Week 2: July 7-13

Since dyslexia is brain-based; not visual, wouldn’t they have the same reading difficulty despite the reading medium? Some students who read braille have difficulty with reversals such as D and f, j and h and r and w although they have not been diagnosed with dyslexia. I also feel that braille contractions could further exacerbate the student’s reading difficulties especially if they replace letters for different sounds. I would love to see a study with challenges faced by braille readers with and without dyslexia to see if my theory is correct.

Promoting Emergent Literacy Skills (JVIB, 2018, p. 542-550)

  1. How might the cultural background or socioeconomic status of families impact their ability to implement the suggested strategies for promoting emergent literacy in toddlers with visual impairments?

According to Promoting Emergent Literacy Skills, “the foundations for reading include distinguishing between the different sounds of language, participating in stories, and showing awareness of books.” The authors endorse dialogic reading, a shared reading practice between adults and children, as an intervention strategy. Students from low socioeconomic families or ELL learners may encounter difficulties even when receiving instruction that puts the recommended strategies into practice.

Students from a low socioeconomic family may have limited access to meaningful and developmentally appropriate reading materials. Additionally, studies exist that show the relationship between socioeconomic status and literacy. In The Relationship between Socioeconomic Status and Literacy: How Literacy is Influenced by and Influences SES, Maren Blanchard comments on the link between low literacy and poverty and illustrates that “Just as those born into poverty have a stronger likelihood of remaining impoverished, those born into a family with low literacy levels are likely to have weak literacy skills themselves (Rea, 2020). This seems logical, as parents who are not comfortable with literature will interact with it less than parents with higher literacy levels. Similarly, as these parents are likely not confident in teaching their children how to read or write, these children will lack a strong home-literacy foundation, thus leading to a lower level of literacy.” Given the deficits that exist at home, the students “will not have a strong foundation for literacy before entering school and are more likely to fall behind and have lower literacy levels.”

Students who are ELL learners have their own set of challenges. Reading comprehension, fluency, and proficiency with vocabulary, phonics, and phonemic awareness are all stunted in ELL learners until they have received a wealth of extended instruction designed to help them distinguish the different sounds in the English language versus their native tongues. Another potential obstacle is low comprehension due to a lack of prior knowledge based on cultural differences. Stories that rely on idioms “it’s raining cats and dogs” might appear confusing to students.

Reading instructors need to be sensitive to the potential obstacles that exist and then create and implement an individualized reading curriculum that promotes literacy. A common approach, one designed for each and every student (one size fits all), will most likely fail as it will not take into account the unique challenges that students face when coming from different cultural backgrounds or a low socioeconomic family. ***

Hello. I enjoyed reading your response. I too can recall past experiences as a student and I can think of some examples where teachers did not have high expectations for me (literally every math class) and how that likely stunted my personal growth. It was only after becoming a 9th-grade resource room teacher that I learned that I too could learn how to do Algebra. It’s good to read articles like Are You Communicating High Expectations? because it helps to keep me in check and I think it’s important to make it a regular practice to evaluate your own teaching. I agree that I could also be “more intentional” with my practices if it means leading to better outcomes with my students. Finally, while it wasn’t during braille reading, I had a student fall asleep on me in the middle of a 1-on-1 conversation, so I got a chuckle out of that.

Hi, Lacey. I have to say that I find it fascinating to learn about everyone’s background on this cohort. Last week, I got to read the response of someone who was a reading specialist before making the switch to visual impairments. Given the required readings for this week, I was interested to see what you had to say since you are endorsed in ELL instruction. Isn’t it interesting that “good teaching” is typically good teaching for all?

I too am an itinerant teacher and I agree that time constraints are likely the greatest obstacle. I find it hard to teach the ECC effectively given these same time constraints, so for someone who is in the emergent stage of learning to read with a visual impairment, an extended school year with instruction a few times per week over the summer might be necessary.

I really appreciate your experience with working with VI students with Dyslexia and the assumptions surrounding the disability. I too, also know that Dyslexia is a brain-based disability and I found your experience to be insightful. It truly requires a whole team to work on the behalf of the student to get the necessary supports. I also found the exercise in the video to be frustrating and I can only think in the long term, tiring and defeating.


  1. Prior to viewing the module video, what were your assumptions about Dyslexia? How did the simulation activity change or contribute to your understanding of Dyslexia?

Prior to watching the module video on Dyslexia, I assumed that Dyslexia was a visual processing disorder. I thought of Dyslexia as being individual letter reversal as well as letter order reversal in words. For instance, I thought that the word “bath” might look like “dath” or “hatd” to someone with Dyslexia. I knew that young children often write some letters backwards as they are learning to read and I saw Dyslexia as a continuation of this reversal. In addition, I sometimes referred to myself as having “number dyslexia” because I have a difficult time remembering number order (e.g. phone numbers, street numbers) and tend to mix them up when writing them down.

I found the simulation activity interesting and it brought up more questions for me. As I first tried to “decode” the handout, I found it to be a slow, frustrating process. I tried the activity two different ways. When I looked at it as letter replacement, I was able to decode the message more and more quickly because I had the code and I tend to be very good with replacement codes. I wish I had tried it without knowing the code. I then tried to read it as it was written, sounding out the words. This was much more difficult and probably better simulates Dyslexia for me. This got me thinking back to the first week of modules. In the video “The Science Behind Reading. The Brain’s Role in Learning to Read” Dr. Sally Shaywitz was quoted as saying “The brain was never meant to read. The fact that anyone can read at all is a miracle.”

Our understanding of Dyslexia will continue to evolve. While this simulation helped with my understanding of Dyslexia, I wish I could go inside a person’s brain (who has Dyslexia) to experience it for a short time. I feel the same way about my students with CVI and with my complex needs students. While we are able to simulate ocular disorders with goggles and lenses, neurological and processing disorders are harder to simulate.

I’m sorry you experienced this treatment when you were younger. I feel as though the practice of differentiating learning (as opposed to instruction) was the basis for many teachers in the past. I remember when teachers would group students based on reading ability, low to high with no mixture of different abilities. Many of the students became acutely aware of the groupings which resulted in low self-esteem.
Like you, I work to differentiate the instruction to meet my students where they are and create goals together to reach either daily, weekly, or monthly. I also change how I teach each day, sometimes it’s a worksheet, sometimes a game, sometimes a student-developed material. Overall, my students develop an increased sense of pride and they know the expectations I hold for them.

As a visually impaired student myself, expectations from me was almost like any other student. I felt that I had to meet the assignments and goals that are placed upon me while being in the classroom and able to learn the tasks or read the materials that are incorporated. Sometimes I had to problem solve in order to complete an assignment.If I didn’t get something, i ask the questionm to have better clarifications since the instructions during the first or second read arounds don’t always seem clear enough for the tasks at hand.

When it comes to my teaching environment, I care about how my students and their ways of learning. Sometimes they learn better by watching videos or reading an article I send or they research themselves. I also expect them to ask questions for better clarity on an assignment or problem solve in completing things since they are at a point to do so.

Dyslexia could also happen with Braille as well. Uncontracted or Grade 1 to many can be easier for some people to learn, even when I learned it felt more comfortable due to how it resembled regular words. When I got into Contracted or Grade 2 and then the Unified English Braile Code the contractions seemed more complicated even with rules in where and how to use them. I had a hard time feeling for the symbols and when being tutored years ago I was studying the feel for them according to the instructor I worked with and did read each one slowly. It can be difficult since the contractions are more well known and used in public areas and in books, I could imagine how hard it could be to a child with Dyslexia to learn how to sound some of these words.

I did like your perspective on the activity since it made you understand how you felt towards your students. It was “What If I Was in Their Shoes?” kind of experience for yourself.

Having motivations towards learning is important since so many students think that if they can’t learn it it does not matter to them. I had experiences where students thought they can’t learn something due to their own blindness but I tell them, “Take that word out of my room, I know you can do this and it will take time to learn but you will learn it.” I think it is a comfort for them to say “can’t” due to being told by others that they “can’t” do it due to blindness.

I do like that activity with Rose, Bud, and Thorn. I do see frustrations with people in my own class that are trying to learn the task at hand and do struggle.

Are You Communicating High Expectations? (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2022)

  1. Reflecting on your own experiences as a student, how did teacher expectations influence your academic performance and motivation? How might you apply these insights to your own teaching practice?

The first elementary school I went to was very small, too small to have any real ability-level groupings. But I can remember specific teachers who had clear expectations of each student’s ability levels based on the students parents occupation. If the child had a parent who was a professional (mostly engineers) the teacher had high expectations for those students. If you were from a blue color household the expectations were not as high and if you were from an agricultural household there seemed to be very little expectations. For two years in a row, on the first day of school the teachers actually asked the students whose parents worked for General Electric to stand up. The praise also varied, the students with higher teacher expectations were praised and when they did not give a correct answer the teacher would continue to expand on the question, drawing out the correct answer. For students with less teacher expectations, if called on and the answer was wrong they were just told they were wrong. We also did not have choices, the assignments were all set with no flexibility or choice. When I moved to the bigger elementary school (in the same school district) reading groups were ability grouped and the names of the reading groups were Olympic rated, the Gold, Silver and Bronze reading groups. Clearly showing were the students ranked. We still did not have choices in our learning activities and parents socio-economic standing did not obviously influence teacher expectations. All of my core classes in middle school and high school were ability grouped and some teachers did point out the expectations of their higher abilities ranking classes had much higher expectations.

When I went to the smaller elementary school and was bused in from a rural farm community, during the years that the engineering subdivision was built closer to the school, I definitely felt like there were very low expectations from students other than the children of engineers. I did not feel motivated to participate. In the larger overcrowded elementary school I felt your worth was on your ability level and instruction looked the same day after day, we worked from workbooks and reading kits and instruction did not vary. Again not very motivated. In the middle school and high school years we had choices on some of the classes we took and most of the teaching was more hands-on, teachers were asking open ended questions and really wanted the students to think and make connections, and we had choices on ways we wanted to research and present knowledge to our peers. This was much more motivating and it seemed that we recognized each other’s strengths more, like he/she is really good at art, music, the sciences, math, social studies, english, mechanics, etc.

As a teacher I am definitely aware of my own experiences as a student and how teacher expectations, respect, and genuine interest in a student directly affects the student’s academic and social emotional development. I like to provide my students with choices and allow their interest to drive instruction when possible. Allowing students interact with their peers is also very important to me, I find some of my students who are visually impaired are excluded from class interacting and are pulled to do assignments/projects independently, I try to emphasize that these students should have the same expectations as their peers (differentiated at times just like some of their peers). I stay in the classroom more at the beginning of the year and work with the classroom teachers on needed supports and modification that may be needed for the student with a VI be able to participate fully and I encourage my students to raise their hands and participate at the beginning of the year so that they feel confident to do so and most importantly that their ideas are worth contributing and their peers sees them more as an active classmate. I collaborate with teachers in the same learning environment and ask for feedback and we share ideas and strategies. I have printed off the Check-list of 25 actions associated with high expectation teaching. I try to be mindful of my teaching expectations, but it is always helpful to review and assess if you are staying on track.

I concur with your assessment about how socio-economic status effects pre-literacy. I also find it interesting though when working with parents who have plenty of education and funds, but don’t follow through with literacy activities at home. I really appreciated all of the tips in the facile we read, but I worry that too many families will find those tips overwhelming because they take time to implement. I also really worry about the screen time issue with our students. I have multiple low vision students who spend hours a day playing video games and not engaging with others. I really think that the social piece of literacy is being lost.

Thanks for your perspective. As a daughter of a former MLL teacher, I think you nailed it. One of the biggest challenges for my mom was when she had middle or high school students with no literacy in their native language. Her students in those situations spent a lot of time with her rather than being with their native English speaking peers. In a lot of ways I see MLL students needing intensive learning time that we just don’t have the resources for. If you add a disability like vision, the lack of time becomes even more intense.

What testing did you do for your student? I have a student I suspect has a reading disability but both the reading specialist and school psych have dismissed me completely. Thanks.

Cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can 100% effect the implementation of strategies as well as the priority level of implementing those strategies. I see this frequently across my caseload. I have several families who are of a higher economic status, generally, are more often my families who want to know anything and everything that they can do. These families are often 100% in on their child’s education. As that status decreases, I often see less involvement from my families. However, there are some outliers with this. In terms of access to literacy, time and availability of materials can effect a child’s literacy development. For example, those families who have a parent who is home all the time, caring for their kids, has a child’s home library and reads to their kids daily will have more exposure to literacy than a family that does not have all of those factors.

I have several families on my caseload that are not native to the United States and their cultural norms of someone with a disability have been varied. Those cultural norms on disability do not just stop at visual impairment, but to all other disabilities–no matter how capable WE see the person. I often find it a struggle to balance telling families what their child needs understanding their cultural norms may not influence them to implement any suggestions.

Like you before the module I understood that dyslexia is not a visual impairment. Over the last school year, I have had a couple kids referred to be with possible dyslexia concerns. While I understand that their having difficulty reading–it’s not a vision issue. I cannot imagine what it looks like when someone who has dyslexia is reading and writing–it must be difficult. If I do my FVA and LMA and find data that supports they do not qualify for services… then they do not qualify for services… and that happens 90% of the time in the cases that have come my way. For some of these students, I may end up recommending accommodations, but they are accommodations that could be recommended by an intervention specialist, a reading specialist and/or an OT (if involved). While I am totally on board for being on an team… I do not feel like I should have much involvement once I have sufficient data to support their functional vision does not impede their education.

As a side note… I wonder how many cases of “dyslexia” are actually more so a “lack of appropriate instruction” as more and more kids are being shoved in front of a screen and many kids are missing the basic foundational skills when it comes to reading due to the standards bar being so high. For example… the expectations for the end of kindergarten and first grade have drastically changed since my time in those grades (very late 1990’s). While, yes, we need to hold our kids to a higher standard are we doing a disservice to them by pushing so much information onto them and so quickly.

I believe that a cultural background can impact the families ability to implement the suggested strategies for promoting emergent literacy in toddlers with visual impairments. First, families may be dealing with a language barrier if the family is unfamiliar with the language being taught in the school. Second, support could be limited depending on the area or if there are translators or ELL teachers. Third, spoken language could be confusing to the toddler with a visual impairment if more than one is being used in the home. Being able to understand or being able to engage without possible confusion.
Families socioeconomic status can hinder the ability to implement the goals given in the article. Parents may not be to give their toddler a rich environment of language or experiences. Many families are just trying to make ends meet. The learning at home could take a back seat to the child getting the rich learning environments. But, this could be a misnomer due to the fact that your socioeconomic factors do not have to play into the toddler or child falling behind their peers. Families should look for resources that could be free or available to them. Case and point would be libraries and being involved in their programs. Looking at real world experiences as learning.

I digress. I have worked with families that have barriers economically and culturally but only economically when it came to the toddler with visual impairments. And as I stated before many of these families looked to their schools or maybe even the hospital to help with finding the services then allowing the services to come in and help educate them so they could better expose and teacher their child with low vision. I would say that either could be a disadvantage for a child with a visual impairment, but it is all in the route a family takes to better serve their child.

I agree with your statement on screen time issues. I see this more often, parents using tablets, TV’s and phones to keep their children occupied or to help their children “behave” in a public setting, or a replacement for having to read to them. I see it within my own family. My oldest daughter is glued to her phone, she claims it is due to her job and my one of my grandbabies who is 6 will have a meltdown when his tablet is taken away or his timer goes off. He would rather be on his tablet than play with his friends if given the choice. I know she misses many opportunities to engage and build her children’s learning and language development. None of my children were raised that way. I read to them all when they were young. My youngest who is 9 likes to read before bed. I place daily timers and daily limits on their electronics. They do not like it, but it forces them to think about how much time they use their electronics.

Some of the areas I teach in are heavy into farming. Education is important to them, but not as much as their farm. That is their main income, their way of life for many generations. Families spend most of their days tending to the farm, they barely have time to do homework let alone the time to implement the strategies that are suggested for their child/children. In other areas where I teach the families are mixed. Some from single households and others from prominent wealthy families. Single parent households can vary, depending on their income. Some do well and have time to spend with their children doing homework and practicing strategies. Then you have others who may work more than 1 job or have children who are in afterschool activities and they do not have anyone to help them get their children from point A to point B. After working all day then spending the rest of their day running their children all over the place, they may be too tired to sit and do homework or practice reading strategies.

It took about 3 years for them to finally get on board. We have found that many school psychologists in different counties/districts do not like to give our students who are low vision/blind any other label other than VI. It can be very frustrating when we know they need more than just VI services.