Do you suspect your child has dyslexia? Are you wondering where to begin–with glasses, colored paper, a reading program for dyslexia, neurological training, evaluations, etc.?
It’s important for you to know what dyslexia IS and what it is NOT because you cannot help your child without properly identifying the root cause of your child’s reading difficulties.
Symptoms of dyslexia are varied in degree, but true dyslexia has a specific definition and can easily be diagnosed by a qualified examiner. Not all problems that manifest themselves in an inability to read are ‘dyslexia’. Check out the definition of dyslexia in order to understand more about what dyslexia is and what it is not.
The MAIN symptom of true dyslexia is an inability to remember the sound-symbol relationships between the letters and sounds they represent. This skill is called “phonemic awareness” and children who are clinically diagnosed as having dyslexia have phonemic awareness issues. They also frequently have memory-recall difficulties, processing speed difficulties, or executive function deficits. You’ll note here–there is NO involvement of vision in the diagnosis of true dyslexia. That is because true dyslexia is a neurologically-based learning disability.
If your child sees words jumping around on the page, sees wavy lines, or has difficulty maintaining his place while reading, there is a huge likelihood that your child has some OTHER reading problem besides true dyslexia. He may have true dyslexia ALSO, but dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, not a visual perceptual problem.
Sometimes reading problems can be caused by visual development problems (Ocular Motor deficits, or Scotopic Sensitivity), or they can be caused by cognitive processing problems (Issues with short-term memory, executive functioning disorder, or even true dyslexia).
The nature of your child’s reading problems and the true origin of his problem has everything to do with the type of remediation your child needs. Therefore, it is important for you to know what type of problem is causing your child’s difficulty with reading, and often children have problems in more than one area.
Finding one problem will not necessarily be the end of your child’s reading struggles. You may have to pursue multiple areas of difficulty since a child often has true dyslexia as well as visual perception problems and/or developmental eye difficulties
Whatever your child’s issue may be, children with dyslexia often reverse numbers and letters. Most kids have a few random reversals here and there, but random problems are usually outgrown by time the child is 7.
Also, problems come in varying degrees, so some kids may not have big enough problems to propel parents into action until they encounter more difficult multi-syllable words on a regular basis (4th grade and above). See a writing sample of a child with diagnosed dyslexia at age 7.
Many people hold the opinion that you should wait to see if a child outgrows the problem, but only 15% of children do. The other 85% end up needing some kind of help. The sooner remediation is begun, the less time it will take to ‘rewire’ the brain, and functional MRIs do show that the brain does change with remediation.
Thus, I always recommend early exploration for the origin of the problem, rather than waiting. It doesn’t hurt anything to give extra help early, but lack of help can mean struggling, lowering of self-esteem, frustration with academics, the development of phobias over schoolwork, tantrums, etc.
While NOT MEDICAL OR PROFESSIONAL advice, there are some simple things you can do to see which direction you may want to go in first. You will find additional information about steps you can take to help figure out the root cause of your child’s reading problems on our page with additional information about true dyslexia. You’ll find three basic steps to take on the second half of the page.
Other than these less complicated steps, a complete neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation would be advised as soon as possible if your child’s problems exist after 7.5 to 8 years of age. It is worthwhile to note that early remediation (as early as age 5 or 6) can improve a child’s outcome, particularly the level of reading fluency achieved. Even if your child is only suspected of having dyslexia, using a remedial reading program for dyslexia can improve your child’s reading skills and the program will not be detrimental to your child.
Remember, children often have multiple issues if they have a single issue.. so finding one problem may not be the complete solution. You might want to consider a complete evaluation if your insurance will cover it just to be sure you have a good grasp on what kinds of processing issues are going on.
A great place to ask questions about where to find a good evaluator is the Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IEP_guide/ . While much of the IEP info does not pertain to homeschoolers, there are MANY special education advocates on this list from most states and it is a great place to ask, “Who is a good evaluator near ?” and to find therapy resources.
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