CLEVELAND — Dyslexia can make reading and other language skills a challenge, one that some parents and teachers in northeast Ohio now understand a little better. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Northern Ohio branch of the International Dyslexia Association provides simulations and trainings to help parents and teachers better understand what it's like to struggle with dyslexia

  • Dyslexia is a condition that can make reading and other language skills a challenge

  • Ohio is requiring dyslexia screenings of all kindergarten through third-grade students in the 2023-2024 school year

A series of simulations set up by the Northern Ohio branch of the International Dyslexia Association shined a light on some struggles of the disability. The group facilitates the training for schools and organizations who want to learn more about the disability. 

Fannie Timko took part in the session at Shaker Heights High School and felt some of the struggle first-hand. 

“It’s very hard,” she said. “You have to think about every motion.”

Motions that usually come easily to the mom of six weren’t so easy in the exercises. Timed activities challenged participants to write with their non-dominant hand or offered other obstacles meant to replicate some of the frustrations felt by someone with dyslexia. 

“I’m exhausted,” Timko said. “I feel very inadequate. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get finished in the allotted time.”

The simulation provided an opportunity for parents and teachers to learn some tools to better understand how the disability can affect a student’s skills and learning. 

“This is not a fun activity,” Timko said. “To see someone stressing out about completing these tasks that we as adults couldn’t complete.”

Timko said she’s spent about 30 years working in education and sees some of the difficulties in the classroom. 

“Early childhood, folks need to learn letters, sound identification, and that’s really what works,” she said. “And it’s so difficult to see children in fifth grade that can’t sound out words.”

Organizers said the demonstrations helped reinforce the importance of teaching methods focusing on systematic, explicit instruction in reading, writing and language.

“That’s learning to read and after that point, that pivotal point, then they’re reading to learn,” said Betty Marko, Walsh University. “So, they have to have those foundational skills.”

A foundation of skills Timko said she wants to help all students build. 

“It’s something that we should continue to do, to learn and appreciate folks where they are, so we can move them to the next level,” she said. 

The state of Ohio now has a Dyslexia Guidebook with rules on how schools should support students showing characteristics of the learning disability, including requiring a dyslexia screening of all students in kindergarten through third grades, beginning in the 2023-2023 school year.