Edina parents will have the chance to feel what it’s like to have dyslexia at an event next week meant to simulate the learning disability.
The Dyslexia Parent Alliance-Edina is organizing the free event, which will consist of several stations meant to mimic the experiences that accompany the condition, which, according to the International Dyslexia Association, is characterized by difficulties in word recognition, poor spelling and a deficit in the phonological component of language.
The event, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 8, takes place during what advocates have declared Dyslexia Awareness Month.
“The idea is really to develop empathy for what a child or adult with these learning disabilities experiences sitting in a classroom,” said Nicole Danielson, a member of the Dyslexia Parent Alliance and an organizer of the upcoming event.
The International Dyslexia Association is providing the simulation, called “Experience Dyslexia,” which will put participants through a series of stations mimicking the learning disability.
Meant to represent a severe case of dyslexia, the activities aim to elicit the frustration that those with the disability encounter in their daily lives.
Danielson went through the simulation this past summer. “You just really come away from it with a good grasp of how exhausting it must feel, she said. “As a neurotypical adult, I was exhausted.”
Indeed, the dyslexia association’s description of the exercise notes it’s designed to be stressful and that “participants may become fatigued and even emotional.”
It’s a set of conditions experienced by as many as 15-20% of the population, according to the International Dyslexia Association.
The Dyslexia Parent Alliance-Edina consists of approximately 200 members, advocating for Edina Public Schools to become a “dyslexia smart” district. “We are here as a community support group for families who have students who are dyslexic,” Danielson said.
With a child who was diagnosed with dyslexia as a first-grader, she adds that early intervention is key.
“Dyslexic kids can learn to read and become very successful students and adults if given the proper intervention,” Danielson said.
When her child was diagnosed, “for us at the time, it was almost a relief, because it gave us answers to so many questions,” she added.
But Danielson continued, “it just felt like it was harder than it should be.”
She noted that her child receives outside tutoring related to dyslexia twice a week but laments that not all families can pay for such intervention.
“Some people call dyslexia a diagnosis of privilege,” Danielson said. “There’s concern amongst our group members of, ‘What about those families that aren’t able to provide those resources?’”
The mother of two said that for her family, addressing dyslexia “just felt like it was harder than it should be.”
Through the district’s communications office, the Sun Current attempted to reach Edina Schools’ student support services department, but that request went unfulfilled.
However, a summary of the district’s dyslexia-related efforts is provided on its website. It notes that the district is in compliance with state law, passed in 2019 and effective July 1, 2020, that requires certain screening efforts.
The statute states, “Students identified as not reading at grade level by the end of kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 must be screened, in a locally determined manner, for characteristics of dyslexia.”
The district does not formally diagnose the condition but has learning specialists, special education teachers and some classroom teachers who are trained in Orton Gillingham multisensory principals, a widely accepted approach for dyslexia intervention.
Among its efforts to address dyslexia, the district also employs “leveled literacy interventions” consisting of small groups of students who need extra supports, according to Edina Schools’ website.
– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent
Experience Dyslexia: A Learning Difference Simulation
Where: Interlachen Country Club, 6200 Interlachen Blvd., Edina
When: 6-8:30 p.m. Oct. 8
Details: Free event, register at tinyurl.com/y4bffe82 for more info