“What does Dyslexia mean?”
Although dyslexia is a word that is familiar to many, there is a lot of confusion about what it really is. Lets start with the definition. The word dyslexia comes from the Greek, dys meaning poor and lexia meaning language. In a nutshell, dyslexia is a neurological problem that relates to language and reading skills, spelling, writing, speaking, memory and listening skills.
“Who gets Dyslexia?”
Dyslexia varies in degrees of severity and is highly hereditary. It is not uncommon for a child with dyslexia to have an immediate family member who also has this condition. Also, it is not unusual for two or more children in a family to have dyslexia. The degree of severity will differ from child to child. Even though one child might have difficulties reading, he or she might not have any reversals in their writing whereas another child might read perfectly but not be able to spell or write well.
“How Common is Dyslexia?”
Dyslexia is estimated to affect some 20-30 percent of our population. This means that more than 2 million school-age children in the United States are dyslexic. Although children with dyslexia typically have average to above average intelligence, their dyslexia creates problems not only with reading, writing and spelling but also with speaking, thinking and listening. Many times these academic problems can lead to emotional and self-esteem issues throughout their lives. Low self-esteem can lead to poor grades and under achievement. Dyslexic students are often considered lazy, rebellious or unmotivated by their teachers or parents. These misconceptions cause rejection, isolation, feelings of inferiority, and discouragement.
“What is the Central Difficulty for Dyslexic Students?”
The central difficulty for dyslexic students is poor phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to appreciate that spoken language is made up of sound segments (phonemes). In other words, a dyslexic student’s brain has trouble breaking a word down into its individual sounds and manipulating these sounds. For example, in a word with three sounds, a dyslexic might only perceive one or two.
Most researchers and teachers agree that developing phonemic awareness is the first step in learning to read. It cannot be skipped. When children begin to learn to read, they first must come to recognize that the word on the page has the same sound structure as the spoken word it represents. However, because dyslexics have difficulty recognizing the internal sound structure of the spoken word to begin with, it is very difficult for them to convert the letters of the alphabet into a phonetic code (decoding).
“What are the Benefits of Dyslexia?”
Although dyslexia can impair spelling and decoding abilities, it also seems to be associated with many strengths and talents. People with dyslexia often have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right side of the brain. These include artistic, athletic and mechanical gifts. Individuals with dyslexia tend to be very bright and creative thinkers. They have a knack for thinking, “outside-the-box.” Many dyslexics have strong 3-D visualization ability, musical talent, creative problem solving skills and intuitive people skills. Many are gifted in math, science, fine arts, journalism, and other creative fields.
“What are the Warning Signs of Dyslexia?”
Most often, the clues don’t appear until your child begins reading (or not reading). Even at that point, it may take some time before the dyslexia can be clearly diagnosed. Up until the age of 6 or 7, it is really not that unusual for children to reverse letters or numbers when they read or write, but by the time the child is 8, these reversals might be signaling a deeper problem. By the third grade, a diagnostic test can reveal whether your child has dyslexia or not. These tests are usually administered after a child has had a few years of persistent problems with reading and writing. Here are some pretty common warning signs in children to keep an eye out for so that you won’t wait until third grade to diagnose a struggling dyslexic.
- Late talking, compared to other children
- Pronunciation problems, reversal of sounds in words (such as ‘aminal’ for ‘animal’ or ‘gabrage’ for ‘garbage’)
- Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word (takes a while to get the words out)
- Difficulty rhyming words
- Trouble learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week
- Poor ability to follow directions or routines
- Does not understand what you say until you repeat it a few times
- Enjoys being read to but shows no interest in words or letters
- Has weak fine motor skills (in activities such as drawing, tying laces, cutting, and threading)
- Unstable pencil grip
- Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
School Age Children
- Has good memory skills
- Has not shown a dominant handedness
- Seems extremely intelligent but weak in reading
- Reads a word on one page but doesn’t recognize it on the next page or the next day
- Confuses look alike letters like b and d, b and p, n and u, or m and w.
- Substitutes a word while reading that means the same thing but doesn’t look at all similar, like “trip” for “journey” or “mom” for “mother.”
- When reading leaves out or adds small words like “an, a, from, the, to, were, are and of.”
- Reading comprehension is poor because the child spends so much energy trying to figure out words.
- Might have problems tracking the words on the lines, or following them across the pages.
- Avoids reading as much as possible
- Writes illegibly
- Writes everything as one continuous sentence
- Does not understand the difference between a sentence and a fragment of a sentence
- Misspells many words
- Uses odd spacing between words. Might ignore margins completely and pack sentences together on the page instead of spreading them out
- Does not notice spelling errors
- Is easily distracted or has a short attention span
- Is disorganized
- Has difficulties making sense of instructions
- Fails to finish work on time
- Appears lazy, unmotivated, or frustrated
- Avoids reading and writing
- Guesses at words and skips small words
- Has difficulties with reading comprehension
- Does not do homework
- Might say that they are “dumb” or “couldn’t care less”
- Is humiliated
- Might hide the dyslexia by being defiant or using self-abusive behavior
- Avoids reading and writing
- Types letters in the wrong order
- Has difficulties filling out forms
- Mixes up numbers and dates
- Has low self-esteem
- Might be a high school dropout
- Holds a job below their potential and changes jobs frequently
“What do I do if my child has Dyslexia?”
The sooner a child with dyslexia is given proper instruction, particularly in the very early grades, the more likely it is that they will have fewer or milder difficulties later in life. Keep in mind that dyslexia is an “invisible” disability, one that can’t be physically noticed, but that doesn’t mean your child doesn’t feel his or her dyslexia. These children are well aware that they are not like the other kids, but many are quite committed to keeping it secretive.
A child with dyslexia that is reading well below his or her peers will need intensive tutoring in reading, writing and spelling using an Orton-Gillingham program. During these lessons, the child will overcome many reading difficulties and learn strategies that will last a lifetime. This tutoring or training does not necessarily need to come from a professional teacher or professional dyslexia specialist. A parent, tutor, older sibling or volunteer can help their own child by using an appropriate Orton-Gillingham curriculum. Preferably one that is easy to use, and scripted out. This way the parent or tutor can just follow the script step by step making sure the child receives the Orton-Gillingham instruction daily.
The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham, parent and tutor friendly program, that helps dyslexic students become successful in reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. Click on the video below for information:
Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com