What is Dyslexia?  

Most simply, it is a complex language-based learning disorder that affects a person’s ability to read, spell, and write.

Children who have it are often smart and hardworking – making it somewhat difficult to diagnose. That is one of the biggest problems with dyslexia: children who may have it are lost in the shuffle during the early years and often struggle to catch up later.  In early education, teachers may incorrectly assess the issue and believe it’s a matter of maturity. It is up to the parents to be extremely vigilant and proactive. An early warning sign is that by 1st grade, your child should be able to blend sounds into words. If they cannot, it’s time to seek an evaluation from a specialist.  

While the incidence of dyslexia varies depending on the study, it is fairly common.  One out of every ten Americans have some symptoms of dyslexia, such as slow reading, spelling issues, or misreading similar looking words. Often, they will look at a word that has a familiar pattern and take a good guess at the rest of the word. If your child is one of the lucky ones, dyslexia is diagnosed early in their academic career and corrected. In the dyslexic population, the brain has a difficult time associating letters to the sounds they make and blending those sounds into words.  To someone with dyslexia, the word "cat" might look like "tac.” Because of these mix-ups, reading can be a slow and difficult process. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cases might not realize they have a problem until later in their academic life and playing “catch up” is difficult to do. While the rest of the class is reading to learn, your child is still learning to read. There are skills that can be taught to remediate the reading issues and the sooner the work starts, the better.  

Causes of Dyslexia

The exact causes of dyslexia are not completely clear. However, studies show differences in the way the brain of dyslexics develop and function relative to others. Also, dyslexia is most often linked to gene expression which is why it tends to run in families. If there is anyone in your family tree – an aunt, uncle, sibling, or grandparent – who has dyslexia, this is a red flag for your child.   

Complicating the Matter

There are other problems that can be associated with dyslexia, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Attentional issues need to be diagnosed by a medical doctor, but it is often difficult to get a true assessment quickly. It may be hard to differentiate whether a child has “tuned out” in class because they are struggling and are frustrated because it’s too difficult for them; they have associated auditory processing issues which makes it difficult for them to understand spoken language (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), and/or they truly have ADD/ADHD. 

Treatment: Dyslexia Tutor

Certainly notify your school district about your concerns but that can be a long drawn out process. As I have mentioned previously, they will most probably offer you Response to Intervention (RTI) which is a three-tiered system. It takes time to move up the ladder if Tier 1 or 2 don’t work. Time is of the essence when children are in the early grades. The best thing you can do for your child is to call a reading tutor who specializes in testing and dyslexia as quickly as possible for an evaluation once you think there may be a learning issue. Dyslexia is a disorder that does not have to hold anyone back with the right teacher and tools in place.