Dyslexic students need Xavier’s support


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Xavier students discuss class material during a passing period. Students around campus constantly collaborate on class content to better understand material.

Students around the world struggle with various learning impediments which may inhibit their abilities to achieve their full potentials. Dyslexia is among one of these challenges that affects many people, including high school students. 

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects roughly 15-20% of the population. It is characterized by fluency and accuracy difficulties regarding reading and writing.

These elements can be very limiting for dyslexic students, especially in a “typical” high school learning environment. Dyslexia’s impact and presentation can vary greatly among students, however there are many options that schools can provide to help accommodate the learning methods of dyslexic students.

Despite common misconceptions, dyslexia is a neurological condition that has nothing to do with a person’s IQ or intelligence. It is “just a learning style difference,” said Xavier English teacher Shannon Donaldson. 

So what do these characteristics mean for dyslexic high school students? Dyslexic students are faced with many different challenges that vary from student-to-student. For example, many dyslexic students struggle with time management, especially when testing. This is because they often need to take more time to fully understand readings or directions. 

To address this, Xavier currently offers extended time on exams for qualifying students. Students with conditions that impact their test-taking abilities may also receive extended time on College Board tests and standardized tests. 

But more can be done at Xavier.

Often, a teacher’s style or method of teaching has the greatest impact on any student’s success in a course. In fact, 59.5% of 38 Xavier students from an online survey feel that “a teacher’s method has a large impact on how well I do/how much I learn,” and 24.3% of the 38 feel “a teacher’s method completely determines how well I do/how much I learn.”

For many dyslexic students, it can be tasking to accurately and efficiently take notes. This can make it stressful for the student in note-taking situations, in which these difficulties cause her to struggle to keep up with the teacher’s pace. 

Teachers can lecture or present more slowly and allot more time for students to take notes. It can also be helpful for teachers to provide students with access to notes and/or readings outside of class so students can review anything they missed or did not understand. 

Teachers can also work with students on an individual basis to address their specific needs and brainstorm solutions and other accommodations. 

It is imperative that students who struggle with learning differences are provided with equal opportunity to reach their full potential, which necessitates different adjustments based on the individual needs of each student. 

In order to receive such accommodations, however, students must advocate for themselves and their education. Often, students who are struggling do not pursue treatment or diagnosis, which makes it more difficult to be provided assistance. “If something’s not right, go with your gut,” says Xavier Director of Counseling, Kathleen Gannon. She encourages students to stay resilient in their pursuits of the treatments and aids they need to be the most successful. 

It is crucial that the Xavier community, from the teachers to the students, work together to raise awareness and support for dyslexic students. “It is all of our responsibility to work to cultivate a learning environment that makes Xavier’s rigorous curriculum accessible to all,” says Gannon.