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Identifying signs of Dyslexia in your child
The student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents. The student displays ability to learn in the absence of print and receives the same classroom instruction that benefits most children; however, the student continues to struggle with some or all of the many facets of reading and spelling. This student may be a student with dyslexia.
Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003 defines dyslexia and related disorders in the following way:
“Dyslexia” means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.
“Related disorders” include disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.
The International Dyslexia Association defines “dyslexia” in the following way:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
Students identified as having dyslexia typically experience primary difficulties in phonological awareness, including phonemic awareness and manipulation, single-word reading, reading fluency, and spelling. Consequences may include difficulties in reading comprehension and/or written expression. These difficulties in phonological awareness are unexpected for the student’s age and educational level and are not primarily the result of language difference factors. Additionally, there is often a family history of similar difficulties.
The following are the primary reading/spelling characteristics of dyslexia:
-It is important to note that individuals demonstrate differences in degree of impairment and may not exhibit all the characteristics listed above.
The reading/spelling characteristics are most often associated with the following:
Consequences of dyslexia may include the following:
(Information taken from the Texas Dyslexia Handbook 2018)
“What we’re up against is an invisible disability related to what’s called the language-learning mechanism [in the brain],” says Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington’s Center on Human Development and Disability and coauthor of Teaching Students With Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Owl LD, and Dyscalculia. Students often struggle with sound-symbol relationships, rapid letter naming, decoding, phonological processing, word recognition, fluency, and poor spelling and writing.
TEACHING TIPS: Big-picture strategies can make our print-focused world a little more accessible for students with dyslexia. First up, audiobooks. “Classroom teachers can provide access to audiobooks in academic subjects to help students develop skills that typically require decoding as a prerequisite,” says Paul Tryon, a K–8 at-risk learning specialist at Classical Charter Schools in the Bronx, New York. “Audiobooks remove the reading barrier.”
In South Brunswick, teachers use Learning Ally’s audiobooks for qualifying students, including textbooks and trade books, according to Denise Callaway, an elementary literacy coach in the school district. She explains that having ready access to grade-level independent reading books (normally out of reach for students with dyslexia) helps to build kids’ social capital. “This one boy wanted to talk with his friends about Rick Riordan books, but he couldn’t read them,” she says. After listening to the books, “now he has social language to talk about it.”
MYTH: A child has dyslexia if he or she reverses letters in reading and writing.
FACT: Reversals or inversions of letters are common until second grade, beyond that, it doesn’t mean the child is dyslexic.
Symptoms like reversals need to be seen in context with other data to gauge whether it’s just developmental or something more serious. It is important to look at the whole profile in determining a diagnosis of dyslexia.
TEACHING TIPS: Focus your attention on the bigger picture of symptoms that could signal dyslexia. In preschool-age children, students with dyslexia tend to begin talking later than their peers and have difficulty rhyming and writing their names.
In the primary grades, dyslexia may be at play for children who don’t know the alphabet, may mispronounce words, show deficits in phonics, spelling, handwriting, and slow reading rate. They’re spending so much time processing due to decoding issues and lack of word recognition. Low self-esteem and behavioral problems can begin to surface as a result of these issues.
By middle school, students may be unable to keep up with timed tasks and organize their writing. They may avoid reading at all costs while struggling with laborious reading rates and poor spelling.
In short: Consider the student’s complete past and present (genetics may play a role), not just one symptom in isolation, and then consult with your student-services staff, who can facilitate an evaluation if necessary.
FACT: On the contrary, these students typically have average or above-average intelligence. Students with dyslexia have an unexpected weakness in reading compared to their cognitive abilities (for instance, measured by a higher IQ scores and abilities seen when not required to read) and their actual achievement (lower than expected reading).
Because dyslexia affects specific parts of the brain, students may do very well in other areas. And that’s one reason so many go undiagnosed. They might present as orally articulate [or] have other strength areas. Children with dyslexia are often intuitive, out-of-the-box thinkers, and are typically great problem solvers.
Many successful thinkers, inventors and revolutionaries have dyslexia*. From Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Alexander Graham-Bell to Mohamed Ali, Walt Disney, John Lennon, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson. Not forgetting the poster-people of dyslexia, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. All seven “man”-made wonders have been designed by dyslexic architects. At MIT they call it, the “MIT disease”, so many researchers there have it.
Dyslexia and its lesser-known cousin, Dyscalculia are defined as a brain-based learning difficulties related to either reading, or to the difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic. According to the Dyslexia Foundation, about 5-10% of the population has dyslexia, and around 6% have dyscalculia. As a counterpoint, and starting point for this blog, let’s look at other figures:
TEACHING TIPS: Capitalize on their strengths, and allow students to sometimes express their learning in ways that don’t require reading and writing. This avoids “double punishing” students who have already struggled to read about a topic, and now will struggle to write an essay about it, too. Ask them to demonstrate their understanding through project-based assignments.. You’ll build confidence, open doors to new interests, and strengthen valuable skill sets.
FACT: “What I hear over and over [from students] is that others don’t realize it takes them so much longer to do assignments,” Berninger says. “In many cases, they’re actually more motivated because they have to work so much harder.”
When you have a child who is truly capable, you can mistake their low performance as a lack of effort. But with dyslexia, it’s so far from it,
\TEACHING TIPS: Consider these suggestions:
“Fair is not equal,” It’s not an easy shift, but you have to ask, ‘What does every kid need?’ Some of these things are just little tweaks that may take the stress and anxiety off of one kid—or maybe multiple kids. Equal is giving everyone the same thing, which is NOT fair. Fair is leveling the playing field so everyone has access to learning and the ability to display what they have learned.
FACT: While children with dyslexia won’t outgrow the condition, they can make great strides. The best instructional programs are “sequential, explicit, research-based, and multisensory.” The Orton-Gillingham approach meets all of the above criteria.
TEACHING TIPS: Multisensory is a key word. Dyslexia is neurological, so you should activate different parts of the brain to help integrate information. For example, use everyday objects for multisensory learning: like putting hair gel in a ziplock bag and have students write their letters on it.. Have students “tap out” words where they use a finger to tap letters on a mat as they say the corresponding sound, then blend them together.
Dyslexia isn’t something to cure; it’s a different way of thinking and learning. They can still learn like their peers, just in a different way.
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Common Risk Factors Associated with Dyslexia
If the following behaviors are unexpected for an individual’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities, they may be risk factors associated with dyslexia. A student with dyslexia usually exhibits several of these behaviors that persist over time and interfere with his/her learning. A family history of dyslexia may be present; in fact, recent studies reveal that the whole spectrum of reading disabilities is strongly determined by genetic predispositions (inherited aptitudes) (Olson, Keenan, Byrne, & Samuelsson, 2014).
The following characteristics identify risk factors associated with dyslexia at different stages or grade levels.
Kindergarten and First Grade
Second Grade and Third Grade
Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:
Fourth Grade through Sixth Grade
Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:
Middle School and High School
Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:
Some students will not be identified as having dyslexia prior to entering college. The early years of reading difficulties evolve into slow, labored reading fluency. Many students will experience extreme frustration and fatigue due to the increasing demands of reading as the result of dyslexia. In making a diagnosis for dyslexia, a student’s reading history, familial/genetic predisposition, and assessment history are critical. Many of the previously described behaviors may remain problematic along with the following:
Our brains continue to grow!
Myth #1: ADHD isn’t a real medical condition.
Fact: The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Psychiatric Association all recognize ADHD as a medical condition. In fact, it’s one of the most common conditions in childhood. Millions of kids and adults in the U.S. have it.
Research shows that ADHD is hereditary—one out of four people with ADHD have a parent with ADHD. And imaging studies show differences in brain development between people with ADHD and people who don’t have it.
If you have personal experience with ADHD, you know how real it is and how big an impact it can have on everyday living. Read how an expert, a parent, and a young adult respond to the question “ Is ADHD real?”
Myth #2: People with ADHD just need to try harder.
Fact: ADHD isn’t a problem of motivation or laziness. Kids and adults who have it are often trying as hard as they can to pay attention.
Telling people with ADHD to “just focus” is like asking someone who’s nearsighted to just see farther. The reason they struggle with attention has nothing to do with attitude. It’s because of differences in the way their brain functions and how it’s structured.
Dive into a 28-minute primer with an ADHD expert to learn more.
Myth #3: People with ADHD can’t ever focus.
Fact: It’s true that people with ADHD usually have trouble focusing. But if they’re very interested in something, they may focus on it intensely. It’s called hyperfocus.
Some kids with ADHD are easily distracted in class but can’t pull themselves away from a game they’re playing. Adults might have trouble focusing on the parts of work they find boring, but pour themselves into aspects they really like.
Read an expert’s explanation of hyperfocus. And hear from a dad on how it’s challenging to keep his hyperfocused son safe.
Myth #4: All kids with ADHD are hyperactive.
Fact: The stereotype of kids with ADHD is that they race around and can’t stop moving. But not all kids with ADHD have hyperactivity as a symptom. And for those who do, hyperactivity usually goes away or lessens as they get older.
There are three types of ADHD. One doesn’t have an impact on activity levels at all. This type of ADHD is sometimes called ADD, and it mainly impacts attention.
Myth #5: Only boys have ADHD.
Fact: Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. But that doesn’t mean girls don’t have it. They’re just more likely to be overlooked and remain undiagnosed.
Part of the reason is that ADHD can look different in boys than in girls. Girls tend to have less trouble with hyperactivity and impulse control than boys do. They may seem more “daydreamy.”
Myth #6: ADHD is a learning disability.
Fact: ADHD isn’t a learning disability. ADHD symptoms can get in the way of learning, but they don’t cause difficulty in specific skills like reading, writing, and math. Some learning disabilities often co-occur with ADHD, however. That might contribute to this myth, too.
But just because ADHD isn’t a learning disability doesn’t mean kids can’t get help in school. And adults with ADHD can often get support at work, too.
Myth #7: Kids with ADHD will outgrow it.
Fact: Most kids don’t totally outgrow ADHD, although some symptoms can lessen or disappear as they get older. Symptoms may also change as kids get older and learn ways to manage them. But that’s not the same as outgrowing them. Most people with ADHD continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
“ADHD does not come with a visible injury or something that people can see visually. Like a bandage or anything. So sometimes it’s easier for people to judge when they literally have no idea what they are talking about. ADHD is not caused by bad or lazy parenting. It is a neurobiological disorder. I wish more people would take the time to really get into what ADHD is before criticizing. Most of the time we are already hanging on by a thread! Be nice.” — adhdparent, on Instagram
Myth #8: ADHD is the result of bad parenting.
Fact: ADHD is caused by brain differences, not bad parenting. But some people see kids fidgeting, being impulsive, or not listening and assume it’s due to a lack of discipline. They don’t realize that what they’re seeing are signs of a medical condition, and not the result of something parents or caregivers did or didn’t do.
Myth 9: Having ADHD isn’t that serious
Fact: While ADHD isn’t life-threatening, it can have serious implications on a person’s overall quality of life. Compared to the general population, people with ADHD are more likely to have:
Meanwhile, one common experience among my patients with ADHD is that it’s difficult to keep up with work responsibilities, and they’re constantly monitored or on probation.
This means they live in continual fear of losing their jobs and not being able to keep up financially, which can take a toll on their personal life.
Folks with ADHD may require more time to complete tasks in order to thrive. Unfortunately, while these sorts of accommodations may be available in educational settings — think longer test-taking time or quiet exam rooms — employers may not be as willing to accommodate.
Difficulty with handwriting frequently occurs in children with dyslexia. When Texas passed dyslexia legislation, the co-existence of poor handwriting with dyslexia was one reason why dysgraphia was called a related disorder. Subsequently, dyslexia and dysgraphia have been found to have diverse co-morbidities, including phonological awareness (Döhla and Heim, 2016). However, dyslexia and dysgraphia are now recognized to be distinct disorders that can exist concurrently or separately. They have different brain mechanisms and identifiable characteristics.
Dysgraphia is related to dyslexia as both are language-based disorders. In dyslexia, the impairment is with word-level skills (decoding, word identification, spelling). Dysgraphia is a written language disorder in serial production of strokes to form a handwritten letter. This involves not only motor skills but also language skills—finding, retrieving and producing letters, which is a subword-level language skill. The impaired handwriting may interfere with spelling and/or composing, but individuals with only dysgraphia do not have difficulty with reading (Berninger, Richards, & Abbott, 2015).
A review of recent evidence indicates that dysgraphia is best defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder manifested by illegible and/or inefficient handwriting due to difficulty with letter formation. This difficulty is the result of deficits in graphomotor function (hand movements used for writing) and/or storing and retrieving orthographic codes (letter forms) (Berninger, 2015). Secondary consequences may include problems with spelling and written expression. The difficulty is not solely due to lack of instruction and is not associated with other developmental or neurological conditions that involve motor impairment.
The characteristics of dysgraphia include the following:
Additional consequences of dysgraphia may also include:
Dysgraphia is not:
Dysgraphia can be due to:
(Information copied from the Texas Dyslex
What is Dysgraphia?
Do you want to learn more about how IEPs and 504 plans compare? Watch as an expert explains the differences between them.