Nationwide, 20% of the elementary school population is struggling with reading while one in five students has a language-based learning disability. Currently, 80% of children with an IEP have reading difficulty, 85% of whom are diagnosed with dyslexia, a language-based learning disability. Due to a lack of educator and administration understanding, Dyslexics are often misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late for early intervention because they just don't know what are the symptoms of dyslexia in children. Early diagnoses and interventions such as Orton-Gillingham based programming (Wilson Reading and Lindamood Bell) are effective in remediating reading issues and to keep children from developing emotional issues and behavioral resistance that often arise from improper educational programming.
As a language-based learning disability, dyslexia most impacts one’s phonics and reading skills. The International Association of Dyslexia definition of Dyslexia states “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
It is important to recognize that dyslexia aggregates a variety of symptoms into an overarching disability that leads to difficulties with both oral and written language. Children can present dyslexia with numbers, letters, phonics, and writing. Moreover, since dyslexia’s impact can change over time, children who are not diagnosed early may learn inappropriate coping mechanisms or executive functioning difficulties that makes diagnosing it more difficult as they grow older.
While most people think there are types of dyslexia, there aren’t. Rather, dyslexia impacts readers in different ways but is always phonological in nature. Dyslexics have a foundational issue in phonological awareness, phonological memory, or with rapid language retrieval that impact their phonics and reading skills. In the past, types of Dyslexia included Surface Dyslexia, Visual Dyslexia, Rapid Naming Deficit, and Double Deficit Dyslexia but know we know that Dyslexia is phonological in basis, which is the inability to break down sounds. There is still a belief that dyslexia involves a visual processing problem due to the common problem of reversing letters. Dyslexics reverse letters because their brain is not accurately hearing the sounds; so when an individual goes to map the sound (phoneme) to that letter (grapheme), it doesn’t match up. That doesn’t mean that dyslexics don’t have visual processing or issues with the eye itself (e.g., eye convergence etc.). Ensuring that your child is appropriately diagnosed means the specific areas that need to be remediated are identified.
There are definite early signs of dyslexia in young children that shouldn’t be ignored. The signs of dyslexia in a 5 year old and the signs of dyslexia in a 7 year-old can differ greatly since the older child may be showing problems at school due to increased reading expectations. However, if a parent is aware of the early signs, then they can try to find appropriate supports sooner, as early intervention is critical for life success. If you have an older child, these are important things to note if they occurred in their history.
Children with Dyslexia often lack phonetic skills and therefore have poor word attack skills. Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a visual processing disorder but a language-based learning disorder. Children reverse the sounds, not the letters, which creates a disconnect between the two. In other words, they can’t accurately “hear” the sounds so they can’t map them to the letters. All readers need phonetic decoding skills and a lack of these skills may be a red flag.
Many children with dyslexia displayed early learning difficulties, such as problems learning colors, letter, or numbers despite good intelligence and often strong oral language skills. Children with dyslexia often have a history that includes articulation, speech, or language difficulties.
Children with dyslexia often have a specific difficulty with oral rhyming. Most identifiable at a young age, they have difficulty responding to questions such as, “What rhymes with cat?” Additionally, they can’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, mat, hat. Sounding out simple words may be very difficult for them. Their difficulty mapping sounds to letters makes speech a laborious process for dyslexic children.
Early signs of dyslexia may make it difficult to determine until more reading demands are placed on children. As children move through the school system, additional red flags may appear. They may avoid or dislike reading, fall behind peers, or show an inconsistent learning pattern in reading. Attention difficulties and executive functioning issues may further complicate the problem. Children and teens with dyslexia typically have problems with reading comprehension and writing due to increasing language demands that require a high level of coordinated skills regulated by the executive functions of the brain. In particular, writing requires a tremendous amount of executive functioning that regulates all those language, phonetic, spelling, and planning skills required to get your thoughts down on the page.
If your child is trailing behind their peers in reading, something is wrong. However, finding the answer is more difficult. Children can fall behind grade level without proper instruction. However, they can also have a physical problem such as issues with sight or oral low tone. In some cases, a child may not be developmentally ready to read. If your child only progresses with extra help and the moment it is removed, they backslide, then a problem exists. Your child could be dyslexic. Only a thorough evaluation can answer why they are having a reading problem.
If your child is getting early reading help in Kindergarten or first grade, you should be very concerned because that means phonological processing is not happening automatically for them. The early grades focus on learning sounds so children can map them to the letters. If your child struggles with interpreting the sounds correctly, then how can they learn to read. While most parents are thrilled that their child is getting reading help and often note improvements, they need to make sure their child is getting the right kind of help to create a strong foundation for reading. Often, parents don’t realize how important those early reading interventions are until their child is sinking in the later grades when independent reading is required.
Is the same way you should be worried about if your child had early reading help, you should be worried if your child has been red flagged for summer reading or extended school reading (ESY) assistance. A school recommending summer reading help isn’t typical and that means your child is behind. Summer reading help can be phenomenal, but for dyslexics, it needs to be a structured, multi-sensory reading support in a formal, sequential manner. For decades, that is what the research has shown us what works.
This is the year where children are no longer learning to read and now must read to learn. Children with dyslexia often have above average IQ’s and can compensate pretty well until they must read independently. Depending on their compensatory skills, some children sharply decline in third grade while others decline more gradually. Unfortunately, many people believe that children with a suspected reading disability shouldn’t be tested until third grade or that dyslexia is hard to diagnose. Therefore, they respond after the child starts to fail rather than creating a proactive program. As soon as you suspect your child has a reading difficulty get them evaluated by a highly trained and qualified professional. We use QEEG brain maps as part of our intake process to help identify areas of the brain that are overworking and underworking and then make a treatment plan with neurofeedback to help speed processing and improve reading skills.
Many children with dyslexia hate reading and resist it. The irony is these are often very bright and inquisitive children with strong mechanical skills. Parents will often tell me that these same reading resisters love to be read to. Reading is hard for them and without proper instruction in a manner that unlocks their learning, they’ll avoid it.
Dyslexia runs in families. In all my years of working with a child or adult with dyslexia, I have never had one individual that didn’t at least have a family member with suspected Dyslexia. Research demonstrates that the brains of individuals with Dyslexia are different. It has been found that individuals with Dyslexia have different brain wave activity, structural differences, and chemical activity.
Understanding the signs of dyslexia and acting on them is critical to supporting the dyslexic child to ensure success today and in the future. Read my blog on 10 Ways to Help Your Dyslexic Child to learn more about supporting your child.
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime.
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