A response to Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Plano’s forum of Sept. 19, 2012.
First, if you’re thinking that dyslexia, dysgraphia or ADHD are not relevant to your family, consider that most Washington state schools do not allow their staff to even use those terms, let alone suggest your child be tested, even if they are fairly certain that your child has one of these conditions.
As a result, most parents don’t know their student may be in this category, or that appropriate teaching methods can literally mean the difference between failure and mastery. There is also no need for shame. Dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD are not related to IQ, in fact they have benefits. Some of the most innovative thinkers share them, such Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab, William Hewlett, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, etc. The difference is how their brains process information, so that it may be stored in long-term memory.
Second, Dr. Plano suggests that our schools are already multisensory, or using best practice methods for these students. Multisensory is a broad term that means many things. Luckily, our own Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction wrote a pamphlet on exactly how to educate students with dyselxia, which may be found here: http://bit.ly/JB6SOu. But the Mercer School District is not using these methods.
The right way to teach these kids is not difficult or exclusive, nor will it diminish other programs in the school. In fact it’s shown to help all students k-2, because they master more material faster, as they learn to read and write. The solution is training teachers to engage 5 senses “simultaneously” in certain lessons, so kids engage sight, sound, speech, gross motor, and kinesthetic.
If your child struggles to read, write, spell, perform math operations, or in other ways, it’s worth investigating. We applaud those principals and teachers who are working hard to do the best they can for our children. But we do not understand the resistance to bringing these best practices in house, when so many kids struggle, and so many kids could benefit.
We encourage all parents to support the implementation of best practice teaching methods by reaching out to district staff, principals and the school board.
Kim Sharman and Maria Kaplan
Cofounders of the parent group MIFAPE