Tags: In This Issue, Special Needs
Reading the Signs of Dyslexia
LeeAnn Bricker's son was struggling in school. First grade spelling homework was an enormous effort. Lots of tears were shed because he couldn't sound anything out.
"I kept going back to the teachers saying he's not getting it," said the Indianapolis-area mom of three. When in the second grade he still couldn't read a simple sentence or homework directions, he was tested for and diagnosed with dyslexia. He's not alone in his struggle – his younger brother has dyslexia as well. In fact, it is estimated that one in five people have dyslexia.
Commonly people think of dyslexia as reading backwards, but Melodie Hornickel, Director of Family and Tutor Services at the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana, says that's incorrect. "There may be some reversing of letters, syllables, or words, but they don't read backwards," she said.
The truth is kids with dyslexia are inconsistent in how they read. The word "saw" may be read as "saw" in one sentence and as "was" in the next. Kids with dyslexia may also be inconsistent in their retrieval of learned information. "One day they may know a fact and another day when asked, they just can't find it. Another day they will have it again," explained Hornickel. The inability to retrieve information can be worsened when a child is tired or stressed, say during tests.
The Dyslexia Institute of Indiana explains dyslexia as a language-based learning disability involving the understanding or use of spoken or written language. It may present as difficulties with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling or doing mathematical calculations. Like other learning disabilities, the earlier it's addressed the better.
One early warning sign of dyslexia is a child having difficulty with phonics. "The phonics moves too fast in kindergarten or first grade and they are going to miss things," says Hornickel. "They are not going to be able to practice it enough to remember. That's where getting behind starts. They just can't remember information. Phonics is important, but it moves too fast."
A better way for kids with dyslexia to learn is through a multisensory approach. Experts now know these kids need to be taught using all the pathways to learning – which include visual, auditory and kinesthetic tactics. They learn by seeing it, saying it, hearing it and writing it.
Other early warning signs include being speech delayed, having pronunciation issues, exhibiting slow vocabulary growth or difficulty in finding the right word or rhyming words, and trouble learning numbers, the alphabet or days of the week. The child may also be easily distracted or have trouble interacting with peers. Following directions or routines can be difficult as well.
In kindergarten and beyond, the child may not understand the connection between letters and sounds, confuse basic words, consistently make reading and spelling errors, be slow to recall facts and learn new skills, behave impulsively, have difficulty learning time and may even be accident prone. Another predictor is other family members having dyslexia.
Of course, there are many symptoms and not everyone exhibits the same ones. Kids with dyslexia are generally smart as the disability does not affect intelligence. Most kids are average to above-average in intelligence and most tend to be quite creative thinkers as well. Think Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg or Charles Schwab – all dyslexic.
If a parent suspects their child may have dyslexia, Bricker encourages parents to listen to their instincts. Preschool teachers described her son as lazy and uninterested. She also heard the phrase that boys just don't like school. She knew these descriptions did not apply to her son.
"I always felt like something wasn't quite right," says Bricker. "If you have that instinct and that knowing – trust it."