What is Dyslexia?
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic. Dyslexia is a life long disorder, however, many children with dyslexia respond very well to early intervention and appropriate teaching strategies & modifications in the classroom. Keep in mind that just as no two people are alike, no two people with dyslexia are alike. Dyslexia can be mild to severe and encompass one or more of the above areas of learning. Dyslexia can also occur with other diagnoses such as ADD/ADHD or light sensitivity (trouble working in fluorescent light or reading print on certain color papers, etc).
How to Tell if Your Child is Dyslexic
Generally dyslexia becomes more apparent in elementary school when children begin to learn to read and write, however, there are some signs that may be recognizable as early as the late toddler or preschool years. It is very important to rule out that a child has any vision, hearing, health or emotional concerns that might interfere with learning before jumping to the conclusion that he or she is dyslexic. Also, when dealing with older toddler and preschool age children keep in mind that all children do develop at different rates and you must allow time for some skills to develop.
It is also important to note if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with dyslexia or has had a history of reading, spelling or writing difficulties because dyslexia does tend to run in families.
What Might Be Some Signs of Dyslexia in the Preschool/Kindergarten Years?
- History of delayed speech (not talking until well after age two)
- History of stuttering
- History of ear infections
- Difficulty with prepositions or directions such as confusing up, down, behind, on top, under, beside, in and out.
- Difficulty sequencing stories using story photo cards (such as what happened first, what happened next, what happened last), and problems following color sequences such as stringing beads in a sequence.
- A short attention span for their age
- Clumsiness with motor tasks such as running, jumping, climbing, catching, throwing or kicking a ball
- Mixing up familiar words or letters in words, such as saying “aminal” for “animal”
- Showing little interest in learning letters or words
- Difficulty memorizing songs or finger plays
- Difficulty learning words that rhyme such as “pig” and “big”
- Problems with self care skills such as learning to tie shoes or dressing
What Might be Some Signs of Dyslexia in the Elementary Years?
- Reversing letters and/or numbers when writing
- Leaving letters out of words or leaving words out of sentences
- Putting words in the wrong order in sentences
- Poor articulation of speech (continuing after 3rd grade)
- Difficulty reading and spelling
- Can’t sound out new words
- Becomes visibly tired after reading/writing tasks
- Problems learning cursive writing
- Not establishing hand dominance until age 8 or later
- Problems distinguishing left from right
- Difficulty with simple math calculations
- Completing written work more slowly or inaccurately than peers
- Enjoys being read to, but does not enjoy reading
- Trouble learning to tell time on a clock with hands
- Continued problems with visual & auditory processing
What Can I Do If I Suspect My Child is Dyslexic?
If your child has three or more of the above symptoms speak with your child’s teacher about having him/her tested for dyslexia. No single test can be used to diagnose dyslexia, so multiple tests should be given (as many as 10-12 since dyslexia encompasses so many areas of learning). Keep in mind that most children cannot be accurately diagnosed with dyslexia until age 5-6. Many schools do not test specifically for dyslexia, but rather for special education services in general. A diagnosis of dyslexia does not automatically mean your child will be eligible for special educations services (or an IEP).To get the most accurate testing results you should look for someone who is a Certified Dyslexia Testing Specialist.
How Can I Help My Child with Dyslexia?
- Sing songs and do finger plays that involve rhyming
- Tell simple stories and ask your child to retell the story back to you
- Play games involving prepositions, asking your child to hide under the table, beside the lamp, on the couch, behind the chair, etc.
- Work on motor skills such as throwing a ball to a person, catching a ball, kicking a ball, throwing a ball into a basket, skipping, hopping or completing an obstacle course
- Play memory games, hide 3-6 objects and take one away and ask your child what is missing
- String beads together or create patterns, asking your child to duplicate the same pattern you made using the same shapes and/or colors
- Use picture flash cards that involve matching words, sequencing stories or finding things that go together (the hand card goes with the glove card, etc).
- Read to your child or let them listen to books on tape to take the pressure of reading off of them for a bit
- Help them with organizational skills such as color coding school folders, establishing daily routines for getting bathed, dressed and ready for school
- Keep in touch with your child’s teachers for tips on helping with homework and modifications that might be made in the classroom to help your child enhance spelling/reading skills
- Avoid criticizing and use praise as much as possible to instill confidence and boost self esteem
- Prepare a quiet, distraction free place to complete homework and practice skills
- Use a computer at home and school to help with writing/spelling
- Use a multi-sensory approach to learning letters and words…for example say the word, so he can hear it, have him repeat the word so he can hear it, spell the word using concrete letters such as refrigerator magnets so he can also see and touch the letters in the word. Use a picture of the word so he can also see it in a different format than just the spelling. For example, a picture of a dog, a stuffed dog on the table, the word dog spelled with magnets, a real dog in the room, etc.
Many famous people are dyslexic including Tom Cruise, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Jay Leno and Robin Williams. Many people with dyslexia are extremely gifted and talented individuals!
Below are some helpful links that were used to gather information for the above article. These sites provide additional in depth information on dyslexia & many helpful teaching strategies for children and adults with dyslexia: