According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, “Dyslexia is a complex problem that has its roots in the very basic brain systems that allow man to understand and express language.” (Shaywitz, Sally; Overcoming Dyslexia, 2003; p. 93) As teachers and parents, we understand that it is complex, but how do recognize it? When I talk to others about dyslexia, they ask, “Is it seeing and writing letters backwards?” That is just one of the misconceptions. We now understand more of what those clues are to dyslexia.
When a child is young, we can listen to them speak:
* Is there a delay in speaking?
* Do they have difficulties in pronunciation?
* Do they have trouble rhyming?
* Do they talk around a word? In other words, do they have trouble retrieving a particular word? They may use vague words, such as stuff or things, instead of the actual word. They can often recognize the word when they hear it, but cannot retrieve it.
Another clue is that dyslexia can be hereditary. According to Dr. Shaywitz, “Dyslexia runs in families; having a parent or a sibling who is dyslexic increases the probability that you are too. Between one-quarter and one-half of the children born to a dyslexic parent will also be dyslexic.” (p. 98-99)
As a child gets to be the school age of 6 or 7, the clues are not as clear. Begin to watch for grade related benchmarks. Remember benchmarks are just a guide, however if a student is delayed on several points this could be a clue. Have your child read to you.
* Are they having difficulty recognizing and manipulating phonemes?
* Are they having trouble with the individual parts within words?
* Are they having problem with fluency and rhythm.
* Are they using word substitutions? If the word they are trying to decode starts with an “r”, do they substitute the wrong “r” word?
* Fails to recognize common, irregular spelled words such as said, where and two?
* Do they have poor spelling?
* Complain about how hard reading is and refuse to do it?
This is a simplified list of clues, but it is helpful for alerting parents and teachers to the possibility that a child is dyslexic. One of these clues by themselves is not necessarily a concern. However, if you are noticing that a child is struggling with several of these, seek some help.