Need to know: A discussion on what to look for on whether your child could be suffering from dyslexia
Dyslexia is a learning difference that affects your ability to read and spell. It is considered a life long neurodevelopmental condition and it varies from person to person. Dyslexia is not reflective of someone’s intelligence or general abilities; it is a difference in how a person learns.
The majority of children with dyslexia are identified at school as they start to read, but younger (pre-reading age) children can also display early signs of dyslexia.
Why it’s important
Children with poor reading are at a higher risk for a range of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Early diagnosis and intervention can give kids the right support to succeed in a school environment. Delayed identification of dyslexia increases the risk of low academic achievement which in turn can impact a child’s self confidence.
Dyslexia is strongly hereditary. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with dyslexia, you might want to consider screening before school starts. Some of the early signs include poor:
- language skill
- letter knowledge
- phonological awareness
- executive skills
- motor skills
Although there are no official diagnostic types of dyslexia, experts agree on four different groupings of reading/spelling difficulties. Identifying your child’s specific challenges can help you get the right support.
- Phonological dyslexia: difficulty breaking down words into smaller units, making it hard to match sounds with their written form.
- Surface dyslexia: trouble reading words that are spelled differently from how they’re pronounced, and recognising words by sight.
- Rapid naming deficit: difficulty naming a letter or number when the child sees it.
- Double deficit dyslexia: trouble isolating the sounds to name letters and numbers.
Surprisingly, dyslexia can affect everything from learning to behaviour.
This may include the inability or reduced ability to:
- Repeat something in sequence
- Remember information, steps and directions
- Reverse letters and numbers
- Pronounce words correctly
- Differentiate between words that sound similar
- Increase vocabulary and apply new words
- Spell and use grammar correctly
- Learn rhyme
- Keep on topic
- Understand jokes, puns, and sarcasm
- Be confident while reading out loud
- “Sound out” words
- Comprehend what’s read
- Understand word problems in mathematics
- Write characters in the right order
- Organise and articulate ideas
- Make notes while listening
It may also present as:
- Delayed speech
- Difficulty focusing
- Skipping words when reading
- Lack of coordination due to confusion telling left from right
- Avoiding tasks that involve reading
There are other learning disabilities that have been found to co-occur with dyslexia, and may need to be treated separately. For example, a person can be diagnosed with dyslexia, but also have:
- Dyscalculia – difficulty with mathematics including performing accurate calculations, problem solving and reasoning, learning number-related concepts, and basic maths skills.
- Dysgraphia – difficulty with writing and other fine motor skills, that affects word spacing, sizing, spelling, legibility, and expression.
Tips & strategies
If you are concerned about your child’s reading or spelling, don’t wait to get them assessed for dyslexia. Early detection and intervention is crucial in improving educational and emotional outcomes.
Rule out vision related issues – problems with vision can sometimes mimic dyslexia, so it’s important for specialists and clinicians to first rule out other factors before making a diagnosis.
Get your child properly evaluated – a psychologist can perform standardised testing across a number of domains including academic achievement (e.g. reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension / spelling / written expression, etc.); cognitive processing and cognitive ability. In addition to these results, there should be an evaluation of how well your child has responded to a minimum of six months’ intervention targeted at their area of weakness. The final product of the various assessments should include a report with recommendations on accommodations (e.g. provide extra time for writing tasks) and adjustments (e.g. don’t penalise spelling errors when testing comprehension), that assists teachers in developing a custom program for your child.
Advocate for the right learning tools – multisensory instruction uses all the senses, such as touch, vision, and hearing to learn something and can be extremely helpful for children with dyslexia. Text to audio alternatives should be considered where applicable.
Additional and targeted support – reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, and special education teachers can all provide additional support for your child. Evidence suggests that the most effective interventions for children with dyslexia directly address problems with the decoding. These interventions are phonologically based, involving training in phoneme awareness and letter knowledge combined with structured reading practice.
Be your child’s cheerleader– your child will benefit from regular positive feedback. They can learn, they just need to find strategies that suit them.
Build their confidence – leverage your child’s strengths to build their confidence. A happy positive child will be better able to deal with adversity than someone who can only see their struggles.
Read to them – your child is never too old to be read to. Listening rather than reading, takes away the pressure of decoding text and allows them to focus on comprehension. It also opens up a world of age appropriate books that they may not be able to read themselves.