“We just found out my daughter has Dyslexia. I’m a teacher, why didn’t I know?” Her daughter, Becky, was a high school freshman. It was the librarian who discovered it. Sarah was feeling guilty. Becky was feeling relieved to know that there was a reason that she wasn’t reading with the ease she thought she should. Informal tests showed that she had Dyslexia; now that she knew what it was, she could find ways to make it more manageable.
Dyslexia is a neurodiversity in which the brain has difficulty translating images received from the eyes into understandable language. Affecting about 15% of the population, it is hereditary and has a detectable genetic indicator. Common teaching strategies are not designed for these folks, which contributes to their lack of performance in school. In truth, a large percentage of dyslexics have a well- above-average IQ. Have you ever wondered what they see?
This makes it hard to recognize short, familiar words or to sound out longer words. Decoding takes longer, is exhausting, and consequently reading comprehension is poor. Dyslexia is a language-processing difference, so it can affect some, or all, forms of language, either spoken or written.
There are specific forms of Dyslexia. Dysphonetic or Auditory Dyslexia is difficulty connecting sounds to symbols; people may have a hard time sounding out words, or with phonics. Dyseidetic, or Visual Dyslexia, with which a person has a good grasp of phonetic concepts, but difficulty with whole-word recognition and spelling. Dysphoneidetic or Mixed Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding) words, either eidetically or phonetically. Dyscalcula Dyslexia is the inability to calculate equations due to poor math and memory skills (example: poor mental math, difficulty calculating money, making change, recognizing math signs and symbols (+ = – x); or to remember operations (ex.: multiplication tables); or to deal with reversals, substituting other numbers, or leaving numbers out.
Parents who suspect their child has Dyslexia should first consult their school. Tests are frequently provided through the school, and involve a series of 16 different assessment tools. Consult your doctor if you are interested in a QIAamp Kit. This is a home test (you’ll need a prescription from a genetics specialist). Similar to a paternity test, swabbing can determine if parents or their children carry the hereditary traits of Dyslexia. Saliva will provide all the DNA to test for DCDC2 in chromosome 6 and 15, as linked to the FGFR3 gene helix mutative gene.
Once you know, there’s a lot you can do. First, you should know that medication is not prescribed for Dyslexia. And many school systems do not provide IEPs or 504 modifications for children with Dyslexia. One possible external aid would be Chromagen Glasses. These are eyeglasses made with specific colored glass to ease the decoding process. These are not always covered by insurance. Because the colors chosen are specific to the wearer, tests and prescriptions must be obtained through vision specialists. Similarly, because of the font, color and backlighting, many find e-readers (ex.: Nook or Kindle) to be very helpful.
Implementing the following learning techniques can help significantly. It’s like brain training. Dyslexia will never go away, but it can be dominated.
- Utilize a multi-sensory approach in teaching, involving multiple senses at the same time: touch, sight, movement and sound.
- Use color for visual cues with written material, including a blackboard or white board, especially with mathematic symbols. Provide handouts.
- Lectures and study times should be brief, followed by movement breaks. Do not rush; make sure listeners understand before moving on.
- Repetition of key words, concepts or instructions will help with short-term memory (for most children).
- Provide more time to complete homework, exams and quizzes. Imagine if you needed to decode a message before solving an equation, you’d need more time.
- Write homework instructions directly on the assignment, so they know what is expected, such as visual cues ( or *, for example) to highlight important directives or information.
- Model organizational systems. Routines help to automate life in general. This will help to automate their learning success in school, at home and in life. List-making, graphic organizers or bubble mapping are creative, visually appealing ways to organize information. Utilize assignment books, color-coded folders or flash cards, calendars, post-its and journals for important things to remember.
Becky is a college graduate now, feels great about her skills and, believe it or not, loves to read! If you or your child has Dyslexia, remember 15% of our population is with you in this—you are not alone. No need to reinvent the wheel; research support agencies, websites, apps and Youtube videos for help. Or just ask your children; millennials have technology in their DNA. They can “google” it.
Forsyth Family offers this column as a way to bring awareness to various learning differences and empower parents and families for whom these differences are formally diagnosed. This is not intended to be a diagnostic tool. Concerned parents should consult a professional to determine if their child has any type of learning disabilities or challenges. See full disclaimer in bylines of this publication.