Recent changes in Texas law have significantly impacted the way that students with dyslexia are identified and supported in school districts across Texas, including YES Prep. At YES Prep, we understand that dyslexia can present unique learning challenges for our students. We also recognize the importance of early identification and appropriate interventions to ensure that all students reach their full potential.
In today’s blog post, I interviewed three YES Prep staff members to share more about what dyslexia is, how it can impact a student’s learning, and what you can do to support your student at home.
Graciela (Grace) Lazo is the manager of special education evaluation at the YES Prep Home Office. She is a bilingual educational diagnostician and evaluates students in elementary and secondary schools for dyslexia and other disabilities.
Jodi Williams is an interventionist at YES Prep Southside Elementary. She supports students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties on her campus every day and is currently completing advanced dyslexia training with Neuhaus Education Center.
Katherine O’Hearne is a literacy specialist at YES Prep Northline Secondary. She supports students with dyslexia, students identified as Emergent Bilingual and many other students on her campus. Katherine is a former YES Prep math teacher, dean of instruction and director of academics.
What are characteristics of dyslexia? How do you see dyslexia impacting students in school?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects the brain's ability to process language. This can lead to difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and other language-related tasks. Students with dyslexia, like all students, are intelligent and capable, but may need additional support to succeed in school.
When Grace is testing students, she often sees that student’s struggles due to dyslexia are unexpected given the their strengths in other areas. She sees dyslexia impacting students’ ability to read and comprehend, which is essential to everything they do in school. Dyslexia not only impacts students academically, Grace noted, it can also impact their self-esteem as well.
Jodi added that students with dyslexia often display signs of slow or inaccurate oral reading (reading aloud), and that students with dyslexia struggle to hold sounds and words in their memory. She states that there’s often a family history of similar traits or difficulties within the same household. At Southside Elementary, she sees dyslexia impact students in different ways – including difficulty with understanding what was read and with extended vocabulary. Some of these factors can play a role in students reading below grade level.
How is dyslexia identified at YES Prep?
Both Jodi and Katherine noted that the identification process at YES Prep starts with students’ MAP results. MAP is a computer-adaptive standardized test that measures a student’s skills in different subjects. Students at YES Prep take MAP 2-3 times per year. The results of this test help us see how a student’s reading compares to their peers across the country and identifies gaps that students may have.
At elementary campuses, like Jodi’s, teachers and interventionists observe the students and review work samples to see how their MAP results compare to how they work in class. Katherine notes that our secondary campuses have systems in place to monitor students’ progress toward reading goals in our reading intervention programs in 6th and 7th grades. In these classes, we measure our student’s fluency progress every 3 weeks.
If a student is showing evidence of difficulty, that’s when our diagnosticians and evaluation team like Grace come into the picture. Students are referred for a full and individual evaluation, which not only identifies dyslexia, but can also determine if the student needs ongoing specialized support.
What types of support do students with dyslexia receive at YES Prep?
Once a student is identified, they receive dyslexia interventions at both elementary and secondary campuses. Jodi and other elementary interventionists and Special Education teachers are trained to deliver our Reading by Design and Esperanza programs. Reading by Design is provided for students whose home language is English and Esperanza is a Spanish-language dyslexia program. Students typically receive 120 minutes per week of intervention in multiple sessions throughout the week. This time is adjusted depending on students’ individual needs. Students with dyslexia also have access to classroom and testing accommodations they may need to be successful.
Once students are in our secondary program, dyslexia support is more individualized depending on what the student needs. Literacy Specialists, like Katherine, and Special Education Teachers are trained to deliver Reading by Design as well. They also provide push-in and pull-out academic supports for older students with dyslexia. Students have access to audio versions of class novels and other supports that help them with reading and writing.
How can families support dyslexic students at home?
Grace, Katherine and Jodi all want families to understand the difficulties their student may be experiencing at school, and to praise both their effort and their growth. All three of our YES Prep staff members emphasized the importance of reading with your students at home in English and in their native language, and including students in daily household activities that require them to read (building something using directions or reading a recipe to cook are two good examples). Katherine added that older students can read to younger family members, and students of all ages can read to pets. Families can listen to an audiobook in the car. Reading should always be viewed as a rewarding activity and YES Prep gives all students access to the public library and books to read at home through Sora.
Jodi notes that you can support your student with tasks and schoolwork at home by giving simplified instructions, repeating those instructions, and giving your student extra time to complete their tasks. Ask your student to repeat to you what they need to do and how they’ll do it. As Jodi says, “Repetition and consistency are key to having a successful learning journey.”
Here are some additional resources where you can find out more about dyslexia:
- Texas Education Agency (TEA) Dyslexia Handbook: https://tea.texas.gov/academics/special-student-populations/texas-dyslexia-handbook-2021.pdf
- International Dyslexia Association (IDA): https://dyslexiaida.org/
- National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD): https://ncld.org/
YES Prep’s commitment to students with dyslexia:
As a school system, we are committed to providing all students with the support they need to succeed, including those with dyslexia. We have a team of dedicated professionals who are trained in the latest research and best practices for supporting students with dyslexia.
We are also committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments in dyslexia education. We will continue to provide resources and support to families and staff through our regular communication channels.
If you are concerned that your student is showing signs of dyslexia, having difficulty with reading, or struggling with school in general, you can always request further evaluation and support by contacting your campus’ special education manager.
About the author
Ashley Dalton started at YES Prep as an instructional coach in 2014. Since then, she has served as the director of special education and managing director of special populations. Prior to 2014, Ashley was a special education teacher and math interventionist in the Rio Grande Valley. With a 5-year old currently in kindergarten, Dalton is deeply committed to making sure all learners get what they need to be successful.