The Brighter Side of Education

Finally! Testing and Support for Students with Dyslexia and Dyscalculia with Specialist Dr. Livia Pailer-Duller

October 26, 2022 Dr. Lisa R. Hassler Season 1 Episode 4
The Brighter Side of Education
Finally! Testing and Support for Students with Dyslexia and Dyscalculia with Specialist Dr. Livia Pailer-Duller
The Brighter Side of Education +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I focus on the student as a variable. What happens when a child struggles in reading, writing, and math and how can we as teachers and parents meet their needs? With 1 out of 5 people estimated to have dyslexia, it is surprising that there is not more action in education to address this large area of concern.  In the average classroom size of 20 that means teachers have an average of 4 dyslexic students in every classroom. 

Dr. Livia Pailer-Duller is on today’s show to discuss this important topic of dyslexia and dyscalculia, and how her organization is helping children and families across the world.  She is the CEO of the American Dyslexia Association and co-author of Dyslexia-Dyscalculia!? (Available on Amazon Published in 2010, this book is described as “a necessity of intervention at the educational-didactic level, which is of preeminent importance for success in the training of people who have problems with reading, writing, or calculating.” 

So here is the call to action: Teachers need to be trained and school districts need to be better equipped to handle dyslexic students. Parents need access to more information and better support. 

It is my hope to include dyslexia testing in the form of AFS testing and didactic assistance by professionally trained educators as part of a solution to the current reading crisis gripping America.

Learnedy can help. The Dyslexia Research Center provides screening and support for children struggling in reading and mathematics. With over 25 years of experience their international research team has created individual training programs to meet children where they are.

Learnedy is backed by The American Dyslexia Association Inc. and The International Federation of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia Associations (IFDDA).

To learn more go to Learnedy: American Dyslexia Association, Inc. (A non-profit Organization).

Parents Sign up link:

Support the show

Please subscribe and share this podcast with a friend to spread the good!
If you find value to this podcast, consider becoming a supporter with a $3 subscription. Click on the link to join:

To help this podcast reach others, rate and review on Apple Podcasts! Go to Library, choose The Brighter Side of Education, and scroll down to Reviews. It's just that easy. Thank you!

Want to share a story? Email me at
Visit my website for resources:
Join our podcast community on Facebook at The Brighter Side of Education Podcast Community

The music in this podcast was written and performed by Brandon Picciolini of the Lonesome Family Band. Visit and follow him on Instagram.

Books I've Authored:
America's Embarrassing Reading Crisis: What we learned from COVID, A guide to help educational leaders, teachers, and parents change the game, is available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible, and iTunes.
My Weekly Writing Journal: 15 Week...

Dyslexia with Specialist Dr. Livia Pailer-Duller


·       Lisa Hassler

·       Livia Pailer-Duller

LH: Welcome to the brighter side of Ed podcast. I am your host. Dr. Lisa Richardson hasler here to enlighten and brighten the classrooms in America through focused conversation on important topics in education. In each episode I discuss problems we as teachers and parents are facing and what people are doing in their communities to fix it. What are the variables and how can we duplicate it to maximize student outcomes? In this episode, I focus on the student as a variable. What happens when a child struggles in reading, writing and math? And how can we, as teachers and parents meet their needs? With one out of five people estimated to have Dyslexia, it's surprising that there is not more action in education to address this large area of concern. Dr. Livia Paler Duller is on today's show to discuss this important topic of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia and how her organization is helping children and families across the world. She is the director of the American Dyslexia Association Ada, and the co author of Dyslexia discalculia, published in 2010. This book is described as a necessity of intervention at the educational didactic level, which is of preeminent importance for success in the training of people who have problems with reading, writing or calculating. Welcome to the show, Livia.

LP: Thank you so much for having me.

LH: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

LP: Yes, of course. So, my name is Dr. Olivia Paler Dollar and I've been working in the field of Dyslexia for almost 20 years now and I'm very happy to be doing so and helping children and helping families and helping educators to let them know more about the topic of Dyslexia and how to help.

LH: So for our listeners, can you explain what is Dyslexia and discalculia?

LP: So Dyslexia is a multisensory deficit that affects the reading and spelling capabilities. And Dyscalcholia is basically the same thing, but it affects numbers. Both Dyslexia and Dyscalchulia are genetic dispositions. So you get it from your parents or maybe your grandparents. It likes to skip a generation sometimes. And what that means is that your sensory perceptions are a little different than those of people that don't have Dyslexia or Dyscalchoolia. And what those sensory perceptions do is when you are in contact with letters and numbers, those might get scrambled and do other funny things. And this is how the errors, the mistakes are made while reading, spelling and doing arithmetic, math. And so what you basically have to do is fix those sensory perceptions and then the task of reading, spelling and arithmetic will be easier. But because it's a genetic disposition, you will always have different sensory perceptions. And that's actually a very great thing because most Dyslexics, they're very talented in certain areas like art or sciences or sports, just not the reading and spelling. So we got to help them with that.

LH: How did you become interested in Dyslexia and Dyscalculia?

LP: So my mother used to be an educator in the school system. Later she had a private tutoring school and she always encountered students that were obviously very bright but no matter how much they practice reading and spelling, the next day they spelled it wrong, the words wrong again. And so she investigated and she found that dyslexia could be the issue and it just snowballed from there. She got herself educated on the specific topic and then she created her own program on how to help the dyslexic children, the AFS method. And she found that just practicing increased practicing of reading and spelling does not bring the desired results, the improvements. Because like I mentioned earlier, the dyslexic students issue really are the different sensory perceptions. And that means that they hear and see and experience the world a little differently than the nondislexic people do. But that has nothing to do with their actual hearing or their vision. It's just that the information processing in the brain is different. And so there's a multisensory deficit here and what's then needed is certain exercises to bring those sensory perceptions up to speed. And then also what happens to the dyslexic children is now when they're supposed to read and write, they can't do that well so they don't want to do that. So their attention span diminishes. And that's when you get a child in the classroom who's like Fidgeting looking out the window, not doing what he's supposed to be doing. And what's often happening is that they're saying oh, this kid is ADHD. Which is not necessarily the case because this inattention is just the symptom of dyslexia. It's not the cause of the reading and spelling problems like it would be if there's an actual ADHD present. So this child just needs to have their sensory perceptions fixed essentially so then he can learn how to read and write properly and then there won't be any inattention because he's able to do these tasks.

LH: Yeah, I like that. In part of your book you have many tips and suggestions and one of them is to catch it early enough so that there are none of those psychosomatic side effects that can occur and then you don't have a lot of those problems.

LP: That's exactly right. So the children are born with the different sensory perceptions and in the preschool and in the kindergarten age if they are exposed to enough sensory perception training. And with that I just mean games that use the senses, like the game Simon for example, where you have different colors that light up and different sounds and you just have to repeat the sequence. This is an auditory sequencing exercise and the children are essentially playing and they don't even realize that they're training their sensory perceptions that they will need later on when they're learning the letters and to read and to write.

LH: So just a little backstory on me. I have a child who was diagnosed with dyslexia and I know that from a parent standpoint. I really didn't know what to do. There was no one that was even able to really diagnose it, the way you're talking about it. They did it through some different testing, and then I was just kind of left to my own devices with, well, he has it and there's no cure. There's no one that can help you. There was nothing really that I can do as a parent. And I felt quite helpless knowing that he was going to struggle. And they just said that the advice was basically, help him as much as you can, and maybe in high school some things would start to click a little bit better and then he would start to be able to manage his own Dyslexia. And I felt very hopeless to help my own child. And then even as a teacher in my classroom, I would have children that were diagnosed with Dyslexia and once again, no resources for it. And so your ability to be able to help train teachers and to really explicitly diagnose without the intelligence test is new hope to parents and to teachers. So can you tell us a little bit about how do you diagnose Dyslexia and Dyscalculia? And then what kind of suggestions would you have for parents and for teachers? What kind of support can they give?

LP: So what you have described right now is what often happens. So there is a child who's struggling in reading and writing, and then they might get sent to a psychologist. The psychologist does intelligence testing and achievement testing. And the problem with that is that those test instruments weren't designed to diagnose a Dyslexia. The Challenges test, like the name already says it's supposed to their intelligence, right? Yes, they're IQ. Right. And that's an important point to make, that Dyslexia does not have anything to do with intelligence. It's just your genetic disposition. But unfortunately, most intelligence tests and the Whisk, the Wexler Intelligence Scale is the one that is most often used, actually measures the intelligence by sensory perceptions. So all those little subtests on the Vexler scale are actually sensory perceptions. So the question then becomes it's like you have to imagine a blind person and you give him some cards to put into the correct order. Well, the blind person can't see the cards. So does that make him dumb or less intelligence? No, he can't see the cards, so he can't solve the problem you put in front of him. And with Lex Lexics, it's basically the same. Their physical vision is not impaired, but their information processing is different, so they can solve the problems on the test. So what happens often is if a Dyslexic child is given the Work slow test, he performs very, very low. So then they say, oh, this child is cognitively impaired because the IQ is so low. And well, what happens then? If there is a cognitive impairment, there is basically nothing you can do about it. Because essentially the child is dumb, right?

LH: So they're performing at the highest ability level and this is the most that we can expect out of them.

LP: Exactly, exactly. And this is just not the case because the test instrument is wrong. But unfortunately it still happens that parents get sent to the psychologist for not because there's just no other, no other specialist often available. So the psychologist is the nearest one and then the intelligence test is done, then also an achievement test might be done. And with Dyslexic children, their performance varies day by day. So one day they might do really well on an achievement test and then the psychologist is like well, what's wrong with this child? He just performed like excellent on this achievement test, but then give the same test to the child the next day and he might perform horribly. So this is just not a test instrument that works for Dyslexics and it also does not take into account the multi sensory deficit. So what really needs to be tested is the sensory perceptions to find out if those are different than this child, if they're not on par, if they need improvement. And that's really how you diagnose a Dyslexia. So not just the symptoms, not just the uranus reading and spelling, but we also need to look at the sensory perceptions, if those are different and then we also need to look at the attention span. Can they hold their attention span or not? And this all together is basically the standardized AFS test. So this is what I am suggesting to you recommending to use because it takes into account all the three areas, the attentions, the functions, which are the sensory perceptions and the symptoms of the Dyslexic child. And it looks in to all three categories. And this is how you arrive at a definitive diagnosis. And not just that, we're not done diagnosing with just the diagnosis, we're not done by just diagnosing Dyslexia. We really want to help this child. So we need to come up with a plan on how to do that. And the sensory perception makeup of the Dyslexic children. Each Dyslexic child is different, so you need individualized training to fix the certain sensory perceptions that might be different. So each training program for each Dyslexic child will be different. And so you really need to come up with an individualized plan. And this is what you said, you went in for diagnosis to say oh, your child is Dyslexic, but what to do about it? Nobody had a clue. And so this is really what it should be about. It's rendering the individualized assistance and not sending parents home with oh, you got a Dyslexic child.

LH: Yeah. And then it's like have fun with that, good luck. And you're like there's nothing that can be done. So you talked about the AFS testing and about then help with support for parents. Where can parents go to get this AFS testing.

LP: I would recommend to seek out a Dyslexia specialist, somebody that's really specialized in Dyslexia. They might use a different testing program, but really do stay away from intelligence testing and achievement testing. So it needs to be something specific. And also what I want to mention that Congress changed the federal statues in 2004 with the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act. And what that says is that intelligence testing should not be used anymore to establish a Dyslexia. And this is a very important piece of information because other federal regulations in the United States allow for an IEP Individualized Educational Plan at schools. So first testing needs to happen. But most of the time, the schools require a full psycho educational evaluation. And that's just hours and hours of testing and hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the families. And also what is included is, of course, intelligence testing, which is, like I said, counterproductive and does not help to actually come up with the Individualized Education Plan on how to help the child. But this is just how things are, and you just have to find a workaround. So seek out a Dyslexia specialist. If you can find a certified Dyslexia trainer in your area, that's the best because those are actually using the AFS testing, the standardized testing.

LH: That's fantastic to know. And then your association, the America Dyslexia Association, would that be a good place for parents to be able to go to try to maybe find a Dyslexia specialist in their area?

LP: Yes, of course. So if you go to our website, you can find free teaching AIDS. So once you have a training plan established, if you know which sensory perceptions are different, then we have training materials for free on our website that you can download and you can go through with your child and you can also find a certified Dyslexia trainer.

LH: What is learned?

LP: How is that associated? This is another training program we offer for free, again, for parents. And what that does, it's not just specific for Dyslexic or Dyscalculic children. It's really for any child that might need some additional help in the elementary years. So it's from K through fourth grade and for English, so reading and spelling, and then also for math for basic arithmetic. And there are the different grade levels. And online you go through a little quiz and that pinpoints where exactly the child needs additional practice. And at the end of the quiz, it also gives you already the specific exercises you're supposed to be doing with your child. So you get a booklet, you print that out, and those exercises, there might just be a few, depending on how many questions the child got wrong on the quiz. Or there might be a lot of pages, and you just go through all of them. And then once you're done with the booklet, you just retake the quiz and see where there is additional practice needed. And it's just a cycle like this. And it's a very convenient way to bring the children on par, so where they're supposed to be on their grade level.

LH: So I like how you mentioned that it's in English, but your association, your training with teachers and your resources, it's actually available global, isn't it?

LP: Yes, it is. So we also have offices in Europe, and we work together closely with them. And the certified Dyslexia trainers are actually working in 65 countries worldwide. And the AFS test, the standardized test is available in six languages, so of course in English. And then there's German and French and Italian and so on. So Spanish. Let's not forget Spanish. Very important. We are very fortunate that we are allowed to work with those exceptional children. And they really are exceptional. They have lots and lots of talents. Unfortunately, often they get beat down in school because they're struggling with their reading and their writing. And, well, we need to help them so they don't get frustrated, so they don't get secondary issues that might be psychological in nature. And so let's start on helping them while they're still young, while they're in elementary years, so we can avoid other additional issues. And so if those additional issues happen, this is when you need a psychologist. So this is then when you need the extra help. But first of all, you need an educator. You need an educator for the Dyslexic child that helps him to learn reading and spelling the way he needs to be taught. So it's not like that the schools are doing it wrong necessarily. It's just that the Dyslexic students need additional help, and that help needs to be individualized.

LH: And so what about the teacher training? You actually do train teachers in this AFS method. Where would someone that was interested in wanting to become certified through your program and to help children?

LP: So the program is available right now. Currently, it's an online program. It started out differently. It started out as a seminar where you come in on the weekends for a whole year and you learn in person, and then it morphed into a conversance course. So this is in the course. These days, everything is online, so you can learn from wherever you are. And so it is a distance learning course. And it still takes about a year, so it's in depth. You will learn a lot of things, but the focus is definitely on what you can do with the child, so how to render that individual assistance. And you just go to our website to get additional information.

LH: And what is that website?

LP: That would be American

LH: Excellent. All right, well, before we wrap up, I have one last question. What advice would you give to a parent or teacher of a child with Dyslexia or Dyscalculia?

LP: So, first of all, I would seek out a Dyslexia specialist, ideally a certified Dyslexia trainer, if one is available in your area, and just go from there, an assessment will be done, testing will be done, and then you know more. And once you're at the point where there is a diagnosis for dyslexia, it's important that help is rendered. Not just like, oh, this child is dyslexic, and this is also what happens. Often the parents just say, oh, I have a dyslexic child. Now you, the classroom teacher, needs to fix it. And unfortunately, it doesn't work like that, because there might be 20 children in the classroom, and these days, there are so many other issues that need to be addressed, and so the classroom teacher can't be expected to fix the dyslexia problem. So there are other ways must be found. The certified dyslexia trainer also renders weekly training in the afternoon, but the parents are also expected to do daily exercises with the children. And with daily exercises, I mean, just a few minutes, do like, one worksheet or play a game, sensory perception game, and that's basically it. But you have to stick with it for months, for years, sometimes, depending on how severe dyslexia is. And what is most important is that help is rendered, not just, oh, we have a diagnosis, and that's it. And there are certain things the classroom teacher can do within the classroom. Those sensory perception games or using visual and auditory instruments to teach also benefits other children, not just the dyslexic children. Certain topics can be made fun, of course, in the classroom. And for the dyslexic children, maybe if it's possible to not mark all the mistakes wrong they do when they're writing. So for some dyslexic children, it helps them if you have a color overlay, and then you can switch the page color to a light blue or light pink or yellow, and that way the contrast is not as harsh. And Helen Erlin came up with this concept of using the colors to read, and it actually does improve their rating.

LH: That's amazing, those little things. And so if you haven't read it yet, check my blog about this with give some tips, and definitely pick up this book and read it. There's a lot of great information. And one of the things that I really loved about it was you show visualizations, like visual replications and models of what a child can see and whether that would be blurred in your digital. I can even see that you have scripts that move that turn. And so really was eye opening for me to be able to experience what my child or a student that was sitting in my class was seeing, and that was powerful to me. So I thought that was pretty amazing. So definitely pick up the book, and I recommend the digital only because I saw that those words move, and I just thought, wow, someone who didn't get the digital wouldn't have seen that. And so that was pretty impactful. Well, if one out of five students have dyslexia, then in the average classroom size of 20. That means teachers have about an average of four Dyslexic students in every classroom. So here is the call to action teachers need to be trained and school districts need to be better equipped to handle Dyslexic students. Parents need access to more information and better support. It's my hope to include Dyslexia testing in the form of standardized AFS testing and didactic assistance by professionally trained educators as part of a solution to the current reading crisis gripping America. Thank you for taking the time to join me today to spread awareness to such an important topic. Thank you also for making a difference in so many lives. If you have a story about what's working in your schools that you'd like to share, you can email me at Dr. Lisa Richardson or visit my and send me a message. It is the mission of this podcast to shine light on the good in education so that it spreads affecting positive change in schools. So let's keep working together to find solutions that focus on our children's success.