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Dyslexia Department

"Reading is a fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends."

– L. Moats –

Dyslexia: Early Detection Helps Students Find Success in the Classroom

AISD parent with studentThe lack of an appropriate diagnosis of dyslexia can lead to frustration and self-doubt.

Omar Olivares’ early school experience proved to be a challenge for both he and his mother.

“Omar struggled in school,” said his mother, Luisa Montes. “He had problems reading and writing. He was so frustrated.”

That frustration, said Montes, led Omar to act up.

“He didn’t want to do his homework and he didn’t want to read,” Montes said. “And he was acting up in class. His teachers complained of behavior problems.”

Montes said she knew her son was a good boy. She knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to help. She finally got the answer she sought during Omar’s second grade year.

“He was reading below his grade level,” said Montes. “His teacher suspected a learning disability and we sought to have Omar tested.”

After undergoing testing, the district diagnosed Omar with dyslexia. With an official diagnosis, the school established and implemented a plan to provide intervention and support Omar. In AISD, students with dyslexia receive intensive small-group therapy five days a week for 45 minutes until they finish the two-year program. Dyslexia therapy is a regular intervention service that is in accordance with the Texas Dyslexia Law and Section 504.

Montes had never heard of dyslexia. She researched the topic and also found assistance through Neuhaus Education Center in Houston. The center provided a scholarship to pay for a tutor for Omar to give him additional help.

The difference therapy made in Omar’s life was immediate and profound, according to Omar’s mom who praised his dyslexia specialist Mónica Andrade.

“Once he realized what he had and he learned how to deal with his dyslexia, he changed,” said Montes. “With the help of Mónica Andrade and everyone at the campus, he improved. He began to do his homework and the behavior issues disappeared. Omar had to repeat third grade, but it was the best decision for him.

“The two years of therapy helped him. Now he likes to read and participates in class. Omar doesn’t give other students a chance to answer when the teacher asks a question in class. He wants to be the first to respond.”

During the telephone interview, Montes described with pride in her voice and tears that the school recognized Omar for good conduct, school attendance and class participation.

Scott Dubberke, principal at Gray Elementary School, also praised Omar. He stated Omar’s STAAR reading score was a Level 3, which reflects top performance by a student according to TEA.

The results only confirmed what Montes recognized in her son.

“I knew Omar is smart. I knew it,” said Montes. She added that Omar is set to start fifth grade this fall at Stehlik Intermediate School.

Dr. Kim SinclairAccording to Dr. Kim Sinclair, dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders. Dyslexia impacts up to 20% of the population. Sinclair serves as the dyslexia program director in AISD. She stated the disorder could lead to problems with reading, writing and spelling. But if identified early, students can excel.

“Dyslexia is a lifelong challenge that people are born with,” said Sinclair. “People with dyslexia have problems processing language. However, dyslexia does not mean a person cannot be successful in school and in his or her career.”

Dyslexia, related Sinclair, occurs in people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. The disorder is not gender specific. She added that dyslexia might manifest itself differently for speakers of different languages.

“It is vital parents and teachers work together,” said Sinclair. “Aldine ISD and its campuses have a great program to support our students with dyslexia. Every student is different, and every student responds differently to dyslexia therapy. We work with each student to find the therapy and techniques that work best for each child.”

Sinclair added that the district tracks students once they finish the two-year therapy program. Each year, dyslexia specialists meet with parents to review their children’s academic needs.

“If students are experiencing difficulties, we will adjust the program,” Sinclair said. “We will ensure they receive the support they need.”

Sinclair said parents should expose their children to reading at an early age. A few signs of dyslexia include problems with spelling, sounds, reading and reading comprehension. Dyslexia can sometimes be accompanied by other disorders such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). She informed that dyslexia can be hereditary, but she emphasized that only proper testing can confirm a diagnosis of dyslexia. Sinclair is excited about the state’s changes with regard to dyslexia therapy. The Texas Dyslexia Handbook will be revised in 2014 to provide students with latest research-based best practices for a successful program.

Students like Omar who are getting the help the need are finding success.

“Everyone has been so impressed with Omar’s progress that they want to ensure he continues to be successful,” said Montes. “I am so proud of his hard work. He is now a more confident student. And I am grateful for all the help and support everyone gave Omar. It made a huge difference in his life.”

Translation of Luisa Montes’ comment: His progress has been surprising for me as well as his teachers who have helped him a lot. Before he was diagnosed, it was frustrating for both of us. If it had not been detected, I don’t know what would have happened to my son. But now his teachers, I and especially him (Omar) are very happy. I know my son will be successful and that he will graduate.

Some famous people with dyslexia or who had dyslexia include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightly, Whoopi Goldberg, Jamie Oliver, Tommy Hilfiger, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab, William Hewlett, Steven Spielberg, Beethoven, Mozart, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Rockefeller, John Irving, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, W.B. Yeats, and John Lennon.