“It’s basically like looking at a foreign word.”
That’s how one person described what it’s like to read with dyslexia, in a recent National Public Radio report about the often-misunderstood learning disorder.
Dyslexia is a common problem, neurological in nature, and its effect is much broader than many people realize.
“People think of dyslexia as merely kids reversing letters or writing backwards. But dyslexia is not a problem with vision or with seeing letters in the wrong direction,” said Katrina Lindsay, a pediatric psychologist in the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a language-based learning disorder, that can impact all facets of learning – spelling, reading, speaking and writing.”
In fact, dyslexia is one of the more common causes of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
Kids with dyslexia have trouble processing written words and are often unable to connect letters of the alphabet with the sounds they make.
“It’s important to know that while dyslexia impacts learning, it’s not a problem of intelligence,” Dr. Lindsay said. “Kids with this diagnosis can be just as smart as their peers.
“Brilliant minds such as Galileo, Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, John Irving and Da Vinci were dyslexic. If your child has dyslexia, she won’t outgrow it. But there are supports, teaching approaches and interventions to address her challenges so she will live a successful life.”
Here are signs to look for and what you can do about it:
- Preschool kids may have trouble counting, learning the alphabet, learning new words, matching letters to sounds and learning rhyming words.
- School-age kids and adolescents may have difficulty with with common “sight words” (“at”, “the” and “are”, for example); spelling, blending sounds to make a word, math word problems, comprehension, and putting thoughts to paper.
“It may be most easily diagnosed when your child is in school and is required to apply language and reading rules,” Dr. Lindsay said.
- If your child shows signs of being dyslexic, talk to the educational team at school – teachers, speech pathologists, specialists and the school psychologist. Dr. Lindsay, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who worked in the schools before joining Akron Children’s, said an important sign is a notable discrepancy between a child’s IQ and his or her reading and language abilities.
- A comprehensive school evaluation typically includes intellectual and academic achievement testing, and an assessment of language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia. A student’s ability to read lists of words in isolation, as well as words in context, should also be assessed. Ohio in 2014 included dyslexia as a specific learning disability. If dyslexia is determined, an individualized intervention plan should be developed, which should include appropriate accommodations.
- School-based accommodations may include providing a quiet area for reading and comprehension, using books on tape, using books with large print and big spaces between lines, providing copies of lecture notes, allowing use of a computer for in-class essays, and presenting materials in small units. Intervention programs can also include multi-sensory approaches to reading, with a reading specialist or speech pathologist.
- Children can also benefit at home by reading along with audio recordings, highlighting key words and using a notecard to follow line by line.
“There are a lot of cool, creative strategies you can use with kids with dyslexia,” she said. “You don’t grow out of it, but it doesn’t stop you from doing things you want to do.”