Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Steven Spielberg, Anderson Cooper, and Kobe Bryant are all successful people who have/had dyslexia, a relatively common learning disorder that can cause struggles with reading, writing, and spelling. Dyslexia has sometimes been referred to as a reading disability, because the problems one has with reading stem from problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. However, it’s very important to note that dyslexia is a learning disability and doesn’t result from problems with intelligence.
Dyslexia is one of most common learning disabilities, impacting one in five students or roughly 20 percent of the population, according to the Dyslexia Center of Utah. More than 40 million people in the United States have dyslexia, but only about 2 million have been diagnosed. Most children with dyslexia can thrive in school and succeed with the help of tutoring or a specialized education program. It’s also important that a child with dyslexia receives emotional support from friends and family.
With the help of Dr. Emma Cole, a pediatric neuropsychologist in the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Department of Neuropsychology and School Programs, we’re going to cover everything parents need to know about dyslexia in children in case your child suffers from dyslexia or you’re worried they might.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
“The core learning deficit in dyslexia is in phonological awareness, which is the ability of a child to recognize the sound that each letter makes and to then manipulate or blend those sounds to recognize or sound out words,” said Dr. Cole. She mentioned that children at risk for dyslexia may have early problems in:
- Learning the alphabet
- Writing letters and numbers
- Rhyming or linking letters with their sounds
Dr. Cole added, “Many children also have problems in spelling and reading comprehension and may show letter reversals (e.g., letters b, d, p, q) in their writing and reading that persist beyond the third grade.”
Treatment Options for Dyslexia
Dr. Cole says structured literacy/multi-sensory structured language instruction is the gold standard for treating children with dyslexia. As she explained, instructional approaches that follow Orton-Gillingham principles use those guidelines. Research has shown that these interventions likely need to be provided four to five times per week for 45 to 60 minutes per day for children most severely impacted by dyslexia to make progress.
Children With Dyslexia and School Environments
Struggling in school can be an issue for many children, understandably more so for a child who may suffer from dyslexia. These children need extra support from their school, friends, and family.
“Multiple accommodations can be helpful to make school easier for children with dyslexia,” said Dr. Cole. “Some of these include using audiobooks or text-to-speech/speech-to-text applications, having a human reader/reading buddy, and using software that can simplify grade-level text down to a child’s reading level (e.g., Snap&Read). You can work with your child’s school team to identify what accommodations they offer and then trial them to find out which are the most helpful for your child in the classroom.”
Parents Can Praise Their Child’s Effort Instead of Their Grades
Children with dyslexia often put in a lot of work yet see much slower progress in their reading than they do in other subjects, which can be frustrating or worrying. As a parent, it can of course be difficult to see your child trying so hard and not seeing the results they want. Dr. Cole said praising their effort and not their grades/progress as well as assuring them that most people can overcome or accommodate their reading difficulties can be helpful.
With effort and emotional support, a child can succeed and overcome their struggles associated with dyslexia. Dr. Cole suggested setting up a time to talk with your child’s school team or a child psychologist/therapist about ways to help if you start to see academic anxiety or frustration affecting them at home or school.
Life is not a race. With support and love, children with dyslexia can succeed and thrive at their own pace.