One of the things we encounter frequently in our work is the long-term mental health impact that misaligned reading instruction has on the students we serve. Dr. Steven Dysktra, psychologist, shared a heartbreaking Facebook post yesterday that speaks to our experience. While most of our students do not have the hard life the girl he speaks of has, their emotional scars can be deep.
As our community explores the growing mental health concerns within our schools, we must not forget to shine a light on the impact that instructional inequalities have on mental health outcomes, especially in the high-pressure world that is TESD.
Do everything you can to learn and promote the Science of Reading. Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. Promote it everywhere you can Lives are on the line, and time matters. Dr. Steve Dykstra
Talked to a girl this last week. 14 years old. Sharp, edgy, quick, but sad. She has had a hard life. If she had learned to read better than barely, and write better than almost not at all, she would have still had a hard life but it would have been better. As it is, it all just piles on and she can't take it, sometimes.
It took a few seconds of very informal assessment to be almost sure she has very poor phonological awareness. No surprise. Her grandmother told how she did very poorly on an early screening measure (PALS, it's hard to do really bad on PALS) but the school told her 2 things about it 1) Let's wait and see, and 2) She has such a good (oral) vocabulary and she's so smart, we're not worried.
I explained what I thought was happening, why spelling and writing are even harder than reading. She and her grandmother were very interested. We talked about how frustrating it is to have really good ideas and answers but you write really simple ones because you can't spell what your mind can say, so you never get credit for what you know. She explained how they taught her how to use "context cues" (her term) to figure out words. I said she was probably really good at it but it still doesn't work very well because it's a terrible idea. I said her teachers didn't know any better. It wasn't their fault.
Her arms are covered in scars. She dwells on how ugly she thinks she is, but she perked up a lot when I explained dyslexia to her. That was her, and she knew it. We're going to try and get this straightened out, but she's 14, we've wasted a lot of time, and it won't be easy. It's a lot to ask of her.