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. That is not the case. This child tries and works harder than anyone else in the classroom. This child has dyslexia.
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 often do not 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 a while 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 warning signs of dyslexia. Some children with dyslexia might only have one of these symptoms.
- Starts to speak late
- Takes a while to get words out
- Enjoys being read to but shows no interest in words or letters
- Has weak fine motor skills. Cannot tell you rhyming words (cat/hat)
In School Age Children:
- Does not establish a hand dominance until late (left/right handed)
- 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
- 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 dyslexic students needs to learn using a multisensory approach that simultaneously combines auditory, visual, and tactile learning strategies to teach skills and concepts.
The most successful program for reading intervention is the Orton-Gillingham method. With this approach the teacher presents the vowels and consonants, one or two at a time. This is delivered with great intensity. Each concept is taught using a multi-sensory method. Most dyslexic students will require outside tutoring with a trained Orton-Gillingham specialist throughout their elementary and secondary education.
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.