Dyslexia and the English Learner Dilemma

    Kelli Sandman-Hurley recommends using the mother tongue to diagnose dyslexia

    The American educational system has a difficult time understanding dyslexia and an even harder time identifying children with dyslexia in order to provide the correct intervention for students who are native English speakers. When a school has the added challenge of identifying struggling English language learners (ELLs), the task becomes an even more complicated process, and often, these kids are completely missed. But that does not have to be the case. Children who are learning English are just as likely to have dyslexia as their native-English-speaking counterparts, and there is a way to identify dyslexia in these children. The difference is that dyslexia might appear in the native language quite as vividly as it will when they attempt to learn English. To read the full story, click here.


    1. Because our language is phonologically based, and dyslexia is a phonological disorder at its core, there is a higher percentage of diagnosed dyslexics found in English speaking countries. I believe the approach to intervene is the same for all students found with dyslexia. Exercises first in identifying rhyme, onset rimes, syllables, beginning-middle-ending sounds, matching sounds aurally, etc will be a pivotal skill to master for success in reading and spelling.

    2. In bilingual or ESL education where English is not the native language, the most effective way to identify dyslexia is to pinpoint the difficulties and cross-reference them with the native language teacher. Even if the native language is a transparent one, weaknesses in syntax, vocabulary or decoding and reading comprehension will be apparent. Handwriting is also a tale-tell sign. If teachers keep their antennas polished and communicate amongst each other, only very borderline cases fall through the cracks.

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