A Parent’s Guide to Dyslexia

Is it a struggle for your child to read?  Does she feel embarrassed when she tries to read out loud in front of the class?  And what about the writing?  Have you noticed letters that are out of order or reversed? If so, your child might be dealing dyslexia.

Dyslexia Defined

Children who have dyslexia (also called reading disability) have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, and even speaking because of the way the brain processes language. It’s not an issue of IQ or vision, most dyslexic children can comprehend complex concepts but simply have difficulties with written language.  While statistics are hard to come by – since many cases go undiagnosed – it’s estimated that between 15% and 20% of American children are dyslexic, making it the most common learning disability.

What Causes of Dyslexia?

Dyslexic children have abnormalities in areas of the brain, like the planum temporale that process language – and the possible causes are linked to genes and heredity, brain anatomy, and processing capabilities in its language center. This condition has been linked to certain genes and does tend to run in families.  Forty percent of dyslexic kids also have siblings with a similar condition. However, some children with dyslexia do not have a known family history.

Warning Signs

Dyslexia usually isn’t diagnosed until kindergarten, when a child is first learning how to read, but even preschoolers can exhibit some warning signs that dyslexia may be present.

Here’s what to look for:

Preschoolers with dyslexia often pick up new words slowly and begin talking at a later age than their peers.  They also have difficulty with nursery rhymes or other rhyming games and may be slower than their peers at general learning.

Dyslexic school-aged children read at a level below that of their counterparts and struggle with understanding what they have read. They write letters backwards and get confused by directional words or symbols. Their vocabulary can be more limited and if reading aloud, they are generally not able to “sound out” new words.  They can also be challenged by sequential or math-based activities and foreign languages.  Following instructions with multiple steps can also be difficult for them.

Teens whose dyslexia is undiagnosed and/or untreated will still have the same difficulties mentioned for school-aged children and generally still read at a lower level than their peers.  They will also struggle with subjects like math or foreign languages and sometimes have difficulty understanding jokes or other word plays.

When to See the Doctor

Talk to your doctor right away if your child is reading at a lower level than his peers or if you notice him present with any of the signs above.  Do not delay an evaluation if you are concerned – the sooner your child begins treatment, the better off they will be.

Dyslexia can cause a number of complications, especially if left untreated, such as:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Anxiety
  • Low self esteem
  • Social withdrawal at home and school
  • Aggression or other behavior problems at home and school

Diagnosing Dyslexia

Doctors will often make a diagnosis of dyslexia using information from:

  • Parental reports and/or self-reporting from your child
  • A detailed account of personal and medical history and educational issues
  • An account of a child’s home life
  • Parent questionnaires
  • Tests for vision and hearing
  • Neurological and psychological testing
  • Reading and other academic skills tests

Treatment for Dyslexia

There is no cure for dyslexia, and the brain abnormalities which cause it cannot be altered. However, treatment with specific educational techniques can help. These include:

  • Sensory learning: Using hearing, touch, and vision to reinforce learning
  • One-on-one tutoring sessions with a trained reading specialist, who can help them begin to understanding the relationship between sounds and words, increase vocabulary, and get more confident reading aloud 

What You Can Do at Home

As a parent, you can have a tremendous positive influence on your child’s ability to read. Here are some things you can do to help ensure their success:

  • Get your child in for diagnosis early so that intervention can begin; this can prevent your child from getting too far behind his peers in school.
  • Keep in close contact with the school staff to monitor progress and alter the educational plan if needed.
  • Set aside some time each day so that you and your child can read together. This sets a good example – and is great bonding time, too!
  • Educate yourself – and your child – about dyslexia. Give them good emotional support and enlist the help of the whole family; this kind of environment raises self-esteem.
  • Reach out to others in the community through support groups.
  • Discuss possible treatments with your doctor if your child is suffering from anxiety or other emotional issues.

What ways have you found useful to engage your dyslexic child?

Tags : health   development   school   language arts   dyslexia   

Afshin Behnia
An interesting simulation that tries to show what it's like to read with dyslexia: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3480257/What-s-REALLY-like-read-dyslexia-Simulator-reveals-letters-words-appear-people-condition.html