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Dyslexia and your child

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by Lynden Punnett

A new school year is approaching and there will be some students both in primary and secondary education who may have some form of a learning disability or difficulty such as DYSLEXIA.{{more}}

What is dyslexia?

In 2009, Sir Jim Rose’s report on “Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties” gave the following description of dyslexia which was adopted by the BDA (British Dyslexia Association) Management Board.

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.”

Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

1. Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual abilities.

2. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category and there are no clear cut-off points.

3. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organization, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.

In October 2007, the BDA Management Board approved the following definition of dyslexia:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterized by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speeds and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individuals’ resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific interventions, including the application of information technology and supportive counseling.”

If someone has dyslexia, then the collecting part of the brain which deals with language may get the seeing and hearing messages muddled up .This means the detective part of the brain can’t work things out correctly and is not sure what to do, so the person feels confused and gets upset trying to work out what are the right messages.

Children who have dyslexia are often pretty smart or even super smart, so it must be really frustrating for them to have problems in reading, spelling, listening and understanding.

Dyslexia literally means having trouble with reading, but the word is used to cover other aspects of language.

* Phonological awareness which means being able to work out the sounds in spoken words.

* Verbal memory – being able to remember, understand and use spoken language.

* Verbal processing speed – how quickly a person can remember, choose and use the right word in spoken or written language.

What does dyslexia look like?

There are many signs of dyslexia. People who have dyslexia may have one or more of these:

* Reading very slowly and making mistakes.

* Not remembering or understanding what they just read.

* Not remembering or understanding what they just heard.

* Writing letters in the wrong order in a word.

* Difficulty working out the separate sounds which make up a word.

* Skipping words or lines when reading aloud.

* Finding it difficult to copy accurately from the board.

* Having problems writing neatly.

* Finding it hard to understand and follow instructions.

* Having problems learning spelling words.

* Finding it hard to remember the ‘look’ of words.

What you can do

Teachers and parents will soon realize a child may have a specific learning difficulty and he/she would need to consult a Special Educational Needs co-ordinator or an educational psychologist to help obtain a specific diagnosis. Recommendations would then be given to your parents and teachers to enable you to try and overcome your child’s difficulties.

Eye tests and psychological tests would be recommended to see why your child is having problems learning. Don’t worry, these tests don’t hurt.

* The eye doctor will want to see how well your eyes work in different ways.

* Can you see things clearly when they are close to you?

* Can you see things clearly when they are further away?

* Do both eyes work together to give you a clear picture?

* These tests will help decide if you have a vision problem or a learning problem like dyslexia.

* The psychologist will want to find out if you have a learning disability and suggest ways to help you.

* Hearing tests are also very important. An audio-metric hearing test can show the range of sound frequencies that a person can hear and this is very important when hearing and learning the correct sounds of the phonemes.

* Children with dyslexia have to work really hard on listening too.

* Listening to what people say.

* Listening to instructions.

* Listening to themselves reading out loud or inside their heads.

* Practising spelling and practising writing.

All this means extra work for a child. Then the writing may still not look too neat!

Lynden Punnett holds a Sp.LD in Dyslexia (Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre UK)

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