Case Study: Dyslexia, Bad Dyslexia

I have a student, let’s call him Frank, with dyslexia. It’s bad. It is, in fact, it is the worst case I’ve seen in nine years of teaching by a factor of two or three. Last year, I helped him get ready for the New York State Living Environment Regents. This year, I am helping him prepare for the New York State English Regents.

Before going further, let me state clearly and unambiguously that I am not qualified to teach a dyslexic student to read and write, nor do I have any meaningful formal education in special education techniques. Fortunately, Frank goes to a school that focuses on special education for teenagers with normal intelligence but severe learning disabilities. In many ways, this school has served him very well. Unfortunately, there are still big gaps in his skill set that don’t have to be there.

I find it especially frustrating that the skills needed to make a cogent oral argument are not being taught because it is relatively easy to envision the day when the physical act of writing is no longer the only way to get words down. Right now, voice recognition software is still not entirely practical, but technology advances quickly, and it seems reasonable to be optimistic on this front. Even if voice recognition technology does not advance, these skills are very valuable for anyone entering an information economy. I hope to see the day when humanities curricula are revised to include these skills.

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