Raising a child with dyslexia is a tough thing to do. On that path, your child will have many challenges with reading but you will learn here various ways to help him or her to succeed in school or life.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. With dyslexia, people tend to have difficulties with specific language skills. That would be reading or writing in most cases but sometimes even pronouncing words too. This occurs due to a problem with recognizing and identifying speech sounds and understanding how they relate to letters and words.
There is no cure for dyslexia and that is a lifelong condition. Although it can affect different stages of your child's life, with emotional support and special education program in school, your child can become very successful.
Understand the dyslexic brain (dyslexics vs. non-dyslexics)
I am sure you have always wondered does the brain of a child with dyslexia work different from the ’normal’ one so I will do my best to explain you the process of reading for both sides.
When we read, we are actually proving our ability to understand that the words are made of sounds and that those sounds have representation in letters. So, this is where things can become difficult for a child because dyslexia involves trouble connecting the sound that makes up words with the letters that represent those sounds.
Reading uses different parts of the brain to:
- Separate unknown words
- Recognize words we already know by sight
- Think about how to pronounce those words
While people without dyslexia have no problems with using all three parts at the same time, the other ones can use only pieces of that parts, so that is where the struggle begins.
There are two things that can be the cause of dyslexia so I will try to explain both of them the best I can.
Genes and Heredity
It is believed that certain genes that run in family are the cause of dyslexia. That genes control how the brain develops. Researchers say that if your child has it, it is probable that another relative does too. Around 40% of the siblings of a person who has it may have similar reading issues.
Anatomy of brain
It is a fact that everyone’s brain is different. The process of different parts of brain interacting and connecting to one another can be ineffective. There is a common thought of many researchers that it is not a problem in the brain itself and how it is structured than in the way how it functions.
Signs and symptoms to know if your toddler (age 1 to 3) has dyslexia
It can be really difficult for you to recognize any signs or symptoms before your child enters school, but there are some early clues that can indicate a trouble. It is possible that the preschool teacher will be the first one to notice a problem. The condition could become obvious once the child starts learning to read.
There are few symptoms that could indicate your toddler suffers from dyslexia:
- Often mispronounces words (beddy tear instead of teddy bear, for example)
- Said few words before his/her second birthday
- Fails to learn a new word after many of your attempts to help
- Has trouble to learn a song (which lyrics rhymes) or nursery rhyme
- Has problem with writing or pronouncing his/her own name
- Uses ‘baby talk’ a lot
- Struggles to come up with a group of words, such as if you ask him/her to say names of 5 objects
- Has difficulties playing rhyming games
- Has trouble with following directions (if they include multiple steps)
- Has a problem with telling a story about an event in a logical order
- Struggles to remember sequences (days of the week in right order, for example)
Diagnostic tools, and latest clinical guidelines for diagnosing dyslexia
It is better for a child if dyslexia is diagnosed in early age because more effective educational interventions can be applied. But, diagnosing it that early can be difficult for both parents and teachers because symptoms are not always obvious. If you are worried about your child’s progress in learning, first talk to its school teacher (or even to other staff in preschool/school).
If you all agree that your concern is valid, you should pay a visit to the doctor. It may be possible that dyslexia isn’t the cause of your kid’s struggles, there could be other health problems such as:
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Other conditions (such as ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
If it turns out that your child has no underlying health problem, there is another way to describe it’s difficulties with learning. There is a chance that it is not responding well to the teaching method so try approaching a new method.
If your child received additional teaching and you are still worried about its progress, It’s better to have a more in-depth assessment. Dyslexia teacher, appropriately qualified specialist or an educational psychologist can carry that out.
Testing cover speed, accuracy, and comprehension while reading should be enough for diagnosis. There is a combination of different tests to test word reading and comprehension. It includes an individual examination of a child. These test should be used during limited time periods (particular months). Standardized tests older than 10 years shouldn’t be used.
General empirical treatment
If a disorder is diagnosed and defined, first steps of treatment include advising parents and possibly teachers. Further treatment depends on the harshness of dyslexia, phycological symptoms and coexisting disorders. You shouldn’t rely on drug treatment because it is not beneficial. Only if you child suffers also from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), therefore could drug treatment help with learning abilities.
Diagnosis can take months to years. During that time parents are often frustrated and they spend a lot of time at home trying to help their child to practice. Frustrating dictation exercises, hours and hours spent on homework, countless misspelled words and endless failed attempts to study during its unwillingness can lead to constant child's depression. Parents will feel like a failure, thinking they’re letting their child down, so when disorder and treatment options are finally defined they feel relieved.
It is crucial to find a way to explain its disorder to your child. That could relieve them from the constant stress they are feeling.
Other treatment options/methods
First steps of treatment you could take to help your child:
- Provide as much information about dyslexia as you can
- If there are any other mental symptoms or coexisting disorders, you must start treatment if you haven’t already
- Help your child with regular reading support (it should be provided regularly), it will feel more motivated if you are around
- Spelling support should be useful as well (must be given separately from reading support)
- Talk to teachers, possibly advise them and join forces to find a solution how you child can be better integrated at school
- Regardless your effort, it is possible that your child will not show any sight of improvement. This is a common issue and it’s not well understood yet, so, do not blame yourself under any circumstances.
- Dyslexia often leads to depression or anxiety so psychotherapy couldn’t be a bad idea.
Possible life complications of dyslexia
In this section, I will try to give you a closer picture of how it is to live with this complication. After reading, you will learn to recognize if any dyslexic person in your surrounding has any emotional problem.
This disorder can lead to various problems including:
- Struggling with learning
Kids with dyslexia often can’t cope with basic reading. Considering that reading is essential for most of the subjects, the child is in disadvantage from the very beginning. They will always feel like they can’t keep up with their classmates and that could be very frustrating for them.
- Social problems
Dyslexic children, in comparison with their classmates, could be immature both physically and socially. That may lead to social non-acceptance and possibly make them feel awkward when they are in the company of their peers. If their feelings are then left neglected, anxiety, aggression, depression, behavior problems and low self-esteem may occur.
- Problems as adults
This disorder often times affects oral language functionating and may be one of the biggest problems. As the children grow up, they realize that communication is the key for everything through their lives. Reaching their young adulthood, and understanding that they may always struggle, stammer or even make pauses before answering questions, young adults frequently feel depressed.
And when the high school is over, they will have two choices: try finding a job or go to college. The problem is that they mostly have low qualifications due to low grades, so the list of the colleges they can enroll in is pretty short. That could take them on the long path of questioning their place in our society.