Are you trying to figure out whether your child may have dyslexia? Start by reviewing these basic dyslexia facts.
1. What Is Dyslexia?
Sometimes the brain processes information in unexpected ways. For people who have dyslexia, the way that the brain processes information makes it difficult to read. It creates challenges processing letters and symbols into meaningful language. This makes it difficult to learn how to read, spell and write. The tendency to have a dyslexic condition can run in families.
Dyslexia is not related to or a sign of someone’s basic intelligence. Indeed, a hallmark sign of dyslexia is the unexpected difficulty in learning to read.
As an example, one of my kids absolutely adored books from the time he was a baby. He loved story time. He loved holding books and receiving books as gifts. And, as young child he was very verbal with an unusually wide vocabulary. I just knew he was going to be an early reader! So one day we broke out the “BOB” books and the wheels fell off the cart. He just couldn’t get it. He got very frustrated very quickly. And, after one or two tries, he refused to have anything more to do with those books.
Dyslexia is one of the more commonly occuring learning differences. Approximately 20% of people are dyslexic. That’s 1 in 5.
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2. Dyslexia Facts: Signs & Symptoms
These are some simple signs that can be easily recognized and may signal a need for additional investigation.
- Difficulty learning or remembering the letters of the alphabet. This is different than just being able to learn the lyrics to the ABC song. Can your child pick up in the middle and know what letter comes next ? Or, does he have to start over at the beginning?
- Difficulty with rhyming or recognizing rhymes.
- Doesn’t associate specific letters with corresponding specific sounds – even after a demonstration.
- Trouble remembering significant numbers and dates – e.g., address, phone number, birthdays.
- Has trouble telling or retelling a story in correct sequence.
- Has a hard time learning to write or spell his/her own name.
- Difficulty learning days of the week and remembering the correct order.
If you believe that your child may fit the profile for dyslexia, don’t wait to follow up. Early intervention can lead to the best outcomes.
In this context, early intervention means kindergarten or 1st grade. The best saying I heard early in this process: It’s better for a child to graduate out of services than to fail into them.
When a third-party professional first suggested that we should seek a tutor for my kindergartener, I was shocked. I never knew that they had tutors for anything in kindergarten. The concept seemed over-the-top. But it turned out to be one of the best possible things we could have done at that time.
Kids who are identified as potentially dyslexic and supported in kindergarten and first grade have less difficulty learning to read at grade level than do kids who are not identified and supported until third grade. (But don’t despair if you’re kid is already in the middle grades. Support now is better than continued delay, or none at all.)
3. Dyslexia Facts: How It’s Diagnosed
This is not quite as straightforward as you would probably expect.
Dyslexia is frequently evaluated and diagnosed by an educational psychologist. But, other types of trained professionals can conduct an appropriate assessment. This includes professionals with an advanced degree (M.A., M.S., M.Ed., Ed.D., or Ph.D.) in one or more of the following fields: Education, Reading, Speech Language Pathology, School Psychology, Psychology, or Neuropsychology.
An assessment will include an evaluation of reading abilities, and the ruling out other potential causes for difficulties such as vision or hearing problems.
4. Dyslexia Facts: Treatments & Interventions
You can address problems created by dyslexia through an evidence based structured language program. Ones that involve multisensory approaches to associating sounds with letters and meaning can be quite successful. One of the best known and widely utilized is the Orton-Gillingham approach. The University of Michigan’s dyslexia website has a great chart that breaks down and explains some of the better known reading programs.
You should also be mindful of what reading instruction methods your school uses. Is it a phonics based method or a “whole language” based method? The best methods for teaching dyslexic students to read involve a phonics based system. And, some experts believe that a phonics focused method could be a better instructional approach for all students, not just ones with dyslexia.
5. Dyslexia Facts: Long Term Prospects
You cannot cure dyslexia. But, you can level that obstacle with appropriate interventions and supports. Throughout the internet and history, you can find numerous examples of dyslexic individuals who have become extraordinarily successful in their chosen fields.
Suggested Additional Reading:
- The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. http://dyslexia.yale.edu/
- Great parent essay about avoiding the siren song of denial.
The Dyslexia Diagnosis, http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/parents/stories-from-parents/my-sons-dyslexia-diagnosis/
- Favorite book for parents.
The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, by Ben Foss