What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects reading skills and language processing. Children with dyslexia have difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, or in speaking. Dyslexia may affect some skills and abilities, but is not related to the child's general level of intelligence.
The severity of dyslexia can differ in each child. Some children may have difficulty in reading and writing, some may not be able to learn new words and meanings, and others may have trouble with grammar or a new language Due to this difficulty in processing language, the child may be slow in academics. Dyslexia may coexist with other types of learning disabilities, ADHD, or autism.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
Most parents can recognize the signs of dyslexia only when the child starts going to school.
Preschool: The child may have difficulty in:
- Recognizing letters and words
- Connecting letters with sounds (phonetics)
- Learning new words
- Learning the alphabet, numbers, rhymes and rhyming words
Primary and middle school: The child may have difficulty in:
- Remembering facts and numbers
- Writing neatly, holding a pencil
- Memorizing verses or poems
- Distinguishing between letters (b, d; m, w)
- Spelling words accurately
- Finding the right words to speak
- Following instructions or directions
- Working on word problems in Maths
- Learning a new language
Teenagers and adolescents may have difficulty in
- Reading with ease or reading aloud
- Understanding jokes, rhymes, puzzles, or proverbs
- Memorizing verses and poems
- Summarizing or paraphrasing a story
- Organizing and managing time
- Working on math problems
What causes dyslexia?
Researchers are yet to identify the exact cause of dyslexia. However, they observe that genes and differences in brain functions may cause dyslexia.
How is dyslexia identified?
There is no single test for dyslexia but a team of professionals are involved in assessing the child's symptoms and then identifying the disorder as dyslexia. The experts also conduct tests to determine if other disabilities such as learning disability, ADHD, or other issues are affecting the child's learning process. Hence, the experts take into account some of these factors for diagnosis:
- Family and medical history
- Reading and writing skills
- Vision and hearing
- Progress in academics
Intervention and support for dyslexia
There are specific educational approaches and techniques for Dyslexia. Early detection and the right intervention can help children overcome dyslexia.
Some of the interventions include:
- Alternative teaching techniques: Teachers and special education experts use alternative learning methods. For example, listening to lessons on audio tapes, touching and feeling shapes of letters while reading and using pictures and photos to recognize words helps in building vocabulary.
- Tutoring: A reading specialist uses phonetics and other alternative methods to help children with dyslexia improve their reading skills.
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A structured learning plan with well-defined goals helps the child in learning.
- Children with dyslexia may be at risk of developing ADHD, and vice versa. ADHD symptoms may cause difficulty in treating dyslexia.
- Children with dyslexia can be highly talented and creative. With support, encouragement and the right resources, these children can excel in their area of interest.
What happens when there is no intervention or support?
When dyslexia is not identified during childhood, its effects prevail and may impact the learning process and language skills as the child grows into adulthood. When there is no support or intervention, dyslexia can cause some of these problems:
- Academics: Since children with dyslexia have difficulty in reading and writing, they may find it difficult to cope with studies. This may lead to long-term educational problems.
- Time management: Children may find it difficult to manage time for their daily activities, including school work, tests and exams.
- Social skills: Children with dyslexia may have low self-esteem, anxiety, emotional problems, and may have trouble making friends or getting along with other children.
Caring for a child with dyslexia
Caring for a child with dyslexia can be quite stressful for parents. But with awareness and knowledge about dyslexia, you can play a very important role in helping your child cope with the condition and also overcome the difficulty.
Here are some ways in which you can help your child:
- When you notice any of the above symptoms, consult your child's pediatrician and seek advice.
- Encourage your child to follow the prescribed intervention program.
- Read stories aloud to your child. Encourage your child to listen to audio books.
- When your child is old enough, read stories together. Encourage him or her to read books and newspapers. Children learn many things from parents. You can develop the habit of reading and set an example for your child.
- Encourage and support your child to pursue activities or hobbies that he or she is interested in.
- Speak to the teacher and explain the problem. Work with the teacher, therapist and special education expert to identify alternate methods of teaching or to prepare an individual education plan.
- Join a support group where you can seek help and support from other parents who are dealing with the same situation.
A child is most secure in a loving and affectionate environment. Expressing your love and support, appreciating your child for their efforts, and encouraging them to focus on strengths rather than their weaknesses can help them overcome their difficulties.
Adults with dyslexia
If you were recently identified to have dyslexia, or have not been able to overcome it since your childhood, don’t lose heart. This is a condition that can receive intervention and support in adulthood too. If you think you have dyslexia, seek help from an expert. You can also reach out to friends and family members for support.