Though dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, affecting as many as one in five people, parents often miss the signs and symptoms when it comes to their own child. Prevailing misconceptions about what dyslexia is and how it presents in children can also get in the way of students’ ability to receive the proper learning tools crucial to their academic success. Luckily, with early diagnosis and scientifically-backed interventions children with dyslexia can perform just as well as their unaffected peers. The following facts–from the biggest myths about the disorder to the best ways to approach treatment–are things every single parent should know, whether or not their child has dyslexia.
Dyslexia affects 20% of the population.
By far one of the most common learning disabilities, everyone knows someone who has dyslexia. So what exactly is it? Dyslexia is actually the name for a group of disorders involving the struggle to interpret symbols such as letters and numbers, which makes learning language and reading more difficult. However, with the right support a child diagnosed with the condition can incorporate learning strategies and implement tools that will have them reading and writing just as proficiently as their peers.
It’s not a vision problem.
There’s a misconception that dyslexia is related to poor vision, or that it causes those afflicted to mix up or jumble the order of letters when they try to read, but this simply isn’t the case. They do not “read backward” or upside-down as many believe. The reality is a lot more complex, as children with dyslexia actually struggle with language and connecting sounds to symbols, making reading, writing, and spelling more of a challenge.
It has nothing to do with intelligence.
This is one of the most prevalent myths, and also one of the most harmful. Children diagnosed with dyslexia are in no way less intelligent than children who do not have it. The disorder affects people of all backgrounds and IQs. If anything there is evidence that the opposite might be true, Research shows that people with dyslexia are especially creative and innovative. And people with dyslexia are in great company–some of the greatest minds in history are believed to have had dyslexia, such as Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Leonardo Da Vinci, to name a few.
Signs and symptoms can vary.
There’s a wide range of severity when it comes to dyslexia, as dyslexia is actually a term to describe a cluster of symptoms that may vary from person to person. This can make it more difficult to catch or diagnose, as it can present differently in different people. Some of the most common signs to watch for include:
- Trouble decoding words (difficulty matching letters to sounds)
- Difficulty with phonemic awareness (difficulty recognizing sounds in words)
- Incorrect spelling
- Struggling with grammar
- Problems with reading comprehension and/or fluency
- Trouble with sentence structure
- Avoiding reading (either to oneself or out loud)
- Difficulty learning a foreign language
- Constant stress
Dyslexia gets better.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that does not go away with age or other changes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effectively managed to the point where it no longer interferes with the individual’s daily life. The key to preventing academic problems that can impact the course of a student’s education is early identification.
When dyslexia is diagnosed early on, the right tools can be implemented to help a child excel at reading and writing. Teachers, tutors, and therapists who are trained to use a multisensory, structured language approach are an invaluable support system to a child with dyslexia. Because every case of the disorder is different, just as every child has different needs, one-on-one help is crucial to a successful outcome.
One such approach, called the Orton-Gillingham approach, is an excellent method used to treat those with dyslexia. The teaching approach was specifically designed to help students with dyslexia focus on making connections between letters and sounds, and elements of Orton-Gillingham have already been incorporated into many early reading programs.
Structured practice is key.
When working with students who have dyslexia, structured practice is essential to improving their ability to read, write, and perform well in math. By getting immediate corrective feedback from a professional trained in the right techniques, children are able to develop the necessary automatic word recognition skills to improve their reading comprehension and overall learning skills.
RTI means “Response To Intervention”
RTI is a multi-tier approach to identifying and accommodating children with learning disabilities. While it can look different in practice, these tiers traditionally include regular classroom instruction, support in small groups, and one-on-one support.
Classroom accommodations are crucial.
It’s important to note that classroom accommodations are not meant to give anyone an unfair advantage.
Instead, the point is to ensure equal access to the academic experience for all students. Rather than giving some students a leg up, it actually levels the playing field for those who struggle with reading comprehension and other challenges associated with dyslexia. Because those with the disorder may require more time to read, write, and process language, accommodations are critical to their success. Popular accommodations and modifications for children with dyslexia include, but are not limited to:
- Extended test time
- Larger print
- Incorporation of audiobooks
- Allowing a child to use text-to-speech software
- Giving a student multiple opportunities to read the same text
- Using reading buddies
Armed with better knowledge, parents are empowered to alter the course of their children’s education for the better. Knowing that dyslexia is not only treatable, but that it is incredibly common and not a sign of lack of intelligence can make parents and children alike feel less alone and more prepared to seek out resources that will lead to their academic success. When parents are well educated about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia and can identify it before it becomes a serious problem, they can start employing the many tools at their disposal to ensure their children thrive in any rigorous academic environment.