dyslexia, dyslexia challenges

Medical Student’s Appeal Highlights Challenges of Dyslexia

January 21, 2010 10:30 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
The student is appealing a court decision denying him extra time to take a crucial test, calling attention to difficult situations confronting dyslexic students, their parents and teachers.

Dyslexic Students Speak Out

According to The Washington Post, the National Board of Medical Examiners has denied Frederick Romberg’s request for more time to complete the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Romberg, a dyslexic medical student at Yale University, will appeal the decision.

In 2008, a similar scenario played out in Britain, where 21-year-old dyslexic medical student Naomi Gadian claimed certain tests’ multiple choice portions were discriminatory. According to the BBC, Gadian challenged Britain’s General Medical Council to do away with multiple choice, but the council asserted that it had “no powers to set medical examinations.”

Similarly, in March 2009, a group of “aspiring medical students with learning disabilities” was denied “extra time or other accommodations when taking the Medical College Admission Test” by the California State Supreme Court, according to Amy Lynn Sorrel of American Medical News. However, writes Sorrel, certain “recent amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act” could have repercussions for some issues raised by the case.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity says the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination should change its policy. “There should be no ifs or buts, as neurobiological evidence now provides indisputable evidence of the absolute need for extra time for those children and adults who are dyslexic,” Yale reports.

Background: Dyslexia in the classroom

According to Public School Review, dyslexia is a tricky condition that “ranges in its symptoms and conditions,” and can’t be diagnosed with a simple test. Parents and children must be interviewed, and the child observed in the classroom before a determination of dyslexia can be reached. Public schools all provide support for special needs students, but some “leaders argue that Dyslexia experts are specifically needed.”

In a reader blog for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Melinda Pongrey, who works with dyslexic students, discussed how a typical classroom confronts the issue. Pongrey wanted to see “first hand” why one of her pupils had become “increasingly discouraged,” and decided to sit in on a day of class with him. She observed various activities that were either too difficult or done too quickly for a dyslexic student, and in her blog post offers suggestions for how a teacher could improve each situation.

Approaches Vary in Public and Private Schools

In a thread about “Schools for Dyslexic Kids” on the Berkeley Parents Network, one parent discusses her child's experiences with public and private schools.

“The private school has been very helpful, and accommodating, but my child is unhappy at school, finding the work difficult (reading and spelling below grade level), and, compared with others, feeling slow and dumb,” she writes.

Conversely, at the public school her child previously attended, “they were reluctant to notice there was a problem, saying it was developmental.”

FindingDulcinea’s Learning Disabilities Web Guide provides further insight into dyslexia, and has online resources focused on treatment options, news and research, and attending college with dyslexia. 

Requesting More Time for SAT/ACT Due to Dyslexia

Mary Lee Anderson, who teaches high school students with disabilities, explains the process a dyslexic or otherwise learning disabled student must go through to gain eligibility to take the SAT with accommodations.

According to Anderson’s article on Helium, the procedure begins by completing the College Board Student Eligibility Form. Another option is to directly submit a child’s documentation “to the College Board for review by a panel of learning disabilities experts.” Anderson also notes that “most guidance counselors are familiar with the Board’s verification process,” so asking your child’s counselor is a good starting point. If your child is determined eligible, the accommodations can also apply to PSAT/NMSQ and Advanced Placement (AP) tests, in addition to SAT I and II.

The Princeton Review provides an easy-to-use chart that spells out which forms are needed to apply for test accommodations and when. Follow-up steps and test registration information are also included in the chart.

Opinion & Analysis: Ending SAT time limits

In an editorial for The New York Times, Mark Franek, dean of students for the William Penn Charter School, makes the case for ending the time limits on SATs. Franek discusses his and other teachers’ observation of the College Board’s inundation with accommodation requests. “The solution is simple: keep the test to one day but end the time limits,” he writes. Franek notes that accommodations are likely “not being awarded fairly across race and socioeconomic lines—it generally takes a lot of time, energy and, in some cases, money” to complete requests. 

Related Topic: Casey Martin case

In 2001, disabled golfer Casey Martin won a Supreme Court battle for the "legal right to travel in a golf cart between holes in competition," reported Time. Walking is painful for Martin due to a circulatory disorder. According to Time, "a majority ruling from the Supreme Court tends to eliminate the need for philosophical debate," which raises questions. Could a similar ruling be a possibility for dyslexia sufferers? Or, is the disorder too ambiguous?

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