The official definition of dyslexia defines the condition as a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with fluent word recognition, and often with poor spelling and decoding abilities. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence, it is simply a different type of cognitive processing. Students with dyslexia are very capable of learning, they just need to learn differently.
What are the Warning Signs of Dyslexia?
The warning signs of dyslexia usually become the most obvious when children begin school and start learning to read and write, but symptoms can begin as early as pre-school. Here are 5 major warning signs to look for in your school age students:
1. Your Student Reverses or Jumbles Letters
If your student reverses the letters b and d or p and q or writes the letters m for w, they might have dyslexia. These letters may be flipped vertically or horizontally. The word now can become won. Your student might also mirror write entire sentences.
Reversals in children under the age of 8 are normal, however by third grade this should be a thing of the past. At this point, if your student is still reversing letters and numbers or mirror writing, this could very well be a red flag for dyslexia.
2. Your Student Has Difficulties Recalling Words When Talking or Writing a Story
“Mom, can you get me that thing?” or “Hand me that stuff.” If simple words don’t always flow out of your student’s mouth so easily, they might have dyslexia.
Children with dyslexia fill their sentences with pronouns or words lacking in specificity. Filler words like “um” may be used to take up time while your student tries to remember a word. A child with dyslexia knows exactly what they want to say, they struggle pulling out the right words.
When a dyslexic child is asked to write a story, quite often they can’t think of the word they want to use or can’t figure out how to spell it. Recalling names, reciting the months of the year in order, or even remembering the days of the week can be a real problem for a dyslexic child.
3. Your Student Struggles with Spelling
If your student spells words exactly as they sound without applying any spelling rules, they might have dyslexia. These children use highly phoneticized spelling when writing. For example, sed for said, or shud for should is a common difficulty.
Children with dyslexia also have difficulties distinguishing among homophones, such as there and their.
These kids might also reverse the order of two letters, especially when they involve double vowels, writing dose for does. Sometimes, the vowels are just left out altogether.
4. Your Student Has Horrible Handwriting
If your student has really poor, illegible handwriting filled with spelling errors, they might have dyslexia. Some of the main signs of this poor handwriting called Dysgraphia, includes:
- tight and unusual pencil grip
- letters are written with unusual starting and ending points
- unusual spatial organization on the paper and not following the margins or keeping the letters on the lines.
- difficulties with punctuation, not applying capital letters and adding major run-ons and sentences with fragments.
5. Your Student Struggles with Reading
If you notice that your student is having difficulties learning to read, including struggling with sounding out words and reading fluency, they might have dyslexia.
Individuals with dyslexia have a really hard time decoding new words, or breaking down words into chunks and sounding them out. When the decoding process isn’t strong, the reading fluency cannot develop.
What is the Central Difficulty in Dyslexia?
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.
The central difficulty for individuals with dyslexia 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.
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).
How Does a Child with Dyslexia Learn to Read and Spell?
For many of us reading just comes naturally. We automatically break up words into syllables, apply spelling rules and understand the concept of language. Learning to read with dyslexia is not a natural process. These children must be taught reading and spelling explicitly and directly.
Multisensory learning will benefit a child with dyslexia. When taught with a multisensory approach, the child learns all the letters, letter combinations, sounds and words by using their visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic pathways. They see it, say it, hear it, and move with it.
When learning the vowel combination ‘oa’ for example, the child might first look at the letter combination of a picture of a GOAT, then close their eyes and listen to the sound, then trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud.
Orton-Gillingham (Structured Literacy)
Orton-Gillingham is an approach used to teach students that are struggling with reading and spelling. Although this approach will work with all students, it is primarily used with dyslexic students or students with reading disabilities. Orton-Gillingham is often used in one-on-one tutoring, in small group instruction and even in the mainstream classroom.
You can read more about the Orton-Gillingham approach by reading my previous post:
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How Common is Dyslexia?
According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, as many as one in five children have dyslexia and affects girls and boys equally. 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 difficulties not only with reading, writing and spelling but also with speaking, thinking and listening.
Dyslexia varies in degree 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.
What are the Challenges of Dyslexia?
Many times the academic challenges for dyslexics can lead to emotional and self-esteem issues throughout their lives. Low self-esteem can lead to poor grades and low 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.
In many cases, before a dyslexic child enters school, they are described as eager, bright and curious, which are all characteristics that would seem to promote success in school. Over time, however, this inquisitive and positive nature can decline and be replaced by frustration, despair and self-defeating coping mechanisms.
For this reason, it is so important for parents and teachers to address these concerns to support a child’s social and emotional needs in addition to providing effective reading intervention as soon as possible.
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.
Many people with dyslexia have gone on to accomplish great things. Among these successful dyslexics are Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, Stephen Spielberg, Thomas Edison and F.Scott Fitzgerald.
I Have a Resource for You…
Thank you so much for reading my post today. You might also be interested in my previous posts:
Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. This is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.
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 email@example.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com