Dyslexia sample case study
Case Study – “Katie” by Ashley Rutledge, NAU student
The words just zoomed right by. They were taken in, processed, and filed
away. Now on to the next sentence. And the next and the next and the next,
never really pausing. Reading was something that came naturally, something
that I’d been doing almost automatically since age 6. But for some people
it wasn’t and isn’t so easy. Dyslexia and other severe reading disabilities
are something very real, something 17 percent to 20 percent of children
experience (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 1999).
Enter “Katie,” a 19-year old young woman who has been living with the
effects of dyslexia since age 5, even though she was not formally diagnosed
until age 17. Katie is from Tempe, Arizona where she has lived with her
mother, father, and younger brother for her entire life. Both of her parents
are teachers; her father teaches music at various grade levels and her
mother is a librarian at a local high school. Katie’s younger brother
is 14 and in the 8th grade. Katie graduated high school in the top of
her class and is now an honors student at the college she attends.
Obviously then, Katie’s family places a large emphasis on education. However,
she describes her family as being torn on the issue of grades and learning.
“My dad was the one who cared about learning. He also has symptoms of
dyslexia, even though he has never formally been diagnosed. So I think
that’s where his emphasis on learning came from; he could understand.
But my mom cared about the grades. I could have been held back a couple
of times because I really wasn’t learning anything, I was just memorizing
answers to get by, but she didn’t want me to because of the stigma of
being held back.” Katie also described the extreme intelligence of her
younger brother as being somewhat of an obstacle. She remembers being
embarrassed about having to ask him how to spell words, even though he
is 6 years younger. Fortunately though, her parents never compared the
two children in terms of their academics. “I would have lost,” Katie says.
Looking back on her early education, Katie cringes. She has memories as
early as preschool of not being able to understand the alphabet. “I just
didn’t understand the concept of letters,” she says. “The order, the sounds,
recognizing them on paper, the whole thing just confused me.” As a result,
she cried frequently. And the older she got, the more frustrated she became.
She says that she was “pretty much okay with the progress of things until
[she] realized that [she] was way far behind everyone else. They all understood.”
And she didn’t, and her self-worth plunged. Katie recollects that she
just felt so stupid.
When asked about specific memories from her educational experience, Katie
is quick to recall. “Second grade is a time that particularly stands out.
My teacher, Mrs. Cates, had divided us into reading groups according to
our current reading level. There was the smart group, the mediocre group,
and the dumb group. I was obviously in the dumb group but by the end of
the first week Mrs. Cates had kicked me out. She didn’t even bother to
ask me why I was struggling or offer me any extra help. She just made
me sit outside while everyone else read. It was like she didn’t even care.
She had no patience, and looking back, she almost made it a point to ignore
me and be negative towards me. She had the opportunity to diagnose me
because of my obvious struggles but she didn’t. And I missed out.”
Regardless of such constant negative experiences, Katie looks back at
her education with a smile. She has become a stronger person because of
what she has faced, and ultimately, Katie feels that is so much more important
than the people she had to deal with are. Indirectly, they taught her
not to feel sorry for her self and to persevere. “But the good teachers
were the ones who cared about me as a person first, and then worried about
my disorder. They made me think, not just memorize facts so that I could
move on at the end of the year.”
According to the International Dyslexia Association, individuals
diagnosed with dyslexia are in need of a structured language program.
They “require multi-sensory delivery of language content. Instruction
that is multi-sensory employs all pathways of learning – at the same time,
seeing, hearing, touching writing, and speaking.” In Katie’s case, seeing
and hearing were the only two methods applied, which was not sufficient
Her teachers failed to use all the senses when teaching
reading. But this may not be entirely their fault. A suitable teacher
for students with dyslexia “is specifically trained in a program which
research has documented to be effective for dyslexic individuals” (International
Dyslexia Association, 1996). Students who have not yet been diagnosed
coupled with teachers who do not have the necessary training are a bad
combination. While non-field-specific teachers are not required to have
extensive knowledge of Special Education categories, a general knowledge
of symptoms is helpful.
Listening to Katie and hearing
the pain she endured during her early education totally inspired me. I
may not plan to become a Special Education teacher, but I plan to know
enough to help the students I feel are at-risk for special needs. The
ignorance and impatience of Katie’s teachers opened my eyes to a world
I had never experienced. At the 1999 National Summit on Research in Learning
Disabilities, the National Center for Learning Disabilities stated that
“one factor the impedes effective instruction with children at risk for
reading failure is current teacher preparation practices. Many teachers
have not had the opportunity to develop basic knowledge about the structure
of the English language, reading development, and the nature of reading
difficulties.” As a whole, teachers need to make a massive and genuine
effort to overcome this problem for the well being of our students.
Alexander, Duane. National Center for Learning Disabilities. (1999). The
NICHD research program in reading development, reading disorders and reading
instruction. Keys to Successful Learning: A National Summit on Research
in Learning Disabilities. Online publication: www.ldonline.org/ld_in-depth/reading/ncld_summit99/html.
The International Dyslexia Association. (1996). General Information About
Dyslexia. Online publication: www.ldonline.org/ld_in-depth/reading/reading-4.html.
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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
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