Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a “reading problem” or a problem with “reversals.” It is a specific difficulty in dealing with language; that is, in understanding written or spoken language, in storing language information, and in organizing and retrieving this information.
You can often identify the symptoms of Dyslexia before your child starts to read, when you know what to look for. Here is what to look for:
AGES 3 to 5
DOES YOUR PRESCHOOLER…
- Seem uninterested in playing games with language sounds, such as repetition and rhyming?
- Have trouble learning nursery rhymes, such as “Humpty Dumpty” or “Jack and Jill”?
- Mispronounce words frequently?
- Persist in using baby talk?
- Have difficulty remembering the names of letters, numbers or days of the week?
AGES 5 to 6
DOES YOUR KINDERGARTNER…
- Fail to recognize and write letters?
- Fail to write own name?
- Have difficulty breaking spoken words into syllables, such as cowboy into cow and boy?
- Have trouble recognizing words that rhyme, such as cat and bat?
- Fail to connect letters and sounds? (Ask your child: “What does the letter ‘b’ sound like?”)
- Fail to recognize phonemes? (Ask your child: “What starts with the same sound as cat? Dog? Man? Car?)
AGES 6 to 7
DOES YOUR FIRST GRADER…
- Have difficulty recognizing and manipulating phonemes?
- Fail to read common one-syllable words, such as mat or top?
- Make reading errors that suggest a failure to connect sounds and letters, such as big for goat?
- Fail to recognize common, irregularly spelled words, such as said, where and two?
- Complain about how hard reading is and refuse to do it?
AGES 7 and Older
DOES YOUR CHILD…
- Mispronounce long or complicated words, saying “amulium” instead of aluminum?
- Confuse words that sound alike, such as tornado for volcano, or lotion for ocean?
- Speak haltingly?
- Overuse vague words such as stuff or things?
- Have trouble memorizing dates, names and telephone numbers?
- Have trouble reading small function words, such as that, an, and in?
- Guess wildly when reading multisyllabic words instead of sound them out? Skip parts of words, reading conible instead of convertible, for example?
- When reading aloud often substitutes easy words for hard words, such as car for automobile?
- Spell terribly?
- Have messy handwriting?
- Have trouble completing homework or finishing tests on time?
- Have a fear of reading aloud?
One particularly valid rationale toward educating children with dyslexia is known as the Orton-Gillinghan approach. This educational philosophy suggests that dyslexic youngsters be taught the English language in a multi-sensory, structured, sequential and organized manner. In this way the child can internalize the rule structure of the language and recall and use individual elements as needed. Letters and sounds are taught first, in isolation, through auditory, visual and kinesthetic linkages, then blended together to form words for reading and spelling. These words are often then put together into meaningful units to form sentences. Not only must the student learn the phonetic elements, he or she must also understand and apply the rule structure of the language. For example, rules for syllable division, spelling rules, acoustic principles leading to changes in pronunciation (the so-called “exceptions”), and rules for developing or changing grammatical constructions. While this sounds like a lot of heavy, tedious study for youngsters it is not in the least. It is the contention of the Orton-Gillingham approach that language, in its rich and varied forms, should be taught in this reasonable and orderly manner to all children. The proof? Simply watch the glow and triumph on the face of a six year old that has just analyzed a four-syllable word, or read an exciting and interesting story, or explained to his teacher the meaning of ”schwa”!