Today we are answering some common questions about dyslexia. Whether you have concerns about your child’s reading, or a confirmed diagnosis of dyslexia, reading struggles can be challenging for the whole family. We are addressing some of the myths and challenges associated with dyslexia, and equipping you to advocate for your child and develop a plan to help.
1. What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disorder which makes it difficult for individuals to connect written letters to the sounds they make. It can impact a child’s ability to spell, read, write, and pronounce words correctly. It is usually not diagnosed until a child has had exposure to reading and writing in school. Dyslexia often runs in families, so a child who has a parent or sibling with dyslexia is at a higher risk.
2. How do I know if my child has dyslexia?
Dyslexia should be diagnosed by a psychologist or neuropsychologist, as it requires extensive testing in intellectual, academic, phonological processing, and other processing skill areas. Speech language pathologists can also play a role when a team approach is used for diagnosis.
Symptoms of dyslexia can be detected as early as preschool, although it cannot be diagnosed at this age. Early signs of possible dyslexia include:
- Difficulty rhyming simple words such as, “hit, sit, mitt”
- Left/right confusion
- Late to establish a dominant hand
- Difficulty learning sound/letter associations such as, “D” says “duh”
- Trouble learning early nursery rhymes
- Early school age children may have difficulty sounding out simple words, and will often avoid reading tasks because they are challenging
- It is a common misconception that only children with dyslexia reverse their letters and numbers – in fact, many children do this while learning to write. It is not usually a cause for concern until a child is 7 years old. Conversely, if a child is not making reversals in letters or numbers, this does not mean that they do not have dyslexia.
3. Why won’t the school give my child an official diagnosis of dyslexia?
In the public school, a child who has difficulty with reading can be given special education under the eligibility category of Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) in reading. This is an administrative category that schools use to determine if a child can receive special education services or an IEP; however, it is not a clinical diagnosis. This can be very confusing to parents. Many parents will want to know if their child has dyslexia and will request that the school tests for this. In Arizona and other states, parents are often told that they do not test for dyslexia. That is because dyslexia is a clinical diagnosis that is made by a licensed psychologist. Even more frustrating can be the fact that insurance often will not cover this type of testing by a psychologist because it should be completed in the schools. As a result, it can be expensive and difficult to get a diagnosis of dyslexia.
We often hear from parents that the schools do not recognize a diagnosis of dyslexia. This actually is not true. In fact, the criteria a school uses for special education in a specific learning disorder (IDEA law) states:”Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.” As you can see, the special education criteria includes dyslexia in the definition. So even though the school might not provide that diagnosis, the school should absolutely recognize that terminology and diagnosis from an outside provider. For more in depth information about the differences between school and clinical testing, grab a copy of our FREE School Testing Guide.
4. What kind of treatment should I get for dyslexia?
There are several evidence-based interventions designed to support children with dyslexia. There is no “cure,” but with early detection and intervention, many children can improve and ultimately learn to read. Specific interventions should be geared toward each individual child’s needs, but in general, intervention should be structured, systematic, and multi-sensory. There are a number of different kinds of multi sensory reading programs. Commonly used evidence-based interventions include Orton Gillingham and Lindamood Bell. For more in-depth information reading interventions, check out the International Dyslexia Associations Handbook for Dyslexia.
Reading specialists, teachers, speech language pathologists, and psychologists can all provide this type of intervention, but it is important that the person have specialized training in dyslexia. Insurance typically won’t pay for this type of treatment, so we recommend parents get help at school first and foremost whenever possible, and then go to a private practice for additional support as needed.
5. What accommodations can I use to support my child?
Fortunately, we live in a time where our children have a number of options for technology to accommodate reading challenges. For instance, Learning Ally offers audio books for children who have a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder. This is an amazing resource that can allow children to learn information at their grade-level while eliminating the frustration that often comes with reading textbooks. Dictation and typing are also ways to work around challenges with writing and spelling that often go hand in hand with reading. The sooner your child begins using dictation (Macs have very good built-in dictation FYI) or typing, the more efficient they will become in writing. This will allow them to keep up with heavier workload that comes as they progress to high school and college.
Also, we recently complied a list of accommodations families can use when working with their children at home.
6. What other disorders commonly overlap with dyslexia?
- Speech and language disorders
7. What will the long-term outcome be for my child?
I always tell parents that I wish I could look into a crystal ball and tell them their child’s future. But alas, that just isn’t possible. However, we do know that the earlier we provide evidence-based reading interventions, the more likely children are to learn to read and overcome their challenges. Also, children with dyslexia will greatly benefit from accommodations throughout their schooling.
I (Lori) just received a lovely card in the mail from a young woman who I initially diagnosed with dyslexia in high school. She is very bright but struggles significantly with reading and spelling. I evaluated her recently, so that she could get accommodations during the MCAT. She sent me a card announcing her recent graduation from college. She is now on her way to applying to medical school. Just know that reading challenges can improve with interventions. Reading/spelling challenges can also be accommodated, even if your child is getting the diagnosis later in life.
Thanks for following along! Please let us know if you have more questions about dyslexia; we would love to answer them for you on the blog or over on our social media.
Have a wonderful week,
Katie, Lori, and Mallory