There are many famous celebrities who claim to be dyslexic and the term dyslexia has become so part of everyday use that people joke about being dyslexic when they stumble over words. But is this true dyslexia? The Mayo Clinic defines dyslexia as a learning disorder in which the patient has difficulty reading. It can also affect a child’s ability to write and speak.
In children, dyslexia can sometimes remain undiagnosed for years with many only receiving a diagnosis in adulthood. However, the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it will be for the child to catch up on their language skills. Dyslexia is not related to below average vision, intelligence or brain damage. Dyslexia affects the way that the brain receives images and translates them into an understandable language.
For a child with dyslexia, reading a book can be like looking at a menu written in a foreign language.
School can become a nightmare for children with undiagnosed dyslexia. They may become unmotivated and disruptive in class and ultimately, a child’s success at school can be jeopardised with undiagnosed dyslexia. So what should parents and teachers look out for? One of the first signs may be number and letter reversals as this usually appears before eight years.
Children who struggle to copy directly from the board or who present generally disorganised work may also raise the alert. Other signs may be an inability to remember content, even from a favourite story, and have spatial problems. These may also be apparent on the playground where the child appears uncoordinated.
Children with auditory dyslexia may have trouble recalling sentences they have heard or understanding what they have heard. If a parent or teacher suspects dyslexia, it is best to contact a psychologist who specifically tests dyslexia. Early diagnosis is key to long term success for the child.
To help make the classroom not such a daunting place and to help the dyslexic child on his/her academic path, there are a number of tips that teachers can follow. Parents can also use them at home during homework time.
Be encouraging- many children with dyslexia have low self-esteem and feel self-conscious of their mistakes.
Speaking to them one-on-one is reassuring and helps build confidence.
Encourage children to think aloud as many dyslexic children find it easier to explain their ideas verbally than write them. Help them to verbalise their thought processes when solving problems.
Use visuals in the classroom as much as possible- dyslexic children often are visual learners so use large boards and diagrams to illustrate concepts. However do not clutter their spaces.
Use experience as a teaching tool- dyslexic children have a good memory for experiences so be creative and try and draw on past experiences to explain new material.
Children with dyslexia often have unique talents and are often particularly creative with an eye for detail. A recent study by Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have confirmed this by showing that people without dyslexia are better at noticing detail in the central field of vision which helps with reading while dyslexics are far superior at noting detail on the periphery field and consequently, are able to view a situation as a whole more easily than people without dyslexia.
This trade-off in cerebral ability is what gives each of us unique talents.