feedback after coursework submission; it helps tutors and students to ascertain the reasons for possible low marks or failure. It is important for all students with a SpLD to realise the extent to which low marks are due to a lack of detailed knowledge or to an inability to reflect their knowledge adequately in writing;
  • it is helpful to identify the type (what kinds) of errors that have been made in the work, particularly if these can be pointed out in detail in a small section. Providing correct spellings of subject specific words is very useful;
  • in addition a common perception is that dyslexic students have fluency in oral language but difficulty with written language. However some dyslexic students also experience spoken language difficulties, such as word finding, hesitations, mispronunciations and incomplete sentences. This should be taken into account when assessing oral presentations.

Variations in processing difficulties and the effects of secondary factors, such as environment and self-esteem, contribute significantly to the individual profile. Many students may have developed excellent ‘compensation’ strategies.

Emphasis is usually given to problems with written work. However, writing is only one aspect of the range of difficulties reported by students. These can include some or all of the following:

  • listening and taking notes in a lecture; this is why many students are provided with digital recorders and microphones so that they can concentrate on listening and understanding rather than writing. In some cases students may also have a note-taker;
  • limitations in working memory, resulting in the need to go over texts many times to remember and understand them; this is one of the reasons why extra time is given in examinations;
  • handwriting which may be extremely slow, lacking automaticity, which contributes to spelling errors and/or word omissions;
  • pronunciation of polysyllabic and/or unfamiliar words;
  • slow speed of reading; word omissions, problems making sense of print without substantial re-reading; this is another reason why extra time may be given in exams;
  • difficulties in reading aloud;
  • tendency to misinterpret or miscopy complex written or spoken instructions;
  • word recall difficulties (spoken and written); often giving the appearance of immature language in relation to complexity of ideas;
  • estimating time, both in managing deadlines and for daily routines;
  • left/right confusion, leading to orientation difficulties, e.g. in the library;
  • fatigue as a result of the extra concentration and energy needed to meet both the literacy and non-literacy requirements of the HE environment;
  • difficulties with basic maths and statistics; this particularly affects students who encounter mathematical content within a non-mathematical discipline.

Dyslexia is the most common specific learning difficulty in HE but you may meet students who are dyspraxic, dyscalculic or who also have a pervasive developmental disorder such as Asperger syndrome or autism. Additionally, some students will have a combination of these difficulties and disabilities.

 

Ashton Kutcher & Dyslexia?

So you are probably asking, what, is Ashton Kutcher a dyslexic? Is he too a member of the long list of famous celebrities with dyslexia? (e.g. Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Turner, Cher etc.) … The answer is NO.
I recently viewed the speech that Ashton Kutcher gave in Teen Choice Awards of 2013:

So what does Ashton’s inspiring speech have to do with Dyslexia?
The speech promoted 3 main points, all 100% applicable for people with dyslexia:
– “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work” –this is true to the general population, but even more so to dyslexics. To succeed, dyslexics need to work extra hard to find their opportunities for success.
– “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous” – Dyslexics usually have an above average IQ. Use these smarts to succeed and become a sexy dyslexic.
– “ Everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own thing, you can build your own life that other people can live in.” – Dyslexics are usually creative. They won’t necessarily succeed in a 9-to-5 office job. But they can leverage their creativity to build their own unique business and life…
Thanks Ashton for a great speech

Simulating the feeling of being dyslexic

I recently wanted to communicate to a colleague of mine how it feels to be dyslexic. My colleague had very limited knowledge about dyslexia, and asked me what it felt to be dyslexic. This started me thinking:

What is the best way to simulate to a non-dyslexic the feeling of being dyslexic?

So this is what I came up with:

1)      Imagine that it takes you 10 X more time to write legible text?

2)      Imagine that even after investing 10 X more time to write, you are (rightfully) worried that your text includes basic spelling mistakes and misused words…

3)      Imagine that you cannot remember the correct spelling of the simplest and most basic words, and forever need to look up their correct spelling, time after time?

4)      Imagine that you have to write an important email, but will not send it out till you have a non-dyslexic review your text?

5)      Imagine that it takes you 5 X more time to read any book or article?

6)      Imagine that while reading, the letters keep moving around, playing tricks on you?

7)      Imagine that whenever a person reads your written text, he will most likely deduce that you have lower intelligence then your actual intelligence?

8)      Imagine that whenever you need to read out loud, you are sure that your reading will convey to your audience a lower perceived intelligence?

9)      Imagine that you are in a class or a lecture where you understand what is being said but you are not capable of taking any legible notes…

10)   Imagine that without an intelligent spell checker such as Ghotit, you simply do not have the confidence of writing independently?

If you have additional insights of how to convey to a non-dyslexic the feeling of being dyslexic- send a commend and I will add to the above list 🙂

Following user inputs, I am extending the list:

11) Imagine that you put puncuation in just because you know that it needs to go somewhere in the sentences but have no idea where to correctly place the punctuation marks?

12) Imagine that you can never really grasp the sounds and spelling of vowels (A, E, I, O, U) so you usually omit or misuse them?

13) Imagine that throughout your whole life you continue to misuse very basic words such as their, there and they’re OR four and for no matter how many times you tried to memorize these words’ correct meanings and spelling? And when you misspell these words you have no ability to correct this even though you take the time to  proofread your writing?

14) Imagine that you are not able to recite the alphabet from the middle, and always need to restart the alphabet starting from the letter A?

15) Imagine that you still have difficulty differentiating left from right, north from south or east or west, or the specific days of the weeks and months of the year, though you have tried to memorize these names and directions forever?

Additional inputs from readers?

 

If dyslexia is not a ‘deficit’, what is it?

I recently read an interesting article called “Neurodiversity and Dyslexia: Compensatory strategies, or different approaches?”  The article argued that the current educational system classifies people with dyslexia as people with deficits. As such, the educational system is focused in “remediating” / “fixing” these deficits.

However, if schools would adopt a new approach of recognizing that people with dyslexia simply learn differently and create programs for students to excel at how they learn best, then people with dyslexia would graduate school with a higher quality education, and with a much improved level of self-confidence.

So can this be realistically implemented?

The first step is to formalize how people with dyslexia think and learn differently. If this is understood, then educational programs can be created geared for people with dyslexia. For example, these programs can focus less on demonstrating short-memory skills and visual processing for details (e.g. demonstrated in good spelling) and more in promoting a holistic learning approach when teaching a given subject.  Such programs will allow a person with dyslexia to excel and demonstrate his strengths. Potentially, as formal recognition is given to these special analytical strengths, the dyslexic person will strengthen his relative learning and cognitive advantages.

Making the change of seeing dyslexia not as a ‘deficit’ but rather as a valuable and unique skill set is a huge leap. Society is so ingrained with the concept that dyslexia is a deficit that most dyslexics themselves live under this assumption.  Dramatic and enlightened shifts from these misconceptions are required to produce a real and long-lasting effect on the quality of education for a dyslexic.

 

Labeled as a Person with Dyslexia

I recently read an interesting article called “A rose is a rose is a flower” (http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article881892.ece). The article discusses the pros and cons of being labeled as a dyslexic.

The “pros” – in many cases the diagnosis of being dyslexic, provides the reasoning of why an intelligent adult or child is under-performing in school or in work. Suddenly behavior, that seemed inexplicable to an employer or parent not familiar with dyslexia, is explained. Not only that, once diagnosed correctly the appropriate instruction and assistive technology may be implemented to assist the person with dyslexia.

The “cons” – the dyslexia label brings the disability into focus, also at times when it is not necessary to highlight the disability. As quoted from the article “a person with a label has to be extremely mindful of ‘minor failings’ as all his behavior is perceived through the lens of his disability.” Giving people one-dimensional labels may result in disregarding personal differences and strengths. “While we readily accept that ‘normal’ kids can be quite different in terms of their personalities, preferences and proclivities, we tend to assume that all children with a particular clinical tag (e.g. dyslexia) are alike.”

Do the pros overcome cons in dyslexic labeling?

Well, in my opinion, it depends on the situation. In a supportive school environment, where the main objective is to improve the learning abilities of a dyslexic, it should be beneficial to be classified as dyslexic. In such an environment, the school, together with the support of the parents, will work out the best program and learning environment offered by the school to the dyslexic student.

However, in a work environment, where the main objective is to optimize the productivity of the employee, being classified as a dyslexic may be harmful. The main objective of a modern workplace is not to optimize the work environment of a dyslexic person, but rather to ensure that the person filing a given position is providing maximum value. In such environments, being categorized as dyslexic may not benefit the person with dyslexia; rather this categorization may result in unnecessary discrimination against the person with dyslexia.

Bottom line

I think that at the bottom line it is up to the dyslexic/ dyslexic parent to assess if it is advantageous or disadvantageous to be categorized as a dyslexic. If it is advantageous, then sure, let the word out, and try to maximize the benefits of being labeled with dyslexia. However, if it is not, and you feel that being categorized as dyslexic may be used against you, then withholding the fact that you are dyslexic should be the right way to go.

Does High Education Pay Off for People with Dyslexia?

Studies show that education pays off in terms of employment and earnings.

Here is a study produced by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that clearly demonstrates that a higher education, on average, pays off:

The graph above demonstrates that there is a strong positive correlation between education and income; and a strong negative correlation between education and unemployment. In order words, a person with a higher education, on average, will have higher earnings, and less probability to be unemployed then a person with a lower education. The statistics displayed above are true, on average, for the entire population.

However, do these same statistics apply for people with dyslexia?
I believe not…

I remember reading in the past a UK study that claimed that the gap of unemployment between a person with dyslexia and without dyslexia rises with increased education (sorry – could not find the link of the study – if anyone can help let me know). In many ways these findings make sense. Dyslexics receive support from their families and teachers and government aid during their school years, to ensure their academic success. But, once they leave the school gates, they are usually left alone with their reading and writing disability.

In many countries there is already a high awareness to learning disabilities and dyslexia, with government aid being offered (e.g. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)). These government intervention projects provide proactive aid to dyslexic students to graduate from high schools and universities. However, there is minimal or no official support offered to graduating dyslexics, promoting those same people who were aided in schools, to obtain and maintain a job.

This information presents a real challenge for educators and decision makers. In order to help people with dyslexia to succeed in life, on one hand education assistance is required. But on the other hand proactive aid should be offered assisting a dyslexic to obtain and maintain a job.

Only then can education really pay off for dyslexics too.

Would love to get your inputs…

No Ifs or Buts – Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time

I remember a while back when I was working at a previous workplace, I entered the coffee lounge and heard two work colleagues talking about the injustice of giving students additional exam time. They raised the issue that many students are abusing this “benefit” unjustly. I remember how I impolitely interrupted their conversation stating that what they just said was complete nonsense and explained that denying students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia extra exam time was simply unjust and reflected the general’s public general ignorance on these topics. They of course lacked the ardor that I demonstrated in this discussion and soon enough retreated back to their offices.

IF only these students would work harder they would not need this extra time?

BUT so many students are abusing this extra time loop hole to get improved testing conditions?

My work colleagues were not malicious, dyslexia-phobic people… they simply were quite ignorant to what people with Reading and Writing disabilities experience and did not have the understanding that providing this extra exam time for people with dyslexia can make a real difference between Success or Failure.

“Just as a diabetic requires insulin, an individual who is hearing impaired requires a hearing aid, a man or woman who is a quadriplegic requires a wheelchair, a person who is dyslexic has a profound physiological need for additional time to complete examinations.” – http://dyslexia.yale.edu/Policy_WhyChange.html

Dyslexia is a physiological condition that people are born with. Special learning techniques, together with hard word and special reading and writing assistive technology can ensure that a dyslexic student succeed in both education and his workplace. However, the fact remains that for most dyslexics Reading and Writing will always be more difficult and time-consuming then non-dyslexics. The objectives of examinations are to test the intelligence and knowledge of the examinee on a specific topic. The objective is not to test the speed at which he reads the questions and writes the answers.

Regarding the claim that there are non-dyslexics that abuse this extra time for exams policy, there are 2 replies that I wish to make:

  1. “Data now demonstrate that it is only students who are dyslexic who benefit from additional time. Thus, such college students increase their scores substantially (e.g., 13th percentile to 76th percentile), while typical readers when given extra time on exams increase their scores few to no points (82nd percentile to 83rd percentile).*” – this is taken from Yale’s University website. This research demonstrates that people who really do not have a real difficulty in Reading and Writing will not gain real benefits with the extra time allocated to exams.
  2. So if everybody cheated in a test, should someone who did not cheat be punished too? The obvious answer is NO. By getting additional exam time, the dyslexic student is simply getting equivalent testing conditions as other students. He is not cheating the system. If other students are supposedly “cheating the system”, then let the system take responsibility to stop this cheating without punishing the ones who deserve this benefit; and the system should do so without making the person with dyslexia feel subconscious about getting the benefit he justifiably deserves…

So was I rude when I interrupted my work colleagues’ conversation and loudly stated their ignorance on this topic, perhaps. But it is time to loudly state the rights of the dyslexic community and to educate the public regarding what is dyslexia and what must be done in order to enable dyslexics to fully and hopefully easily integrate into society… and this definitely includes GETTING EXTRA EXAM TIME.


* M. K. Runyan, The Effects of Extratime. In S. Shaywitz & B. Shaywitz, eds., Attention Deficit Disorder Comes of Age: Toward the 21st Century; Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed, 1992.


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