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Dyslexia: Beyond the Myth

By: Suzanne Carreker
This article describes the most common characterists of dyslexia and other learning disorders, and what you can do if you suspect your child has a problem.

As many as one in five students have dyslexia. Undiagnosed or without special instruction, dyslexia can lead to frustration, school failure, and low self-esteem. The common myths about dyslexia are that dyslexics read backwards and reverse words and letters. While these characteristics may be part of the problem with some individuals, they are NOT the most common or most important attributes.

Dyslexia is not a disease! The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means poor language. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with reading, writing, spelling and/or math although they have the ability and have had opportunities to learn. Individuals with dyslexia can learn; they just learn in a different way. Often these individuals, who have talented and productive minds, are said to have a language learning difference.

Does my child have dyslexia?

Individuals with dyslexia usually have some of the following characteristics.

Difficulty with oral language

  • Late in learning to talk
  • Difficulty pronouncing words
  • Difficulty acquiring vocabulary or using age appropriate grammar
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Confusion with before/after, right/left, and so on
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or songs
  • Difficulty understanding concepts and relationships

Difficulty with reading

  • Difficulty learning to read
  • Difficulty identifying or generating rhyming words or counting syllables in words (Phonological Awareness)
  • Difficulty with hearing and manipulating sounds in words (Phonemic Awareness)
  • Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (Auditory Discrimination)
  • Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters
  • Difficulty remembering names and/or the order of letters when reading
  • Reverses letters or the order of letters when reading
  • Misreads or omits common little words
  • "Stumbles" through longer words
  • Poor reading comprehension during oral or silent reading
  • Slow, laborious oral reading

Difficulty with written language

  • Difficulty putting ideas on paper
  • Many spelling mistakes
  • May do well on weekly spelling tests, but there are many spelling mistakes in daily work
  • Difficulty in proofreading

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Does my child have other related learning disorders?

The following are characteristics of related learning disorders.

Everyone probably can check one or two of these characteristics. That does not mean that everyone has dyslexia. A person with dyslexia usually has several of these characteristics, which persist over time and interfere with his or her learning. If your child is having difficulties, learning to read and you have noted several of these characteristics in your child, he or she may need to be evaluated for dyslexia and/or a related disorder.

Difficulty with handwriting (Dysgraphia)

  • Unsure of right or left handedness
  • Poor or slow handwriting
  • Messy and unorganized papers
  • Difficulty copying
  • Poor fine motor skills

Difficulty with math (Dyscalculia)

  • Difficulty counting accurately
  • May reverse numbers
  • Difficulty memorizing math facts
  • Difficulty copying math problems and organizing written work
  • Many calculation errors
  • Difficulty retaining math vocabulary and/or concepts

Difficulty with attention (ADD/ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

  • Inattention
  • Attention varies
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsively
  • Over-activity

Difficulty with motor skills (Dyspraxia)

  • Difficulty planning and coordinating body movements
  • Difficulty coordinating muscles to produce sounds

Difficulty with organization

  • Loses papers
  • Poor sense of time
  • Forgets homework
  • Messy desk
  • Overwhelmed by too much
  • Works slowly
  • Things are "out of sight out of mind"

Other characteristics

  • Difficulty naming colors, objects, and letters (rapid naming)
  • Memory problems
  • Needs to see or hear concepts many times in order to learn them
  • Distracted by visual stimuli
  • Downward trend in achievement test scores or school performance
  • Work in school is inconsistent
  • Teacher says, "If only she would try harder," or "He's lazy."
  • Relatives may have similar problems

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What kind of instruction does my child need?

Dyslexia and other related learning disorders cannot be "cured." Proper instruction promotes reading success and alleviates many difficulties associated with the disorders. Instruction for individuals with learning differences should be:

  • Explicit – directly teaches skills for reading, spelling, and writing
  • Systematic and cumulative – has a definite, logical sequence of concept introduction
  • Structured – has step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, and practicing concepts
  • Multisensory – engages the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels simultaneously or in rapid succession

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Individual educational evaluations

Under IDEA (federal special education law), a full and free individual educational evaluation may be requested from the public school district or public charter school at no cost to parents, if there is a suspicion of a disability and need for special education services. You should write to the director of special education in your school district with copies to your child's teacher and the principal of your child's school to request an educational evaluation.

Check with your state educational agency, school administrators, regional education service center, or state education agency for any rules that are specific to your state. For more detailed information, see www.nichcy.org/pubs1.htm.

Several different tests are used to make a diagnosis. The testing should include the following:

Testing of intelligence to determine:

  • your child's overall learning ability

Testing of reading to determine:

  • word reading skills
  • reading vocabulary
  • reading comprehension – oral and silent
  • phonological processing skills (awareness of speech sounds)
  • rapid, automatic naming skills

Testing of writing to determine:

  • understanding of sentence and paragraph structure
  • level of mechanics – spelling, grammar, handwriting
  • measure of content/ideas

Testing of oral language to determine:

  • auditory processing and comprehension
  • expressive language skills
  • linguistic awareness skills

Testing of math to determine:

  • basic computation skills
  • basic concept understanding
  • reasoning skills and application of skills

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Suzanne Carreker is director of teacher development at the Neuhaus Education Center (www.neuhaus.org), which assisted us in acquiring this artice.

Reprinted with permission from the newsletter of the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, (www.houstonida.org).

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Comments

I'm Dyslexic. well, at first i always flipped number/Letter threw grades k-2 then it stop but i still couldn't read, write, spell, harble at proofing, always ask what does that mean, teach will say, "stop guess what guessing the worlds", & "does anybody at home care what you can't read?", kids would laugh when i read, i got a really bad ear infection when i was 3, i hold my pencil werid teacher will always ask why?- and i had to go to this special class for it, i have GREAT memborie, in math i get 'careless mistakes'-- when i would + i was so post to - , i get headackes, and dizzy when reading, my teaches say i am a great writter put then i write i "jump around with ideas, or i can't write my ideas out in sentence form. and i big secert i wore pulls to bed until i was like 8 years old., i went to speach in 2-3 gr. becuase i studdered, and talked fast, and i couldn't say worlds write, i was in 9th gr, and still get my left & right and Who and how mixed up, but i was always good with letter sounds just not putting them together (in fact in 2 grade. my teacher thought i would be a very good reader because i was so good with all my sounds) But teacher don't know every thing like my momstep was like to my second grade teacher could she be dyslexic? ... she say, "it normal for kids up to 3rd, grade mixing letters up past 3rd. grade get tested) Lie.. if a child is mixing uo letters Ex. B & D, 7 & L, M & N, N & U, P& 9 (ect.) is a sign of dyslexia... which a child with will stop mixing them up in 3rd, grade... a person with dyslexia doesn't mix up letter for the rest of their life. When they thought i had an eye promble witch i went to therpy for...It worked but still not all the way...when i did it again... but still having trouble read.... But i had all sign of dysexia but not letters going upside down and ect. But then i reliz that isn't really true.... Then my mom got me tested for dyslexia and I am now 15 and i am dyslexic... now 16.And i am sharing my story.... if this sounds like you please get tested. Thank for reading this.

i'm dyslexic and have ADHD and ADD. in high school people are mean and don't care if you cant read and write. i was in Special ed thill i was 11 and i'm 12 and in jr high. still with all the probloms that i had. like swiching letters to numbers (ex: q to 9 and o to 0) and letter to letters (ex: m to n and b to d). i still can't write j, q, d, b, and f in litte letters. and reading on papper forget it. all the words look like one. and i get a headack when reading. same with spelling. last year i got a 17% in english. that a pritty low f. this year i'm trying a lot harder and have a mid c.all in all, if you do this and much more (have them all but don't wont to type) get you AND your kids tested. being tested could be a life saver to them and you in the end.thanks for reading this.

My daughter's 1st grade teachers said that they didn't see any signs of dyslexia in my daughter and didn't think she needed to even be tested. I went to the special education diagnostician and asked for the testing myself. Testing showed she did have dyslexia, but somehow the information has been dropped from her records. She has behavioral issues also. The school says that her lack of progress in schoolwork is due to her behavior. Recently I heard of some special glasses to help dyslexics called ChromaGen. She had an immediate change in her reading ability and speed with the lenses. These lenses are not covered by most insurances, but we will be making payments until we can get these glasses for her so she can begin learning to read at age 14. She currently reads very slowly with many errors at 2nd grade level. I hope my post will let other parents know that there is an option available to help your child with their reading.

Great article to help in understanding dyslexia. We knew our two children needed reading help. For one thing, they were guessing at words, could read a word on one page but not on the next. They struggled with sounding out words and would skip words. But how do you help a child to read? One of my favorite lines in this article is "Individuals with dyslexia can learn; they just learn in a different way." After much research and trial and error with different methods, we found a program that helped. It has a unique approach and teaches in a way that helps those who learn in a different way. It's called Easyread by Oxford Learning Systems. We saw a huge turn around in just a few weeks with this program and their progress is steady. And the best part is the children like it!! We went to Easyread's website and had the children do the sample lesson. The next day they asked us "Is it time for Easyread?" The lessons are only 15 minutes or less a day, but consistency is the key; at least 4 or 5 days a week. Easyread is very effective and deceivingly simple. Please look at the website if you are one whose child struggles with reading. Whatever you do, do something! You know your child better than anyone. Be proactive in assuring that your child gets the help they need.

I dont know if im dyslexic or not i was tested but we never go a srait answer .we were just told i need help on tests. But i dont seem clasicly dyslexic my reading is fine its just spelling i struggle with and punctuation,i cant tell when a word needs 2 letters like in bell and i offen will miss out leters such as a or is or the when i am writing pharagraphs, dose that sound dyslexic to you?

I always new I was dyslexic but I carried on with life, including college and a hard hospital program with no one knowing. The only time that I felt slow and stupid is when I had to give a speech or write a paper. Thats when people came close to knowing I was perfect. I stumble of words all the time. Doesn't matter if I memorize anything, it just goes bad. I am thankful that I got through it and school is finally over for me. I'm done and I don't ever have to have those feelings again. Well, until I have these hospital meetings. The meetings include someone reading a page of hospital values to the entire group and If I'm picked one day, I feel everyone will know I'm dyslexic. I'm scarred. It never ends.

I am 16 and only found out I was dyslexic. I always thought I was but to scared to say anything.
But after they found out o had a lot of extra help, a year a go I couldn't even do my alfabet properly now I'm doing my GCSEs and writing essays which people can understand! :) I get a reader through all my exams (otherwise I'd spend all the time reading the first question!) I have a very slow reading speed! I've always felt ashamed and really ark ward reding out loud. I was tested and at 15 I had the reading speed of. 6.5 year old! :(

My school used to always say that I 'had potential' 'if she worked harder...' But when they found out that I was dyslexic they were suddenly very supportive!
Whilst I've chosen not to have someone specific to help me in class the teachers always happy to read the notes from the board or explain something a second, third and fourth time! :)

But since I found out I feel much more confident! I am doing English lit. and lang. separately and really want a C/B on both! I also did Spanish (my most difficult subject) and I am predicted a C!

Anyone who isn't sure whether they are dyslexic the likelihood is you think you are trust your instincts! Talk to someone! :) and always ask for help! It will be given! :)
Good luck!

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