Dyslexia

Dyslexia is one of the most common types of learning disorders that affects a number of children throughout the United States. Understandably, learning how to effectively cope with dyslexia can pose a number of challenges, for both children and parents alike.
The most important thing to understand is that dyslexia has no correlation to a child’s IQ. In fact, many individuals who suffer from dyslexia are exceptionally bright.

In order to understand the specifics of this disorder, and find effective coping strategies for your child, it’ll help to get some information on dyslexia.

Dyslexia manifests itself as a curious blend of qualities, some of which can be regarded as difficulties and others undoubtedly as strengths. Each individual who has dyslexia exhibits a different blend of these symptoms and qualities, and therefore each case is unique.

The best way to understand dyslexia is to see it as a condition which causes a processing difference in the brain. Children with dyslexia process information differently than those around them. In order to effectively cater to their needs, you need:

To understand what exactly dyslexia is
To identify what symptoms are indicative of a dyslexic brain
To determine what teaching techniques and tools work best for your child
To encourage your child to persevere over their difficulties and succeed

What exactly is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is defined as a specific learning disorder which affects an individuals’ ability to read and process languages. The precise symptoms of the disorder may vary from individual to individual. From the outset, it must be stressed that dyslexia has absolutely no effect on the IQ of an individual. Rather, many individuals with dyslexia happen to be incredibly bright. Albert Einstein, arguably one of the greatest scientific minds to have ever lived, was himself dyslexic!

Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties related to learning how to read, identifying sounds, and learning languages. Children who suffer from this learning disability typically struggle to relate letters and words, remember what they’ve recently read, and have trouble with identifying speech sounds.

There is, to date, no cure for dyslexia. However, there are still a number of ways in which you can help your child learn effectively. A number of tools, teaching strategies and practices can help them to succeed. What’s important is a change in perspective; a change in the way learning is approached.

Children with dyslexia process information differently; they have a tendency to entertain very complex ideas and are incredibly creative. Researchers believe these ‘quirks’ may be attributable to the different way in which their brains are wired.

It can be said that education is generally catered to a fixed model or type of students. Children with dyslexia don’t fit within that mold. For them to succeed, it is imperative to find ways to cater to their specific learning abilities.

How common is Dyslexia?
1) Dyslexia is believed to be the most common language based learning disability that affects children.
2) It is estimated that 1 in 10 people within the United States have dyslexia.
3) It is estimated that 70-80% of people with poor reading and language skills are probably dyslexic.
4) It is believed that 1 in 5 students have a language based learning disability and may therefore be dyslexic.

The above mentioned statistics may not be accurate as a significant percentage in the US is not aware that they have dyslexia.

Furthermore, the symptoms of dyslexia vary from individual to individual. Some children can exhibit milder symptoms than others, while some children’s symptoms are far more pronounced. Add this to the fact that many individuals choose not to seek out help and treatment, and therefore are never properly diagnosed.

What Are Some of The Symptoms of Dyslexia?
In order to spot dyslexia at an early stage, listed below are a number of indicators that you should be watchful for in your child. Remember, the presence of one or a number of the following symptoms is not conclusive evidence for dyslexia; however, they shouldn’t be ignored.

Vision and Reading
• Struggle with letter recognition and rhyming
• Reverse their letters and numbers (this is especially important if it persists after the age of 8)

Cognition and Memory
• Poor short term memory
• Difficulty with remembering the sequencing of things
• Better visual learner – thinks in images and feelings rather than words
• Struggle with directions, especially with the sequence
• Struggle to remember words

Personality and Behavior
• Inconsistencies between potential and performance
• May have poor self esteem
• Feels inferior in relation to other students
• May daydream a lot and find it hard to pay attention
• Not very organized

Speaking
• Problems expressing themselves using spoken language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting together sentences correctly
• Use incorrect words in sentences and show signs of difficulty in stringing their thoughts together
• Difficulty in telling time

Writing
• Exhibit problems with writing – have very messy and disorganized writing
• Very slow writing speed
• Problems with copying written language

What Are The Potential Causes of Dyslexia?
According to latest research the exact causes of dyslexia are not fully determined. The precise neurological and cognitive mechanisms of this disorder are therefore still the subject of extensive research.

Here is what is currently known about the potential causes of dyslexia:

Genes – It is widely accepted that genes play a vital role in dyslexia, and that the condition may be hereditary. Scientists have found that there are a number of genes, the presence of which may increase susceptibility to dyslexia.

Acquired Dyslexia – In certain very exceptional cases, newborns/infants developed dyslexia after sustaining some trauma. This included brain injury, ear infections, stroke, or some other form of trauma.

Differences in Brain Anatomy – MRI technology has been used to determine whether a dyslexic brain is different from an ordinary brain. An ordinary brain typically exhibits a left-greater-than-right asymmetry in the left hemisphere temporal lobe (planum temporale). This is not the case with dyslexic brains. As the left hemisphere temporal lobe plays a central role in understanding language, therefore a difference here can be critical.

Brain Activity – Reading and understanding languages involves multiple cognitive processes. Research suggests that communication between the brain regions responsible for reading and comprehension of languages may be impaired in a dyslexic brain.

What Skills Are Affected By Dyslexia?
Learning and reading are not the only skills affected by dyslexia.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004, a specific learning disorder is defined as-‘A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculation’.

Here are some of the other skills affected by Dyslexia.

Memory – Many individuals with dyslexia get easily distracted. Add to this the fact that it typically takes them longer to read and process certain information. This sometimes results in poor short term memory.

Organization – Dyslexia affects executive functioning, and therefore organizational skills. Executive functioning refers to the ability to plan, preserve, evaluate, re-structure, and complete a task.

Time Management – Time management is also a feature of proper executive functioning. Dyslexic individuals have difficulty telling and managing time.

Social Skills – Naturally, the problems that dyslexia poses for children can lead them to develop poor self-esteem. The fact that other students can do easily what they struggle with can cause them to develop an inferiority complex. This can lead to problems with making friends.

How is Dyslexia Diagnosed?
Diagnosing dyslexia can be difficult. Nevertheless, it is important for parents to be vigilant in identifying early signs.
Difficulties with reading and language are primary indicators that your child may be dyslexic. If you suspect that this may be the case, there are a number of standardized tests as well as non-standardized assessments which may be used to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of a child.

Some of the common tests which are carried out to determine whether a child may be dyslexic include:

• Bender Gestalt Test of Visual Motor Perception
• Motor-Free Visual Perception Test
• Visual Aural Digit Span Test (VADS)
• Test of Auditory Perception (TAPS)
• Test of Visual Perception (TVPS)
• Beery Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration
• Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised
• Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test
• Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language

These assessments test a number of skills including spelling, writing, reading, oral language, etc. If it is found that the child isn’t performing as well as their peers, they may be dyslexic. None of these tests however, are believed to be conclusive. Reaching a proper diagnosis may take time and involve a number of steps.

It is important to remember that while difficulties with reading and language may be indicative of dyslexia, it is not conclusive proof of it. Steps must be taken to ascertain how the individual in question processes and understands information, both verbally and in writing.

The process involved in reaching a reliable diagnosis will involve a team of professionals and your child’s teachers, as it is an evaluative process.

Tell Tale Signs of Dyslexia
Each individual who suffers from dyslexia has different symptoms, and may accordingly exhibit different signs. Listed below are some of the things that you may need to pay particular attention to, as well as questions you should be asking yourself.

Does your child:

• Appear to have delayed language development?
• Have trouble remembering the correct names of things?
• Have trouble following directions? Especially long and lengthy ones?
• Have an inability to rhyme things?
• Get overwhelmed or bored with reading material such as books?
• Appear to mix up or forget the order of letters?
• Struggle to remember what they have read?

Test their vision – It may be helpful to take your child to get a medical exam in order to ensure that their hearing or vision isn’t being affected in any way, as this could lead to problems with reading.

See a specialist – Seeing a professional or psychologist can help determine the root cause of your child’s learning difficulties. They’ll be in a position to carry out a series of tests to determine whether an obstacle is affecting their learning ability.

Create a specialized way to help your child – Once dyslexia is diagnosed, you can work with specialists as well as your child’s teachers. This will vary on a case by case basis since each child suffers from a unique set of difficulties when it comes to dyslexia.

Conditions Related To Dyslexia
Certain learning disorders can be mistaken for dyslexia. Furthermore, it is not uncommon that certain individuals with dyslexia may also have one of these other conditions. Here are a few examples.

Condition Symptoms
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) ADHD is a condition which makes it very difficult for individuals to sit still and retain their concentration. Dyslexia and ADHD are two very distinct conditions, with very different causes. Nevertheless, teachers and parents may easily confuse the two.
Dysgraphia Dysgraphia is a learning disability which affects an individual’s ability to write, spell, and organize thoughts on paper.
Dyscalculia Dyscalculia, also sometimes referred to as “math dyslexia”, is characterized by difficulties in comprehending and learning arithmetic.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) This condition makes it difficult for children to interpret and process sounds. This may result in difficulties in conversations, reading, and speaking.
Visual Processing Issues These can make it very difficult for children to make sense of the information that they are viewing through their eyes. This isn’t limited to just reading material; it applies to everything.
Executive functioning issues Executive functions are a set of skills which are essential for organization, problem solving, and staying on track. Individuals who have dyslexia and other related conditions have impaired executive functioning.

The dyslexic brain is wired differently, and therefore processes information in a different manner. This difference in processing causes certain difficulties for children, especially in school. To get the right assistance for your child, it is important to get an early diagnosis. Once identified, steps can be taken to help your child better understand their difficulties, and succeed despite them.