Dyslexia is a common learning disability – in fact, in 2004, the Society for Neuroscience estimated that as many as 43.5 million Americans may be dyslexic. Despite its prevalence, there are still plenty of misconceptions and myths about dyslexia floating around. For example, some people believe there is a correlation between dyslexia and intelligence, or dyslexia and vision problems – neither of which is true! It is actually a neurological condition, and a dyslexia diagnosis is typically given by a neuropsychologist after assessing a person’s phonological processing, oral language ability, reading, writing, and spelling.
What Does Dyslexia Look Like?
Like many learning disabilities, one person’s experience of dyslexia can be different from another’s. There are also several different types of dyslexia:
- Dysphonetic or Phonological Dyslexia: Phonological dyslexia, sometimes also referred to as dysphonetic dyslexia, is characterized by difficulty breaking words down into syllables and individual letter sounds and then combining those into a complete word. Reading aloud is challenging for individuals with phonological dyslexia as they struggle to translate the combinations of letters on the page into spoken words.
- Surface Dyslexia: Surface dyslexia is characterized by difficulty recognizing words by sight and trouble reading words that are spelled differently than they’re pronounced – for instance, words with several silent letters, such as “through”. Surface dyslexia is sometimes called visual dyslexia, but it doesn’t actually have anything to do with vision problems; it’s caused by the way a person’s brain recognizes groupings of letters.
- Rapid Automatic Naming Dyslexia: Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) is the ability to quickly and easily retrieve information you know, such as the names of letters, colors, symbols, and objects. RAN is connected to processing speed. People with Rapid Automatic Naming Dyslexia struggle to recall naming information quickly and/or in quick succession.
- Number Dyslexia: Although “number dyslexia” is not an official type of dyslexia, there is a mathematical equivalent of dyslexia called dyscalculia. It is a learning disability that also encompasses difficulty with telling or keeping time and difficulty interpreting musical notation.
- Directional Dyslexia: There isn’t a blanket term for left-right confusion or a poor sense of direction, although “directionally challenged” is a widely-used slang expression. Being directionally challenged isn’t a learning disability, although the struggles it involves do overlap with some of the struggles faced by individuals with dyslexia or dyscalculia, such as difficulty remembering sequences and difficulty recalling left from right.
Does Dyslexia Go Away?
If you’re hoping to learn how to overcome dyslexia, the bad news is: dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability that cannot be outgrown or cured. Fortunately, a dyslexia diagnosis is not the end of the world, or even a predictor of a child’s future success in school or in the workplace. There are many strategies and interventions that can be used to ease and even overcome the challenges presented by dyslexia.
How to Help a Child with Dyslexia
So your child received a dyslexia diagnosis – now what? Early reading intervention focusing on word recognition skills and reading comprehension is key. Multi-sensory learning experiences are especially beneficial. For example: because students with dyslexia struggle to associate the visual representation of the word with its auditory counterpart, listening to an audiobook while following along with a physical or digital copy can help strengthen word recognition and rapid automatic naming abilities. Graphic novels can also help students with dyslexia by providing them with more visual context for the words they’re reading.
To help your child improve their writing skills, encourage them to spell out words with tactile materials like colored glue, glitter, or beads to give them that multisensory experience. When they need to write out a longer assignment, encourage them to brainstorm and outline aloud when organizing their thoughts. Students with dyslexia may also prefer to use a keyboard over handwriting because they don’t need to recall the shape of a letter to place it on the page, and because the presentation of words in a standard and uniform font can make word recognition and recall easier than it would be with handwritten letters and words.
Finally, your child may qualify for certain accommodations in the classroom. Accommodations for dyslexia typically include additional time for tests and homework assignments as well as the use of assistive technologies such as speech-to-text software. Depending on your child’s needs, you may also consider implementing an IEP or 504 plan to ensure their accommodations are a matter of record with their school.
Dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability that presents students with unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean students with dyslexia can’t earn good grades, do well on tests, or excel academically. A dyslexia diagnosis doesn’t have to be limiting! With the right strategies and tools, students with dyslexia can unlock their full potential and achieve great success in the classroom and beyond.
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