Dyslexia

When reading just doesn't stick. 

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The most common learning disorder is called dyslexia. Dyslexia makes it hard to recognize and use the sounds in language. Kids might reverse letters, like reading "pot" as "top". Or they might have trouble sounding out new words and recognizing ones they know. Having dyslexia does not mean your child isn’t smart. With the right support, dyslexic kids can learn to read and do very well in school.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is most commonly associated with trouble learning to read. It affects a child’s ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds in language. Kids with dyslexia have a hard time decoding new words or breaking them down into manageable chunks they can then sound out. This causes difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. They may compensate by memorizing words, but they’ll have trouble recognizing new words and maybe slow in retrieving even familiar ones.

Dyslexia is not a reflection of a child’s intelligence — in fact, it’s defined as a gap between a student’s ability and achievement. Some youngsters with dyslexia are able to keep up with their peers with extra effort at least for the first few grades. But by the third grade or so, when they need to be able to read quickly and fluently in order to keep up with their work, they run into trouble. There is also a shift in the curriculum when transitioning from infant to primary. The curriculum changes from learning to read (grades K - 2) to reading to learn (grades 3+) and this is often when most children are identified. With help and strategies for compensating for their weakness in decoding, students with dyslexia can learn to read and thrive academically. But dyslexia is not something one grows out of. 

It is estimated that as many as one in five kids has dyslexia and that 80 to 90 percent of kids with learning disorders have it. Sally Shaywitz, MD, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, notes that many children go undiagnosed as struggles in school are incorrectly attributed to intelligence, level of effort or environmental factors.

Although experts used to say that dyslexia occurred more often in boys than in girls, current research indicates that it affects boys and girls equally.

Signs of dyslexia.

A young person with dyslexia may:

  • Struggle with learning even simple rhymes

  • Have a speech delay

  • Have trouble following directions

  • Repeat or omit short words such as and, the, but

  • Find it difficult to tell left from right

 

In school, children with dyslexia are likely to:

  • Have difficulty sounding out new words

  • Lack fluency compared to other children their age

  • Reverse letters and numbers when reading (read saw as was, for example)

  • Find it difficult to take notes and copy down words from the board

  • Struggle with rhyming, associating sounds with letters, and sequencing and ordering sounds

  • Stumble and have difficulty spelling even common words; frequently they will spell them phonetically (hrbr instead of harbour)

  • Avoid being called on to read out loud in front of classmates

  • Become tired or frustrated from reading

 

Dyslexia affects children outside of school as well. Kids with dyslexia may also:

  • Find it difficult to decode logos and signs

  • Struggle when trying to learn the rules to games

  • Have difficulty keeping track of multi-step directions

  • Struggle with getting the hang of telling time

  • Find it especially challenging to learn another language

  • Become incredibly frustrated, which can affect their mood and emotional stability

How is Dyslexia diagnosed?

Only a psychologist can make a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia, psychologists use a series of specialised tests to determine if a person has Dyslexia. These tests often include measures of phonological processing, reading, spelling, orthographic processing, working memory and overall cognitive ability. Consideration is also made regarding whether the student has previously received suitable intervention and remediation, and how the student has responded to this increased level of support. Before a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder in reading (or dyslexia) is able to be made, it is essential that the child or adult being assessed has received at least six months of evidence-based intervention focused on improving their reading skills. Before seeking an assessment or diagnosis of dyslexia it is also important to check eyesight and hearing.