UNDERSTANDING, DIAGNOSING, AND TREATING DYSLEXIA
Dyslexia is a term that has been loosely applied to reading disabilities. But alas, it is far more complicated than that. Experts in the fields of neurology, psychology, education, and general medicine continue to explore the field of dyslexia—what it is, how to diagnose it, and most importantly, how to help children to cope with it so that they can be successful in school. There are still no crystal clear answers.
We do know that dyslexia is a type of learning disability in which a child has difficulty learning to read and understand written language. Even kids with average or above-average intelligence, plenty of motivation, and ample opportunities to read can have dyslexia.
What Is Dyslexia?
A common assumption about dyslexia is that letters or words appear reversed: i.e., “was” appears like “saw.” This may be true, but reversals are very common among all kids up until first grade, not just kids with dyslexia.
A child with dyslexia typically has trouble making the connection between the sound and the letter that makes that sound and difficulty blending those sounds to form words. If it takes too long to sound out the word, then the child has a hard time reading through sentences and understanding them. A child with dyslexia may forget the word and its meaning in the larger context of the sentence or paragraph.
In some cases of dyslexia, a child struggles with distinguishing between certain sounds, such as “P” and “B,” or has difficulty identifying the correct order of letters.
Research now shows that dyslexia occurs because of the way that the brain is formed and how it processes the information it receives. People with dyslexia process information in a different part of the brain than people without dyslexia do.
Nonetheless, according to Roger P. Harrie and Carol Weller, authors of ERIC’S “What Is Dyslexia,” “Specific definitions for dyslexia vary with disciplines. Those in medicine define dyslexia as a condition resulting from neurological, maturational, and genetic causes, while those in psychology relate dyslexia on the basis of the specific reading problems evidenced and give no reference to causation.”
Dyslexia is usually diagnosed during elementary school. In some cases, the dyslexia doesn’t become apparent until the child is older and attempting to learn grammar, syntax, and to read longer and more complex material.
Many children with dyslexia are not properly identified for several years. This creates a bigger reading problem and a drop in self-esteem. For these reasons, it is important to recognize dyslexia symptoms early in elementary school, and begin appropriate reading instruction right away.
Dyslexia runs in families. Children who struggle with learning to talk as preschoolers also are at higher risk for dyslexia. The presence of either or both of these factors should prompt close monitoring of a child’s reading progress, and assessment as soon as a problem becomes evident.
Dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation by a reading specialist or psychologist. Pediatricians often know the signs of dyslexia and can guide families to proper help.
A child with dyslexia usually works with a specially-trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to learn how to read and spell, and strategies to deal with the condition. It may also be recommended to get an academic therapist (education therapist or an academic language therapist).
In the United States, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a child with dyslexia is legally entitled to special help in public schools to accommodate the dyslexia, such as extra time for tests or homework or help with taking notes.
Success Beyond Dyslexia
Even with appropriate intervention, a child with dyslexia may find school a struggle. It’s important for you to support your child’s efforts by encouraging and assisting in reading at home. Also try to give your child opportunities to build confidence and have success in other areas, such as sports, hobbies, art, and drama.
Dyslexia doesn’t have to be an impediment to success. If your child has dyslexia, it doesn’t mean that you or your child’s teachers should lower your expectations for the child. Artists, athletes, scientists, and statesmen all have been able to achieve great things despite their trouble with reading. #
Courtesy of Nemours Foundation.