Dyslexia runs in families, and mine is no exception. In fact, this trait runs three generation deep starting with my grandfather.
As I began my grade-school years, I learned to avoid reading out-loud like the plague. I can still remember my first grade teacher stating, “Carleen, just read the words on the page.” My thoughts were sheer puzzlement and frustration. I was reading the words on the page and had I had no idea what she was talking about. I felt irritated, embarrassed and dumb.
As I progressed in school, I was required to spell and write…a skill I could not do if my life depended on it. Every time I would encounter a word I could not spell, I would get stuck mid-sentence. Not knowing how to spell the particular word, I would simply erase the sentence, craft a new sentence in my head and continue writing.
After developing and using many coping strategies, several tutors, and a great deal of hard work, I graduated.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I had a compassion for struggling students like myself. Wanting to prevent others from going through the same humiliating, hurtful interactions I experienced in school, I went into education to help students like me.
While teaching, I learned everything I could about how to assist struggling readers. Books, specialized trainings and research became my passion.
A Different Approach?
Several years into my teaching, I read a student’s educational report which stated he had a working memory deficit. Wanting to help him, I began researching the connection between reading challenges and working memory deficits.
As I learned more about working memory, I began to see my personal challenges listed in the characteristics that marked working memory deficits. This information fueled my curiosity and desire to learn more.
What I Learned
I began following the research of Dr. Susan Gathercole, Dr. Tracy Packiam Alloway, and Dr. Joni Holmes, pioneers in the field of working memory and learning. I soon began implementing their research strategies and accommodations into my classroom for my struggling students.
As I learned more about working memory, I became interested in online training programs. Could training a child’s working memory skills improve their learning ability? With my interest peaked, I decided to give it a try. After only a few weeks of training, I began to see improvement. Students with reading challenges became unstuck. Blending and segmenting sounds became more proficient, sight words were remembered and fluency was enhanced. Students no longer had to stop and “think up the words” or sound-out familiar words as if never been seen before. In addition, this new-found fluency promoted their ability to comprehend better. Improving my students’ working memory, had set off an amazing chain reaction resulting in improved literacy skills.
Changes for Me
As for me, I will always have some dyslectic challenges, especially when I am tired. However, the working memory training has boosted my organizational skills, cleared my foggy memory and improved my oral reading ability. Just ask my daughter who recently graduated…I was the mom at the podium reading a speech with a smile on my face.