Guest Post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel
Dr. Krimmel is a mother of a son who was diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD. Dr. Krimmel has also taught in classrooms for over 23 years.
What are the signs that my child, a struggling reader, has dyslexia? According to both education and medical researchers, there are characteristics of dyslexics at preschool age. One researcher, Priscilla Vail, wrote a concise book called About Dyslexia: Unraveling the Myths that shows dyslexia through ages and stages of life. Reading this book helped me as a parent of a dyslexic to understand the signs that I missed in my son’s early school years.
The early signs of dyslexia can be overlooked because doctors and teachers claim the child will “outgrow” the struggles and develop reading skills in their own unique time. However, dyslexia researchers have discovered that early reading interventions give all children, especially dyslexics, the best chance at academic success. As a medical doctor, Sally Shaywitz, studies brain images of dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers in her book, Overcoming Dyslexia. She points out that speaking and reading are both problematic for dyslexics, but because humans are wired for listening and speaking, we often find very intelligent people who struggle to make sense of written symbols. Knowing that dyslexics show differences in both reading and speaking, we can look for the signs of it in children as young as 4 years old.
Signs to look for in your young child are:
- Trouble with concepts of time. Although this may be developmental to a degree, time concepts are expressed in unusual ways. For example, when my son was 5 or 6 or even 9, he would talk about anything in the past as “when I was 4”. That could have been last week or years ago. A 10-year-old neighbor boy has been saying “It is 11 hundred of the clock” since he was three.
- Unable to follow 2 or 3-step directions. Sequencing processes into first, second, then, next… do not register with dyslexics frequently.
- Reversal of syllables and phonemes (letter sounds) within a word. The cute words all children make up as they learn the language can indicate dyslexia. For example, “flutter-bye for butterfly, magaruffin for ragamuffin, or bamhurger for hamburger” can be a sign.
- Unable to recognize or produce rhymes. I used to play the rhyming game in the car as we drove to preschool each morning. I would say “cat” and my dyslexic son would say “tiger” and when I asked if those words rhymed he said he did not know.
- Cannot sequence rote memory concepts such as days of the week, months of the year, alphabet, and numbers. My son will say, “ I’ll give three reasons to buy that thing, Mom, one- you like it, three – it is not expensive, and two – it is pretty”. In preschool he, like many dyslexics, could not tell you what letter went after “a”.
- Trouble recognizing letters in words or even in their names. As they are first being exposed to the alphabet in any formal way in preschool, it is all new to them, but most children will recognize their name’s letters by age 4, and possibly more letters than that. A dyslexic may only know the letters in his/her name or none at all.
- Handwriting is new to children in this young age, but the way they hold their pencil may indicate dyslexia. One researcher noted a young dyslexic held a pencil like an ice pick. My son gripped all pencils at the very tip in order to control it better, but he could not write well because his fingers got in the way.
If you see these difficulties in your child, early interventions, strategies, and reading programs that include the Orton-Gillingham method will better address the needs of your dyslexic reader. Research shows that good readers use both left and right sides of the brain when reading; the left for decoding, and the right for comprehension, word association, etc. Dyslexics use primarily the right brain when reading and do not pull the necessary skill sets from the left to complete the reading task. The Orton-Gillingham method develops the left brain functions through intensive rote memory activities, rules, and multi-sensory means like word marking.
Your active, cute, brilliant child may have the gift of dyslexia if all or most of these signs appear. He or she will struggle to read, but with programs designed to meet his or her needs, reading will be less of a mystery and their other talents will emerge to the delight of all.
A reading program like Reading Horizons that includes the word markings to indicate syllable stress, long or short vowels, and silent letters effectively train the dyslexic mind for faster decoding. This leads to comprehension because often times the dyslexic have a large auditory vocabulary.