By guest author Tammy Kennington,
“Mama, I can’t read like the other boys and girls.” My daughter’s face, round and pale like the moon, tilted in expectation as she settled her small frame on my lap.
The silence in the room continued. How should I respond? In Heather’s first five years, I had kissed scraped elbows, mended torn teddy bears, and soothed her fears. But I lacked the ability to solve this problem. My teaching degree and years of experience in the classroom proved useless. This was new territory.
“Honey, I’ll figure out a way to help you,” I said, filled with determination and a prayer. Lord, help me.
Perhaps you relate to my situation. Maybe your child began struggling with letter recognition when he or she was four or five years old. Or your child may have read somewhat fluently through second grade but had a difficult time with comprehension and spelling.
It is possible your child may have dyslexia.
What is Dyslexia?
At its core, dyslexia is a neurobiological deficit in the phonological component of language. In other words, the sounds in the language are difficult to differentiate. It is unexpected given the individual’s intelligence and exposure to effective instruction. Typically, a person with dyslexia struggles at the word-reading level. He or she has difficulty with fluency, accuracy, and/or spelling.
Over the years, researchers disagreed about dyslexia and its subtypes. Now, however, most recognize dyslexia as a continuum with a range of characteristics that impact some individuals more than others.
Areas with which children struggle include the following:
May Have Difficulty
- learning to tie shoes
- with basic math facts, telling time, recognition of math symbols
- rhyming words
- recognizing or differentiating between letters and numbers
- retelling a story (e.g. main characters, setting, sequence of events)
- remembering color names, days of the week, months of the year
- have delayed speech or unclear speech
- confuse words (e.g. magpie for mudpie, pusgetti for spaghetti)
- omit or substitute words while reading (e.g. form/from)
- be unable to follow multi-step directions
- have difficulty remembering color names, days of the week, months of the year
- struggle with spelling
Debunking Six Myths About Dyslexia
1. Children with dyslexia are lazy. Children with dyslexia engage different areas of the brain while reading. These are less efficient than those used by typical readers. Multi-sensory instruction can reroute the pathways the child uses to read.
2. If my child writes p, q, b, or d backwards, he or she must be dyslexic. Letter reversals are not unexpected even as late as the beginning of first grade. However, if your little one demonstrates letter reversals along with several of the traits mentioned above, it would be wise to consider an evaluation.
3. Dyslexia is a vision issue. While some children have difficulty with visual-spatial skills, they are unrelated to dyslexia. As mentioned previously, dyslexia is a brain-based difference related to the sounds of language.
4. Only people who read English develop dyslexia. Dyslexia is found across languages. If a child struggles with his or her first language due to dyslexia, learning a second language may be challenging.
5. Dyslexia is rare. Approximately one in five people live with dyslexia. There is also a high comorbidity between dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia (math dyslexia), and anxiety.
6. My child will grow out of this. People do not outgrow dyslexia. However, the earlier it is recognized and remediated the better. At the same time, it is never too late to receive explicit, multi-sensory instruction.
If you suspect your child has dyslexia and it impacts his or her education, I recommend an evaluation by a trained professional.
Those who wish to determine if their child fits a profile for dyslexia without incurring the high cost of a full evaluation may want to locate a trained therapist in the area. Most will provide an evaluation, explain the results, and recommend accommodations for educational groups with which the student is involved. The evaluation will not be beneficial at the university level.
While expensive, a full evaluation by a psychologist or neuropsychologist is imperative if your child is preparing for higher education or simply needs access to a wider variety or resources. The evaluator will not only provide a credible diagnosis, but also recommend appropriate accommodations for a 504, IEP, or the university.
Difference vs Disability
While dyslexia is categorized as a disability, I believe that what others label a disability should be qualified as a difference. Those with dyslexia excel in many areas, and, with specialized intervention, often succeed educationally as well.
My daughter hated reading in front of her classmates in elementary school. But after completing intervention back in fifth grade, Heather now attends Advanced Placement courses and looks forward to earning a degree in psychology.
Dyslexia is possible to navigate with success. There is help available, and it makes a difference.
[Editor’s Note: Find more resources for dyslexia, information about evaluators, and more on our Unique Learners page.]