Friday, June 11, 2010

Help is here..Accomodations - Yeah!

Dyslexics around the world are now being allowed to learn and function differently in School! Several accommodations are being given by sensitive teachers and school administrators to ensure that these children reach their full potential.

Dyslexics have many strengths: oral skills, comprehension, good visual spatial awareness/artistic abilities. More and more dyslexic children could become talented and gifted members of our schools if we worked not only with their specific areas of difficulty, but also their specific areas of strengths from an early age.

To do this we have to let go of outmoded viewpoints that a dyslexic child must first fail, in order to be identified. These are the children of our future and they have a right to help and support before they develop the dreadful sense of failure which is so insidious.

Class teachers dealing with dyslexic children need to be flexible in their approach, so that they can, as far as possible, find a method that suits the pupil, rather than expecting that all pupils will learn in the same way.

Above all, there must be an understanding from all who teach them, that they may have many talents and skills. Their abilities must not be measured purely on the basis of their difficulties in acquiring literacy skills.

So what is an accommodation?

We must understand that an accommodations at not a change in the curriculum. It is neither a crutch nor an excuse. Instead accommodations are slight changes in the way tasks are presented or expected. Accommodations are fair. They enable a child to receive equal access to education despite a child’s disability.

Accommodations are required by dyslexic children because their gifts are hidden deep inside the layers of deficits that they usually have. Its only when accommodations are given that these children feel lighter, respond better, perform to their abilities and achieve their dreams.

The academic concessions sanctioned by Karnataka Government and Indian Boards were as follows: -

  • Dyslexic children would be exempted from studying extra languages, other than the main one (focus on one language facilitates their academic progress).
  • The thrust would be more on oral exams than on written ones.
  • Spelling errors in their answer scripts would be overlooked, except in cases of nouns.30% extra examination time would be provided to children with learning disabilities.
  • These children would be allowed to use a simple calculators (since they have this tendency to interchange numbers. Calculators also aid them with visual memory).
  • The children during exam hours can avail the assistance of someone to read out the questions for them.

But the above are for the Board exams. With early intervention now becoming easier, we identify more and more dyslexics in the Primary and Middle School. The following is what we can do to enable their adjustment in their schools

An understanding of the pupil's specific difficulties, and how they may affect the student's classroom performance, can enable the teacher to adopt teaching methods and strategies to help the dyslexic child to be successfully integrated into the classroom environment.

Use of Assistive Technology (AT) Assistive technology is any piece of equipment or product used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. It serves to augment an individual's strengths, and to provide an alternative mode of performing a task.

Examples of technological solutions include:
  1. Timepieces, computer organizers to help with organization
  2. Books on tape
  3. Tape recorders help students review class materials
  4. Voice recognition software for transcribing dictated reports
  5. An optical character recognition system to enter text or printed material into a computer by use of a scanner.
  6. Software programs like Spell Check to correct spelling and syntactical errors
  7. Word processors for composing written text
  8. Spread out the classes during the Time Table to ensure than children do not get heavy workload for more than 30 minutes. Dyslexics generally have problem in English and Math Classes. Ensure they are never one after the other.
  9. Allow a student to tape-record assignments. Kids with learning disabilities tend to have trouble remembering spoken instructions.
  10. Provide the child with a note-taking partner. Dyslexia- related handwriting problems can make it hard to keep up when taking notes.
  11. Grant extra time for test-taking. The idea is not to make the exam easier for the child but to level the playing field, by providing sufficient time for the child to show what he knows.
  12. Letting the student run occasional errands for the teacher. This can help hyperactive kids burn off some energy.
  13. Accept dictated homework-Dyslexic ,/b>students can dictate answers much more easily and quickly than they can write them down.
  14. Allow parents to act as a scribe.

Reduce homework load
Give a lighter homework load. This is appropriate for children with dyslexia who struggle to get their homework done. The questions are just as hard - there are just fewer of them. Many teachers create homework assignments by estimating how long it would take a "normal" student to complete it. They may not realize it takes a dyslexic student 3 to 4 times longer to complete the same assignment.

By the end of a school day a dyslexic child is generally more tired than his peers because everything requires more thought, tasks take longer and nothing comes easily. More errors are likely to be made. Only set homework that will be of real benefit to the child.

In allocating homework and exercises that may be a little different or less demanding, it is important to use tact. Self-esteem is rapidly undermined if a teacher is underlining the differences between those with difficulties and their peers. However, it should also be remembered that far more effort may be needed for a dyslexic child to complete the assignment than for their peers.

Set a limit on time spent on homework, as often a dyslexic child will take a lot longer to produce the same work that another child with good literacy skills may produce easily. Teachers should agree to a maximum time to spend on homework. Parents should sign the end of the homework page showing the amount of time spent on the assignment.

A dyslexic child's ability to write down thoughts and ideas will be quite different from the level of information the child can give verbally. For successful integration, the pupil must be able to demonstrate to the teacher that he knows the information and where he is in each subject. Be prepared to accept verbal descriptions as an alternative to written descriptions if appropriate.

Alternative ways of recording should be looked at, such as :
The use of computers for word processing.
Audio tapes for recording lessons that can then be written up at a later stage.
Written record of the pupil's verbal account, or voice activated software can be used.
More time should be allocated for completion of work because of the extra time a dyslexic child needs for reading, planning, rewriting and proofreading their work.

For a dyslexic child the feeling of being 'different' can be acute when faced with the obvious and very important need of 'specialist' help for his literacy and possibly mathematical skills. Some specialist methods can be incorporated into the classroom so all children can benefit from them, thus reducing the feeling of 'difference'.

Some more accomodations…

  • load priority scheduling.
  • reduced course – test only chapters that are building blocks for the next grades).
  • front row seating.
  • extended time for in-class writing assignments
  • quiet test environment (e.g. in a side room).
  • large print-size tests.
  • a reader (sometimes called an 'amanuensis')
  • books on tape.
  • provision of someone to write for them (scribe)
  • use of an electronic spell-checker.
  • use of a calculator.
  • tape recorded lectures.
  • note-taking assistance.
Allow them to learn languages at the oral level. Exempt from exams
Opportunity to clarify information and instructions with teachers.
Provision of handouts of lesson notes or copies of overhead projections.

Dyslexic children, like all children, thrive on challenges and success. It is for sensitive and proactive people like us to ensure that that they are provided accomodations so that they have an equal ground with their peers to perform and excel.


  1. That sounds great Chetana. We are working for similar things here in Australia. We believe if the dyslexic children can get through their school years with their self esteem intact, they will go on to achieve great things in their life. Just look at Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, Orlando Bloom etc. Dyslexia is a gift, not a disability.
    Diana Vogel

  2. Ms.Keni,
    You are doing great and pioneering work, so far as India is concerned.
    A charitable trust in Nagpur is interested in settingup a learning center for dyslexics,can you help in training teachers?
    Can children from Nagpur be helped if they come to Bangalore during their school vacations?
    -- Arun Malani


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