How to Understand Dyslexia

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Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the world. It affects 20% of the population. Dyslexia represents 80%-90% of all learning disabilities. 

If you suspect that you have a child with dyslexia, you must take the steps necessary to understand the disorder and how it works. Behavioral science has made great strides to understand dyslexia and all of its complexities. Now more than ever, we have the tools at our disposal to help children and adults with dyslexia succeed at home, work, and school. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to help your child achieve success with dyslexia, click for more information

What is Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be best summed up by describing it as a difficulty learning to read. Dyslexia makes it difficult for children to recognize and manipulate the sounds in different words. It also makes it hard to decipher new words or break them down into smaller pieces to sound them out. 

Dyslexia affects spelling and writing as well. 

Many children will memorize words they are familiar with but struggle when they see new words. 

Dyslexia should never be equated with intelligence. Children with dyslexia are often seen as having a gap between their ability to read and their achievement of that ability. 

Most children with dyslexia can keep up with their classmates until they reach third grade. When they are expected to be able to rapidly read and retain information fluidly to keep up with their work, they struggle. 

There is no cure for dyslexia and it’s not something that you can expect your child to grow out of. However, there are many strategies you can teach your child to help them cope and manage their disorder.

How Common is Dyslexia

Yale’s Center for Dyslexia and Creativity co-creator Dr. Sally Shaywitz estimates that 1 in every 5 children has dyslexia. Many children go undiagnosed because schools fail to recognize the signs of dyslexia. Instead of seeing the disorder for what it is, they attribute a child’s difficulty as having low intelligence, putting in little effort, or having a hard time at home. 

A few years ago, experts said that boys developed dyslexia more often than girls. However, more current research suggests that it impacts boys and girls equally. 

Signs of Dyslexia in Children 

The biggest sign of dyslexia is a difficulty in reading comprehension. Children with dyslexia tend to read a little slower and make more mistakes while they read. Many children with dyslexia will learn words slower, talk later, and even reverse the sounds in words. 

Some other signs are difficulty reading at their age level, difficulty processing words, and difficulty finding the right words to use when talking. 

Some other signs are: 

  • Struggle learning rhymes 
  • Speech delay 
  • Difficulty following directions 
  • Omit words like and, the, or but
  • Difficulty distinguishing left and right 
  • Difficulty taking notes 
  • Easily tired or frustrated by reading

If you suspect that your child may have dyslexia, talk to their doctor. 

How is Dyslexia Diagnosed

Dyslexia is diagnosed with an evaluation done by a professional. The evaluation tests your child’s intellect and reading ability to see if there is a gap between what they can achieve and what they have achieved. This evaluation will also eliminate other factors, like a difficult environment or other impairments or disorders.

If you have the evaluation done by the school, they will usually have suggestions for how to help your child succeed. You can also have an evaluation done by a private third-party psychologist. 

This evaluation is important because it will also arm you with the information you need to advocate for your child. 

When Should You Have Your Child Evaluated 

Dyslexia is tricky because it is easily disguised as something else. But it is usually apparent that there is some kind of issue at a young age. Luckily, most schools use evaluations regularly to help spot the signs of intellectual disabilities. 

Try to wait until your child is at least six years or older before having a formal evaluation done. This gives your child a chance to thrive in a formal educational environment before testing. 

Generally, if you’re seeing reading issues in first grade, that is the ideal time to get help. Early intervention is key to helping a child catch up and improve their self-esteem. 

Strategies for Dyslexic Students 

As technology advances, there are more and more accommodations and adaptations in schools to help children with dyslexia succeed. The learning materials all stay the same, but the teaching and equipment change to give every student a fair shot. 

Some examples of accommodations that are good for children with dyslexia are: 

  • Materials that can be manipulated 
  • Breaks between tasks 
  • Visuals to accompany instruction 
  • Audiobooks and text-to-speech tools 

These accommodations are used alongside other intervention methods and therapies. 

Dyslexia and Social or Emotional Development 

Children are especially vulnerable to poor self-esteem. When they feel like they can’t keep up with other students, they can easily start to feel bad about themselves. This, coupled with the anxiety that comes with feeling like you’re behind your classmates can be the perfect storm of emotional issues. 

Make sure that you spend lots of time with your child and remind them that having learning difficulties doesn’t make them any less intelligent than their classmates. Remind them regularly that many children have dyslexia and that there is no reason to feel shame. 

Regularly tempering your own responses to their learning abilities will help too. 

Helping you Understand Dyslexia in Children

Whether you have a child with dyslexia or not, you should understand dyslexia and what it looks like. Children with dyslexia grow up to be adults with dyslexia, and you likely know more people with dyslexia than you think. Having a concrete understanding of the way they learn and process information can help make you a better parent, mentor, and friend. 

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