Probably not what you think
Dyslexia is often referred to by many to be a learning disability or disorder but it is really a difference in how a person processes. There is nothing “wrong” with a dyslexic brain. In fact, because the brain is functioning differently, there are many strengths that accompany dyslexia.
The differences in how someone with dyslexia processes can negatively affect one or more academic areas such as reading, writing, spelling, math, listening, and focus. Often misunderstood, dyslexia is not caused by simply reversing the order of letters in reading or by a visual perceptual problem that causes a person to read letters or words backwards or upside down. It runs deeper than that, because dyslexia is a neurological or brain-based condition, meaning it affects more than just one system in the brain.
Symptoms of Dyslexia
- ✔ Poor academic achievement
- ✔ Speech and/or language problems
- ✔ Auditory memory problems
- ✔ School avoidance
- ✔ Feels dumb, easily frustrated
- ✔ Handwriting is difficult
- ✔ Trouble tying shoes, telling time on a ‘dial’ clock
- ✔ Good at building, art, drama, music, sports, puzzles
- ✔ High intelligence but has trouble reading, writing, and spelling
- ✔ May be identified as lazy, day dreamer, not trying hard enough, or having a behavior problem
- ✔ Mixes left & right
- ✔ Letter or number reversals
- ✔ Emotional about reading
- ✔ Has a relative with dyslexia
- ✔ Trouble memorizing math facts
- ✔ Low self-esteem
People are often identified as dyslexic when their reading or writing problems cannot be explained by a lack of intellectual ability, inadequate instruction, or sensory problems such as poor eyesight. Parents often suspect their child may have dyslexia before it is confirmed. Confirmation through an evaluation often provides the individual with dyslexia a sense of relief. Knowing they are dyslexic explains many of the struggles they’ve had and gives them proof that they are not dumb – a common thought for many dyslexics by the time they reach upper elementary school. It is still common practice for school districts to identify a child with dyslexia as having a ‘specific learning disability’. When placed under this label the dyslexic child will receive the same or similar reading, spelling, writing, and math curriculum that has been failing them all along.
The dyslexic child needs to be identified as dyslexic, so that they have the chance to receive the proper Orton-Gillingham interventions. Without an Orton-Gillingham influenced program your child will continue to struggle. The condition does not only exist in childhood, but can be a lifelong challenge, unless steps are taken to remediate it. Without proper intervention further consequences will likely develop as your child gets older, including problems in reading comprehension, slowed vocabulary growth, and lowered self-esteem.
Although dyslexia is lifelong, individuals with dyslexia frequently find success with timely and appropriate intervention, especially when the intervention takes into account other challenges often seen with dyslexia.
Parallel or Co-Morbid Challenges with Dyslexia
It is not uncommon for dyslexic learners to have additional challenges such as ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and Scotopic Sensitivity. The symptoms of these parallel challenges can appear as problems with short term memory, cognitive processing, and trouble focusing or paying attention. Often these symptoms become worse when the learner is stressed or anxious. Someone who has dyslexia may have a combination of these symptoms, but not necessarily every one. This is why it is beneficial and sometimes necessary to get a deeper, more thorough view of a student’s individual learning profile using an educationally based assessment such as a Functional Academic and Learning Skills Evaluation so we can identify all of the factors contributing to an academic challenge.
Individualized multi-sensory approaches allow people with dyslexia to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. The majority of people with dyslexia can learn to read, write and spell well if taught in this manner.
For a downloadable PDF with more information from the International Dyslexia Association, see Components of a Dyslexia Program.
Other Reading Challenges
Reading challenges that are not considered dyslexia by most include comprehension problems without poor decoding, poor reading fluency, and some word recognition problems. Although those with dyslexia may also have these challenges, it is possible to only have a reading problem and not be dyslexic. Depending on the reading issues there are different approaches that can remediate these challenges.
It is never too late to learn to read, but the best window of opportunity is during the early years. Young students can catch up before they experience failure.