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Metro Schools tackles dyslexia with tech

20161115_102248 Eakin Elementary fourth grader Clara Thorsen likes to write stories using apps like Cowriter, Easy Spelling Aid and Snaptype Pro – tools that help her work around dyslexia.

"Having a child who is very gifted, but struggles with Cat and The Hat when her friends are reading Harry Potter – having dyslexia is a social issue. It's a self esteem issue," said Anna Thosen, Clara's mother.

Nationally, one in five children have dyslexia - a reading disorder that is classified as a learning disability in which someone has difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols.

"Not every student who has a learning disability has dyslexia," said Debra McAdams, executive director of exceptional education in Metro Schools. "In addition, not every child who has dyslexia has an individualized education plan (IEP)."

At Eakin Elementary School, technology bridges the gap and shows how Metro teachers are skilled and adaptable to diverse and changing student needs. Clara was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade.

"In Metro Nashville Public Schools, we do an exceptional  job of providing any number of supports to students who have a need," said Drinkwine.

As an Encore student who craves reading, Clara takes tools to class that help her keep pace with her peers, with supports like extra time on tests and having tests read out loud to her.

"There's a perception that children with dyslexia have low IQs, and that is actually reverse. Children with dyslexia tend to have average or high IQs," Thorsen said, explaining that children with dyslexia may be put in a remedial reading program, but also need to be challenged with high ideas and bigger concepts to supplement a broad verbal vocabulary.

Finding tech tools Clara can use at home is also an essential part of her learning as well, Thorsen said. Learning Ally and Bookshare are both nonprofits providing dyslexia support through audiobooks & parent support services. "These programs from our school are free, and I want to get the word out. It's a huge asset for all children," said Thorsen.

Each school has different levels of technology use, according to Krista Bolen, who is part of the assistive technology team in Metro Schools.

"The assistive technologies used by students with dyslexia vary, but many times include digital accessible books and use of spell check and word prediction. All of these can be provided on multiple platforms, many times with existing technology available in the school," Bolen said. "When technology use is integrated into day-to-day teaching, it makes it more seamless for students with disabilities using assistive technology."