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Maybe It's Dyslexia

Karina Richland, M.A(

Who is that bright child sitting in the back of the classroom? The one who always has such amazing, creative ideas and strengths? The one who is highly intuitive and will probably excel in art, music, or possibly become a professional athlete. This child may be especially good with solving puzzles, or handy around the house. But why is this child struggling with learning to read, write, and spell? How could this extremely bright child with so many attributes have problems like this in school? Is this child just lazy? Does this child need to just try harder?

No. This is not the case. This child tries and works harder than anyone else in the classroom. This child is Dyslexic.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that primarily affects one's ability to learn to read and develop a strong understanding of language. In most cases, the child will struggle with difficulties in oral communication, organizational skills, following instructions, and telling time. Dyslexia can also affect memory, following directions and management skills.

Dyslexia is far more common than people believe. In fact, dyslexia may affect one out of every five children in the classroom. Some may have just a mild case while others might be severely impaired. Dyslexia is an "unexpected" learning disorder. This is mainly because the child has an exceptional way of hiding the dyslexia. This extremely bright child has just memorized the words in the stories and is talented at using context clues to figure out the words. The symptoms have been there since birth but parents and teachers do not usually pick up on the dyslexia until the child reaches 3rd or 4th grade.

Dyslexia manifests itself uniquely within each child. The dyslexic child will have his/her own set of symptoms and their own set of strengths and weaknesses. If the child just isn't "getting it" then there is reason to be concerned. Too many parents of children with dyslexia wait awhile before getting extra help. This is a huge mistake. A struggling child does not suddenly wake up one morning and everything makes sense. They do not just catch up. The problems actually get worse over time. Here is a list of a few common symptoms that are common warning signs of dyslexia. Some children with dyslexia might only have one of these symptoms.

In Preschool:

  • Starts to speak late
  • Takes awhile to get words out
  • Enjoys being read to but shows no interest in words or letters
  • Weak fine motor skills
  • Cannot tell you rhyming words (cat/hat)
  • Has had recurring ear infections
In School Age Children:
  • Does not establish a hand dominance until late (left/right handed)
  • Is very bright and verbal but very weak at reading
  • Reverses letters and numbers (b/d, p/q, w/m, etc.)
  • Writing is barely legible and badly formed with some letters unusually spaced
  • Cannot follow through with multiple steps or chores
  • Is below grade level in reading, writing or spelling
  • Adds or leaves out words when reading
  • Comprehension difficulties
  • Grades do not match the child's intelligence
  • Spells phonetically instead of applying spelling rules
Children with dyslexia have a difficult time learning to read and write in a typical classroom setting. One reason is because they have a unique learning style. Each of us actually has our own learning style. Some of us learn visually; some of us need to hear the information; others need to physically touch the information through manipulatives; and some of us need to use all of our senses to learn. Most teachers in the classrooms often gear their lessons to students with auditory learning styles. The teacher relies mostly on talking to teach. Teachers lecture, explain and answer questions orally. The dyslexic learner cannot process this information alone. That is why every dyslexic student needs to learn using a multisensory approach that simultaneously combines auditory, visual, and tactile learning strategies to teach skills and concepts.

Another reason that dyslexics struggle with the regular classroom reading programs is that the dyslexic child tends to have difficulties applying and using phonetic rules to decode words. In order for the dyslexic child to become a good reader he/she will need to first learn decoding and word recognition skills and then develop fluency and comprehension skills. That is why early intervention is so important. Phonemic awareness is a learned skill; it is not something that comes naturally to a child. The National Reading Panel found that children who are taught phonics systematically and also explicitly make greater progress in reading than those who are taught with any other type of reading instructions.

Forty percent of children in the United States have difficulties learning to read. Most of these children can learn to read at average grade levels if taught with the appropriate reading program. The most used method for reading intervention is the Orton-Gillingham approach. With this approach the teacher presents the vowels and consonants, one or two at a time. Each concept is taught using a multisensory method. For example, prompted by the letter A on a flashcard, a student might say its name and sound, and write it in the air-all at the same time. There are many teachers and tutors that have training in Orton-Gillingham methods and can provide help to dyslexic students. Because of the sequential, repetitive, and systematic structure of O-G, the method is extremely thorough but also slow. Because of this, teachers are not inclined to incorporate it into the regular classrooms. Most dyslexics will need outside tutoring which will provide the dyslexic student with more personal attention than she/he could ever receive in a classroom with 20 - 30 students.

Children with dyslexia need a different approach to learning. They also need a lot of encouragement and support from their parents, teachers and peers. Focus on the strengths instead of the weaknesses. Stimulate and encourage the child's talents, recognize his/her passions and keep the learning interesting and fun.

Who is that self-made millionaire, highly successful business leader, famous athlete, founder of a giant enterprise, pioneer and inventor? The one who is persistent, determined and highly intelligent?

That is a Dyslexic.

Karina Richland, M.A

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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