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Narrative Essay

Making a difference: One child at a time

Raquel Lucio

University of St. Thomas

Running Head: Narrative Essay

As a teacher of students with learning disabilities like dyslexia I have seen and experienced
many sides to this difficulty. Not all dyslexic students are created equally. That is, some will
have more difficulty at phonological processing and decoding than others. Some will have more
difficulty in spelling and written composition than others. That is why it is so difficult to place
all dyslexic students in one cookie cutter category. Every dyslexic student has his or her own
unique and individual set of deficiencies with language and processing that must be dealt with in
a subjective manner.
Dyslexia is categorized as difficulty in the language processes of the brain. It typically results
from a deficiency in the phonological components of language that is often unexpected in
relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction
(Shaywitz, 2008). So, despite adequate intelligence and effective classroom instruction these
students encompass an innate, inability to read and process language.

Most people assume that

part of being smart is being able to read well. But, as research has suggested, some people, even
smart ones who do really well at many other things, have trouble learning to read. Just about
every person starts to talk without having to learn how. A toddler can mimic sounds and words
and pretty soon starts talking without having to learn how. Reading is different. No one is born
knowing how to read- we all have to learn how. When a person reads, their brain is doing a lot
of things at once. It has to connect letters with sounds and put those sounds together in the right
order. Then the brain helps the person put letters, words, and paragraphs together in ways that
lets him read quickly and understand what they mean. A student with dyslexia works hard, but

their teachers cant see all the steps his brain to take to make sense of the words on a worksheet
(Shaywitz, 2008). Many of these students are looking for someone to understand their disability
and have compassion towards them.
Two years ago, I had a 3rd grade student in my reading lab who had a wonderful vocabulary
and could tell you the most elaborate stories. But, when it came to reading Marco had a lot of
trouble. It took him a long time to read each word and even longer to read whole sentences. He
often would guess at a word and sometimes his guess was wrong. Reading out loud was very
stressful and a difficult task for him. Worst of all, Marco was very conscious of his disability and
placed pressure on himself for not being able to read fluently. He would try so hard, that one day
he burst out in tears in frustration of his inability to finish reading a grade-level story passage his
teacher had sent him to practice in the lab. As a reading teacher it broke my heart to see the
helplessness in his eyes and knew I had to carry this child under my wings to look for ways to
use his strengths and knowledge to help him compensate for his difficulty.
I worked with Marco on phonological awareness exercises with sounds and letters. I used
rapid word recognition charts to practice reading words from the reading passage for the lesson.
He would highlight these words and other vocabulary words in the text. I would use a connect
chart to have the student answer questions about his background knowledge of the topic prior to
reading the text. I would then use a vocabulary graphic organizer to highlight one or two
vocabulary words from the text, by examining the part of speech, origin, definition, synonyms,
antonyms, and creating a sentence with the word.

All of these multisensory approaches prior to

reading the passage would allow Marco a better opportunity to dissect and analyze the passage
before reading it. Once he began reading he was able to retain recognition of words, his fluency
was much improved and less labored. His comprehension of the text helped him answer the

questions more effectively. I presented some of the multisensory strategies I was using in the
reading lab to his classroom teacher and she was able to use some of them to bring a sense of
unity and connection to Marcos learning. Even though Marco sometimes still stumbled over
words, he was able to compensate by using context clues to decode an unfamiliar word in the
written text. By listening and using his auditory skills he was able to capture what the teacher
said and what the other students were reading out loud. Activating his background knowledge on
the topic allowed him to have an understanding and expectation of what he was going to read
about. Also, memorizing and remembering what he heard as someone was reading helped
Marco attain the information more accurately. These are some of the strategies that students like
Marco can use to begin to compensate and overcome the difficulties that they face every day
when they have a learning disability like dyslexia.
Shaywitz explains that despite their phonological weaknesses dyslexic students have a sea of
strengthens in higher-level thinking skills. They are able to conceptualize and have good
reasoning skills. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are also strengths they use to
compensate. They also have sophisticated vocabulary and comprehension skills. These students
have concept formation, are able to see the big picture, and think outside the box (Shaywitz,
Making a difference in the lives of my students, even if it is not as significant, allows me to
feel I have accomplished the goals I have set out for myself. Success does not have to be
hindered by a disability. Dyslexia does not define a person, it makes them stronger. With
unconditional support and guidance a person can overcome adversity and succeed.

Shaywitz, S. (2008). Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for
reading problems at any level. New York: Random House Publishing.