Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the way people process written and, sometimes, spoken language. Dyslexia in kids usually causes children to have difficulty learning to read and write confidently.
Researchers estimate dyslexia may affect up to 15 to 20 percent of the population to some degree.
What dyslexia does not do is determine how successful an individual will be. Research in the United States and United Kingdom found that a large percentage of entrepreneurs report symptoms of dyslexia.
In fact, stories of successful people living with dyslexia can be found in many fields. One example is Maggie Aderin-Pocock, PhD, MBE, space scientist, mechanical engineer, author, and host of the BBC radio program “The Sky at Night.”
Though Dr. Aderin-Pocock struggled in her early school years, she went on to earn multiple degrees. Today, in addition to hosting a popular BBC radio show, she has also published two books that explain astronomy to people who are not space scientists.
For many students, dyslexia may not even limit their academic performance.
Dyslexia in kids can present in a number of ways. Look for these symptoms if you’re concerned a child may have dyslexia:
How to tell if a child has dyslexia
- Preschool children may reverse sounds when they say words. They may also have difficulty with rhymes or with naming and recognizing letters.
- School age children may read more slowly than other students in the same grade. Because reading is hard, they may avoid tasks that involve reading.
- They may not understand what they read and may have a hard time answering questions about texts.
- They may have trouble with putting things in sequential order.
- They may have difficulty with pronouncing new words.
- In adolescence, teens and young adults may continue to avoid reading activities.
- They may have trouble with spelling or learning foreign languages.
- They may be slow to process or summarize what they read.
Dyslexia can look different in different children, so it’s important to keep in touch with a child’s teachers as reading becomes a bigger part of the school day.
Although researchers have not yet discovered what causes dyslexia, it seems there are neurological differences in people with dyslexia.
Researchers have identified several genes connected to these brain differences. This has lead them to suggest there’s likely a genetic basis for dyslexia.
For example, it’s conceivable that some parents who have dyslexia may share fewer early reading experiences with their children.
For your child to get a definitive diagnosis of dyslexia, a full evaluation is necessary. The main part of this will be an educational assessment. The evaluation may also include eye, ear, and neurological tests. In addition, it may include questions about your child’s family history and home literacy environment.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures children with disabilities have access to educational interventions. Since scheduling and obtaining a full evaluation for dyslexia can sometimes take several weeks or longer, parents and teachers may decide to start extra reading instruction before test results are known.
If your child responds quickly to extra instruction, it could be that dyslexia isn’t the right diagnosis.
While most of the assessment is done in school, you may want to take your child to see a doctor to discuss a full evaluation if they’re not reading at grade level, or if you notice the other symptoms of dyslexia, especially if you have a family history of reading disabilities.
Phonics instruction is a combination of reading fluency strategies and phonemic awareness training, which involves studying letters and the sounds we associate with them.
Researchers noted that phonics interventions are most effective when they’re provided by specialists who have been trained in reading difficulties. The longer the student receives these interventions, the better the outcomes generally are.
What Parents Can Do
You are your child’s most important ally and advocate, and there is a lot you can do to improve your child’s reading ability and academic outlook. Yale University’s Center for Dyslexia & Creativity suggests:
- Intervene early. As soon as you or an elementary school teacher notice symptoms, have your child evaluated. One trusted test is the Shaywitz Dyslexia Screen, which is produced by Pearson.
- Talk to your child. It can be really helpful to discover that there’s a name for what’s going on. Stay positive, discuss solutions, and encourage an ongoing dialogue. It may help to remind yourself and your child that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence.
- Read aloud. Even reading the same book again and again can help children associate letters with sounds.
- Pace yourself. Since there is no cure for dyslexia, you and your child may be dealing with the disorder for some time. Celebrate small milestones and successes, and develop hobbies and interests that are separate from reading, so your child can experience success elsewhere.
If you’re noticing symptoms of dyslexia in your child, it’s important to get them evaluated as early as possible. Although dyslexia is a lifelong condition, early educational interventions can vastly improve what children accomplish in school. Early intervention can also help prevent anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues.
Dyslexia is a brain-based reading disability. Though the cause is not completely known, there appears to be a genetic basis. Children with dyslexia may be slow to learn to read. They may reverse sounds, have trouble correctly associating sounds with letters, frequently misspell words, or have trouble understanding what they read.
If you think your child might have dyslexia, request a full evaluation early on. Targeted phonics instruction delivered by a trained professional can make a difference in how much, how fast, and how easily your child copes. Early intervention can also prevent your child from experiencing anxiety and frustration.