Dyslexia: How Should Parents Deal With It

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Ishaan is the youngest of three brothers. His parents work full time in executive jobs. They used to read to their children and always set a great example of enjoying literature in the home. Ishaan’s elder brothers, one in primary and the other in high school, are keen readers and receive consistently high grades in their school reports.

Ishaan had a bright and large oral vocabulary, still struggled to write his name without reversing some of the letters, even in his first year of school. He made little progress in reading and found himself to be scoring low grades for writing.

His parents remarked that while his brothers had a keen interest in reading, Ishaan was not interested in reading at all. He never even showed interest in nightly readings with his parents unless he was being read to. As he grew up, he often used to complain of headaches and even though his eyes were thoroughly checked, he would complain about schoolwork. He used to look for reasons for not attending school.

After an evaluation by a therapist, Ishaan was diagnosed with moderate dyslexia. He was then referred to Linguist Learning. He was given a proper learning plan. He had weekly sessions and practised at home with his parents every other night. With all these efforts, his reading scores began to improve. He has several favourite authors whose books now adorn his shelves.

He is given extra time in class to complete written assignments and is allowed to use his spellchecker wherever possible. After a long time, his school report showed an ‘above average’ mark in writing. He continued to work with Linguist Learning during the summer holidays. He is no longer anxious about school.

As you can see in the example above, Ishaan was suffering from dyslexia. It can be defined as a learning disability in kids. Kids with dyslexia have trouble in reading comprehension, spelling and writing. These kids may have trouble answering questions about something they’ve read. But when it’s read to them, they may have no difficulty at all.

People often confuse dyslexia to be a visual problem. They think of it as kids reversing letters or writing backwards. But dyslexia is not a problem with seeing letters in the wrong direction. There is no problem with the intelligence too. Kids with this issue are just as smart as others. Many people have struggled with dyslexia and have gone to become very successful in future.

Different people are affected differently. Often the difficulties begin in school. The cause of dyslexia can be both genetic and environmental factors. Some cases run in families. It may begin in adulthood due to traumatic brain injury, stroke, or dementia. It can be diagnosed through a series of tests of memory, spelling, vision, and reading skills. It is the most common learning disability and occurs in all areas of the world. While it is more often diagnosed in men, it has been suggested that it affects men and women equally.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of dyslexia may vary from individual to individual. You can notice the changes by the age of three. Cluster of these issues can make these children stand out from other children. As children mature and become adult their “Dyslexia” doesn’t go away.  They learn how to adjust to it.

Preschool children

In some cases, it’s possible to detect symptoms of dyslexia before a child starts school. These are some of the symptoms:

  • delayed speech development compared with other children of the same age.
  • speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly and “jumbling” up phrases.
  • Problem in expressing themselves using vocal language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting together sentences correctly.
  • little understanding of rhyming words, such as “the cat sat on the mat”, or nursery rhymes.
  • Not able to memorize new words
  • Difficulty with left and right is common, and often dominance for either hand has not been established.

School children

Symptoms of dyslexia usually become more obvious when children start school and begin to focus more on learning how to read and write. Some of the commonly visible symptoms amongst children aged 5-12 are:

  • problems in learning the names and sounds of letters
  • spellings
  • putting letters and figures the wrong way around – such as writing “6” instead “9” etc
  • confusing the order of letters in words
  • reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
  • visual disturbances when reading, words may appear to be blurred
  • can answer questions verbally but having difficulty writing down the answer
  • difficulty in carrying out a sequence of directions
  • struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet
  • slow writing speed and poor handwriting
  • problems copying written language, and taking longer than normal to complete written work

Teenagers and adults

Along with the problems mentioned above, the symptoms of dyslexia in older children and adults can include:

  • poorly organised written work that lacks expression
  • difficulty in planning and writing essays, letters or reports
  • difficulties in revising for examinations
  • trying to avoid reading and writing whenever possible
  • difficulty in taking notes or copying
  • spelling mistakes
  • struggling to remember things such as a telephone number
  • struggling to meet deadlines

Many subtle signs can be observed in children with dyslexia.

  • Children may feel lonely and appear to be depressed.
  • They may begin to act out, drawing attention away from their learning difficulty.
  • Problems with their confidence levels can arise, can have problems with peer and siblings.
  • These children may lose their interest in school-related activities and appear to be de-motivated or lazy.
  • It can have an affect on their everyday skills and activities. These include social interaction, learning and dealing with stress.

Tips for parents to Help Your Child

Raising a child with dyslexia can be quite difficult. Here are some of the steps that can help you gain a lot of knowledge about your child’s challenges with dyslexia, and about the many ways you can help them get over it.

  • Be loving and patient. Be loving and patient with your child. Remember having dyslexia is frustrating. Your child may be facing a lot of problems at school. He or she may feel themselves inferior to others. Such children need a lot of patience, love and care from their parents.
  • Be firm and consistent. Be consistent with the work that needs to be done. It can get very exhausting working everyday over and over, for both of you. But be firm with the consistency. It may help your child a lot.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Be forgiving of yourself. Do not blame yourself for the problems that your child is facing. You are not perfect as parents. Forgive yourself. It is the best thing you can do to help your child.
  • Read to your child. Find time to read to your child every day. Point to the words as you read. Draw attention to words that you run across in daily life. Be a good reading role model. Show your child how important reading is to daily life. Make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for your child to explore and enjoy independently. Read to and with your child. This can make a lot of positive difference. This may help her enjoy reading.
  • Audio Books. Encourage your child to listen to audio books once in a while. Have your child read along while listening to an audio book. Choose audio books for your child that are higher than his reading level as it may enhance his vocabulary.
  • Avoid these statements. “This is easy”, “Get your act together and learn to do it right”, “You’re just not applying yourself”, “Try harder”, “You knew it yesterday”, Children who have dyslexia may need a lot of support for the many challenges they face.

Following is a list of ways parents can offer encouragement.

  • Study about dyslexia. Information about dyslexia can help you better understand and assist your child.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths. If your child understands more when listening, let him or her learn new information by listening to an audio-book or watching a DVD. Focus on what your child ‘can do’ and give genuine praise.
  • Respect and challenge your child’s natural intelligence. Most children with dyslexia are quite intelligent. Be honest with your child about his or her disability.
  • Understand your child’s limitations. There may be some things your child may not be able to do. Help your child understand that this doesn’t mean he or she is a failure.
  • Don’t expect perfection so soon. Expecting perfection so soon from your child can create an unhealthy relationship and emphasize your child’s failures.
  • Don’t make comparisons. Avoid making comparisons with other children. Success should be measured against self, not others. Understand that every child is different.
  • Assure your child and show interest in them. Show that you value your child’s opinion by praising them or acting on their suggestions. Promote positive thinking.

Always remember, you know your child the best. You know their strengths and weaknesses more than anybody in this world. All they need is your encouragement and support. Never ever let them down. Just be positive and be there for them always.

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