The current working definition of dyslexia proposes that it is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. There are noted difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. It occurs across the range of intellectual abilities and is a continuum, not a distinct category, with no clear cut-off points. Additional difficulties may be identified in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, concentration and personal organisation.
Before diagnosis, many children with dyslexia are poorly understood as it leads to difficulties acquiring basic skills and succeeding in school. As mentioned, the continuum of dyslexia means people can have mild to severe impairment and the signs vary widely from person to person.
If children with dyslexia are not correctly identified, they are likely to experience significant difficulties at school, leading to school failure, acting out behaviours and emotional difficulties, as their best efforts rarely yield the results they expect. Sadly, many dyslexic children begin to believe that they are stupid and this can have a profound effect on their self-esteem and indeed, their very identify.
Dyslexia does not have a cure but with early identification and assistance, children can learn to compensate for their difficulties and find alternative ways to manage in school. Most children with dyslexia learn to read and many stay in mainstream school environments but with accommodations and assistance being provided.
There are positive aspects to having dyslexia, though obviously not everyone will experience all of these strengths, just as not everyone demonstrates all the difficulties either. They tend to be very curious, insightful and have a lively imagination with the ability to think and reason multi-dimensionally, which makes use of all of the senses. Levels of creativity tend to be high and they are able to see the “big picture” making connections easily and have a high level of reasoning skills.
Remember, your worst day as a teacher or parent with a child with learning disabilities is still better than the average day a child with learning disabilities will have in school.
Any assistance you give to your child at home needs to be done in a creative and fun way. This means you need to mix work with play and keep your sense of humour about you. Use games, puzzles, songs, rhymes or even physical activity in order to help your child develop certain concepts.
- Use colours to organise things as much as possible. Colour code notebooks to match textbooks and folders.
- Have them repeat instructions and give all instructions on paper as a checklist. Many children with learning disabilities are easily distracted or may have trouble following instructions. It may be helpful to everyone if you ask the child to repeat instructions or directions back to you before he/she begins the task or goes to a particular place.
- Play games such as Scrabble, Boggle etc to help with spelling
- Practice writing skills by sending an email to friends weekly.
- When you read together, have a signal for when they don’t know a word, provide the unknown word and allow them to continue reading, this helps with their fluency and removes the pressure of having to sound out the word.
- Find books that come on CD and let your child follow the story as it is read to them
- Build your child’s self-esteem.
- Let them do whatever they do best -- running, skating, etc. Give them time each day to do this.