What is Dyslexia?
Also known as Specific Reading Disability, Dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs one’s ability to read. Most frequently, it is associated with a difficulty to process phonological sounds, challenges with spelling and writing, short-term memory, decreased speed of recall from memory, and at times, struggles with physical coordination. Although there are many difficulties involved, those with Dyslexia also have strengths in problem-solving, reasoning, and other non-reading based activities, such as sports, animals, or technology.
Children who experience Dyslexia often have an inherited genetic predisposition, while adult onset Dyslexia is commonly the result of a brain injury or dementia. With early identification, a treatment program, and support, the prognosis is good. Statistics from the NIH and Department of Health and Human Services estimate that 5-15% of US citizens have Dyslexia, and the International Dyslexia Foundation has stated that Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning disability in the USA.
Signs and Symptoms
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has an excellent list of strengths and struggles present in individuals who are diagnosed with dyslexia. Here are some of the highlights from their exhaustive list:
|Has a hard time learning and remembering letters of the alphabet||Curiosity and imagination|
|Cannot recognize his/her own name||Great problem solving and comprehension skills|
|Difficulty learning nursery rhymes and recognizing rhyming patterns||A wide vocabulary and maturity for developmental age|
Kindergarten and First Grade
|Avoids reading or complains that it is hard to read||A quick understanding of new concepts|
|Can’t sound out words that are simple, such as cat, hat, or bed||Good reading comprehension|
|Does not place an association between letters and their sounds|
Second Grade and Above
|Confuses words that sound similar, such as “lotion” and “ocean”||Good imagination, reasoning, abstract thinking, and reading comprehension|
|Needs extra time to answer questions or finish a test||Has a specific area of interest (such as cars or doctors or dogs) and can read within that vocabulary to a specialized and focused level|
|Avoids having to read out loud and is a slow or awkward reader||Thrives in areas that do not depend on reading (extracurricular sports, technology, visual arts, etc.)|
|Uses vague vocabulary, such as “stuff” or “thing”||Understands things very well when read out loud|
|Does not have neat handwriting|
|Guesses words instead of sounding them out|
Teens and Adults
|Has a history of difficulty reading and writing, so reading takes a lot of effort and is rarely done for pleasure||Has noted improvement when given extra time to complete tasks|
|Uses vague vocabulary, such as “stuff” or “things” and incorporates many “umms” into their speech||Specializes in a specific area of interest and excels in that field (medicine, finance, architecture, etc.)|
|Has low self-esteem||High levels of empathy and warmth for others|
|Studying takes extra time and effort||Thinks outside of the box|
|Tough time remembering people or place’s names||Able to adapt and be resilient|
|Often experiences the “tip of my tongue” syndrome|
Seeking Help and A Diagnosis
If you child is exhibiting some of these signs, consider giving him/her an assessment to test for a learning disability. A school psychologist/counselor or a family physician can assess and diagnose your child. Most screenings occur between the ages of 4 and 7. As with most disorders, early diagnosis and intervention have significant impacts on the future prognosis.
Your child’s teacher will likely be a valuable resource, too, since they engage with your child in the academic subjects affected by Dyslexia. Here are some suggested questions to ask your child’s teacher:
- Does my child have an aversion to reading (individually and aloud)?
- What are my child’s grades in spelling, reading, writing, comprehension, and math? (Or, instead of focusing on the grades, ask how his/her performance has been in those subjects).
- Do you think my child should have an assessment for a learning disability, such as Dyslexia?
An assessment is a standardized test that can measure your child in a variety of areas; although sometimes they are given in only one specific area, depending on the symptoms. One covers reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic; this assessment will reveal if your child is lacking in particular skills or if he/she is using a poor strategy. For example, your child could read a few sentences and use the word “dog” based on context clues of the picture, instead of sounding out the word “dalmatian.” Another assessment would cover processing, memory, and language, since these are typically associated with Dyslexia. Lastly, an assessment could test vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and visual problem solving to be sure that there is not another disorder occurring and to reveal strengths in your child’s knowledge and abilities. It is also a good indicator of whether or not your child can explain things better verbally than written.
Once assessed, you will be provided with details regarding the areas in which your child needs assistance and those in which they are exceeding. But it is helpful to have periodic reassessments to check progress and to see if your current program is helpful. If your child is young, yearly or bi-yearly assessments would be valuable; if your child is a teen or if you are an adult, assessments do not need to be taken as frequently.
Once a diagnosis has been made, it is important to create a plan of action that includes therapy/treatment, measurable goals, and a support system. Both individual and group therapy are viable options. A group will allow you to know that you are not the only one to be diagnosed with Dyslexia, and is a more cost-effective option. Individual therapy offers a tailored treatment that can constantly re-assess goals and use a wider range of treatments (interpersonal, games, etc.). Once you receive help, your reading, writing, comprehension, spelling, and language should improve!
Books for Kids
- I Have Dyslexia. What Does That Mean?, by Ball-Dannenberg and Dannenberg
- Knees: The mixed up world of a boy with dyslexia, by Oelschlager and Rossi
- It’s Called Dyslexia, by Moore-Mallinos and Roca (Live and Learn series)
- Tom’s Special Talent – Dyslexia, by Gaynor (Special Stories Series)
- The Alphabet War: A Story about Dyslexia, by Robb and Piazza
- If You’re So Smart, How Come You Can’t Spell Mississippi? (A Story About Dyslexia), by Esham and Gordon (Adventures of Everyday Geniuses)
Books for Parents
- Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level, by Shaywiz (#1 Best Seller on Amazon)
- The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…and How They Can Learn, by Davis and Braun
- The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning, by Foss
- Blast Off to Reading!: 50 Orton-Gillingham Based Lessons for Struggling Readers and Those with Dyslexia, by Orlassino
- Workbooks to accompany Blast off To Reading: I Can Read, Book A and I Can Read, Book B, by Orlassino
- Dyslexia Tool Kit for Tutors and Parents: What to do when phonics isn’t enough, by Graham and Graham
- Dyslexia Games Series A, Series B, Series C, by Brown (a multitude of workbooks focusing on art, handwriting, puzzles, IQ, word hunts, rhymes, and more!)