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Clues to Dyslexia from Second Grade On

By: Sally E. Shaywitz
The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, vary widely. Problems with oral language, decoding, fluency, spelling, and handwriting are addressed, as well as strengths in higher order thinking skills.

The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, in any one individual will vary according to the age and educational level of that person. The five-year-old who can't quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can't match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-four-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person's life.

The following are some clues to dyslexia for children in second grade and beyond.

Problems in speaking

  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words; the fracturing of words – leaving out parts of words or confusing the order of the parts of words; for example, aluminum becomes amulium
  • Speech that is not fluent – pausing or hesitating often when speaking, lots of um's during speech, no glibness
  • The use of imprecise language, such as vague references to stuff or things instead of the proper name of an object
  • Not being able to find the exact word, such as confusing words that sound alike: saying tornado instead of volcano, substituting lotion for ocean, or humanity for humidity
  • The need for time to summon an oral response or the inability to come up with a verbal response quickly when questioned
  • Difficulty in remembering isolated pieces of verbal information (rote memory) – trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists

Problems in reading

  • Very slow progress in acquiring reading skills
  • The lack of a strategy to read new words
  • Trouble reading unknown (new, unfamiliar) words that must be sounded out; making wild stabs or guesses at reading a word; failure to systematically sound out words
  • The inability to read small "function" words such as that, an, in
  • Stumbling on reading multisyllable words, or the failure to come close to sounding out the full word
  • Omitting parts of words when reading; the failure to decode parts within a word, as if someone had chewed a hole in the middle of the word, such as conible for convertible
  • A terrific fear of reading out loud; the avoidance of oral reading
  • Oral reading filled with substitutions, omissions, and mispronunciations
  • Oral reading that is choppy and labored, not smooth or fluent
  • Oral reading that lacks inflections and sounds like the reading of a foreign language
  • A reliance on context to discern the meaning of what is read
  • A better ability to understand words in context than to read isolated single words
  • Disproportionately poor performance on multiple choice tests
  • The inability to finish tests on time
  • The substitution of words with the same meaning for words in the text he can't pronounce, such as car for automobile
  • Disastrous spelling, with words not resembling true spelling; some spellings may be missed by spell check
  • Trouble reading mathematics word problems
  • Reading that is very slow and tiring
  • Homework that never seems to end, or with parents often recruited as readers
  • Messy handwriting despite what may be an excellent facility at word processing – nimble fingers
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • A lack of enjoyment in reading, and the avoidance of reading books or even a sentence
  • The avoidance of reading for pleasure, which seems too exhausting
  • Reading whose accuracy improves over time, though it continues to lack fluency and is laborious
  • Lowered self-esteem, with pain that is not always visible to others
  • A history of reading, spelling, and foreign language problems in family members

Strengths

In addition to looking for signs of a phonologic weakness, here are some signs of strength to look for and applaud in your child:

  • Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
  • Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
  • Ability to get the "big picture"
  • A high level of understanding of what is read to him
  • The ability to read and to understand at a high level over learned (that is, highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if his hobby is restoring cars, he may be able to read auto mechanics magazines
  • Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused, when he develops a miniature vocabulary that he can read
  • A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
  • Excellence in areas not dependant on reading, such as math, computers, and visual arts, or excellence in more conceptual (versus factoid-driven) subjects such as philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience, and creative writing

Many of the above indicate strengths in higher-level thinking processes.

Excerpted and adapted from: Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

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Comments

Thank you for such a great illustration of Dyslexia - in my work in Meditation I explore how the mind can correct itself with neuroplasticity and psychoherapy. Something I think your readers would find interesting is to check out the Arrowsmith School in Toronto's website - they are able to isolate parts of the brain that are underutilized and train that specific part correcting many learning disabilities.Keep up the great work!

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