Dyslexia and Reading

Children who struggle with dyslexia are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to reading.  In a person with dyslexia, the brain works differently.  A reading program that uses phonics as the primary tool for decoding reading will be very difficult for the child with dyslexia.  For most people, the letters “d”, “b”, “p”, and “q” look very different from each other.  But for those who have dyslexia, those letters all look the same, as do “m” and “w”.  It is a matter of spacial orientation.  A chair is still a chair no matter the angle from which you see it; even if it is upside down, it is still a chair.  In the dyslexic mind, this basic idea about an object continuing to be the same object regardless of orientation applies to letters as well, even after years of training.  In severe cases, people with dyslexia don’t know where to begin reading- at the right or the left or somewhere in the middle of the line.

Letter Reversals Indicative of Dyslexia

One sign of dyslexia is letter reversals when printing.  For children in Kindergarten and Grade One, it is not uncommon to have occasional letter reversals.  If, after demonstration and practice of proper letter formation letter and number reversals persist into Grade Two, a diagnosis of dyslexia is likely.  For people who have dyslexia, letter/number reversals may continue into adulthood.  It is not merely a printing problem; as these children learn to type, they will often type a “b” for a “p” and so on.  The cause of letter reversals associated with dyslexia is not in the printing but in the brain.

Treatment for Dyslexia

For children with dyslexia, there is no easy answer or quick fix.  To have your child assessed by a professional may, or more likely, may not be successful.  There is no medication or other treatment available for dyslexia.  However, there are strategies that can be used to help the individual who struggles with this condition.

Overcoming Dyslexia Strategies

  1. Be positive! This is the most important strategy parents and teachers can employ when working with dyslexic children.  Don’t tell them reading is easy!  That will discourage them!  It most certainly is not easy.  Tell them, “Hard work always pays off in the end” or other phases that teach them that it is through perseverance and practice that they will learn to read.  Young children with dyslexia often become discouraged because they find reading so difficult and they see that the other children are doing better in reading and printing.  Just because they find learning to read more difficult initially doesn’t mean they can’t become very capable and proficient readers.
  2. Make learning fun! Choose book topics and reading mediums that the child will enjoy.  There are many early reading activities online.  As well, there are Learn To Read Books available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.  Using different types of reading materials will keep the child’s interest.
  3. Teach the Dolch Sight Words. Some words can’t be sounded out, such as “the”.  Use flash cards to teach Dolch sight words.  Don’t overwhelm the child.  Start with two Dolch words and add one each day or each practice session.  If the child is getting frustrated, add words more slowly.  In the Learn To Read Books, by Visions Encoded, relevant Dolch Sight Word Practice is included with each book.
  4. Teach the child to use “meaning” or “making sense” as a primary reading decoding tool.
  • For example, when a child with dyslexia looks at “was”, they may wonder whether it is “was” or “mas” or “sam” or “saw”?  Help them learn to reason as follows:  “What makes sense? Well, I know “mas” is not a real word.  “Sam” and “saw” don’t make sense here, so it must be was.”  So you see how much more difficult and how much more thinking is required for someone who has dyslexia!
  1. Practice! The child with dyslexia will have to practice much more than the average child when learning to read.   Make practice times fun.  Consider using rewards for good effort and a positive attitude.

Living with Dyslexia

I know a lot about dyslexia because I have it.  I never learned to read until the summer after Grade Two, when my mother taught me at home.  Our school had a “no fail” policy for elementary students.  If it had not, I would have failed Grade Two and Grade Six, but I never knew that.  I never really realized how badly I was doing until I looked back on my early education as an adult.  My mother had always spoken positively to me about my learning, and I always tried my best.  I considered myself a ‘good student’.  I found learning very difficult but my mother never gave up.  I struggled in school until I was in Grade Seven.   At that point, something finally clicked inside me.  It was like a fog lifted and suddenly things felt much easier.  I went on to graduate high school and then university with honours.   Dyslexia is not something that goes away but it is something that can be overcome with the right tools, diligence, and a positive attitude.

Girl sitting looking at iPhone