U of A to Offer Online Teaching Endorsement for Dyslexia in Spring

David Hanson
University Relations

David Hanson

The University of Arkansas will offer online a dyslexia therapist endorsement for teachers starting this spring.

David Hanson, a clinical assistant professor of special education, explained that the neurologically based disorder affects language development and phonological processing, which is the ability to see or hear a word, break it down into discrete sounds and then associate each sound with the letter or letters that make up the word. Dyslexia affects one in five children, which means there are many children who need specialized help to learn to read well, he said.

More information about the dyslexia endorsement is available at the University of Arkansas ONLINE.

The Arkansas Legislature passed laws that required school districts to start screening students for markers of dyslexia this school year. That's a good thing, said Hanson, who previously worked as a reading special education teacher in the Bentonville School District for 11 years, but there are not enough people certified to provide the services for children with dyslexia once they have been identified.

The endorsement program is designed to prepare licensed kindergarten through 12th grade teachers to become dyslexia therapists. Students earning a teaching degree can add the dyslexia endorsement, and it may also be useful to other professionals who work with children, such as speech-language pathologists, Hanson said. It consists of four graduate-level courses offered by the College of Education and Health Professions and delivered online through the Global Campus, plus a practicum that requires the student to log 100 hours working with a school professional who identifies, assesses and treats children with dyslexia.

"The schools may have someone who is able to identify a poor reader but not how to help a child with dyslexia," Hanson said. "They need knowledge about dyslexia and the structure of the English language."

The special education program in the College of Education and Health Professions will also offer services for children with dyslexia beginning in the spring. Peggy Shaefer Whitby, associate professor of special education, said the program will offer an assessment clinic in the spring followed by a reading institute in the summer and tutor clinic in the fall. The special education program faculty and graduate students will collaborate to provide services with faculty and students in the communication disorders and childhood education programs, also in the College of Education and Health Professions.

Research has shown that problems with the brain's wiring can cause dyslexia but the brain can be rewired through various techniques to address the condition, Hanson said. If a child receives treatment before the second grade, there is an 80 percent chance the child will catch up with his or her peers. If the dyslexia is not caught until later, the chance the child will perform on the same level as peers drops to less than 20 percent, Hanson said.

"It's critical that we catch children at a younger age and get them the appropriate interventions," he said.

The dyslexia teaching endorsement and other online U of A programs are showcased on the University of Arkansas ONLINE website.

Contacts

Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu

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