Dyslexia: why parents should be on the lookout
Although as many as one in 10 people have dyslexia, it's one of the most commonly misdiagnosed learning issues for school-age children; further substantiated by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, physicians and co-authors of the book The Mislabelled Child. That's because ADHD often acts as a red herring, throwing evaluators off the scent.
"If you talk to most parents or teachers, ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is the first thing on people's minds when a student's falling behind, loses concentration, shows disruptive behaviour in class or is struggling in school," says Dr. Brock Eide. "But what they should be doing is thinking about dyslexia. The dyslexic child is often a mislabelled child."
Children with unrecognised dyslexia are often seen as inattentive, careless, or slow, but, the Eides say, often nothing could be farther from the truth. "Dyslexics are overrepresented in creative and inventive fields like art and architecture or computers and engineering," according to Dr. Fernette Eide. "As young people, their gifts and talents may be overlooked because society only sees their weakest link."
Although dyslexia is one of the most common specific learning disabilities, it's not always identified in school. Many parents and professionals are more aware of attention deficit disorder checklists than ones for dyslexia.
That's exactly why parents need to be on the lookout, says Dr. Fernette Eide. "Parents need to be alert to the possibility of dyslexia, because they may be the only one who recognises their child's pattern of difficulties, so they can help get them the proper assessments, accommodations, and remediation they need."
That's all well and good. But what exactly should you look for? The authors say the following traits are red flags for possible dyslexia:
- Reading is slow and effortful (especially reading aloud)
- Tendency to make wild guesses with new words
- Trouble appreciating rhymes. For example, they may not "get" Dr. Seuss
- May skip over small words (like a, an, the) while reading
- Mixes up order of letters
- Avoids reading aloud
- Listening comprehension much better than reading comprehension
- Letter reversals, unusual spelling errors (may look like wild guesses)
- May avoid writing by hand
- "Careless" errors in maths or with reading test instructions
- Does much better with oral testing
If your child shows these signs, Fernette Eide physicians urge not to just assume they're being lazy; there may be something else at work. ADHD might be a big buzz word in the media, but dyslexia is far more common. And the earlier it's diagnosed, the sooner help can arrive and there are ways to help.
Games for children with dyslexia are not only helpful, but most are really fun. Whether using card games, computer games, board games or thinking games, the use of games to help children understand how to overcome the symptoms of dyslexia is supported by every major dyslexia group. For parents, children don’t even need to know the games are designed to help with dyslexia or have any educational benefit – this may in fact deter or impair result, for friends and family the game play is like any other. Studies from the Dyslexia Association and the National Institute of Human Development have shown that a multi-sensory approach to learning is best suited to overcoming the problems dyslexia causes.
Games are great because they’re typically the opposite of how learning has historically occurred in school, although we are starting to see significant changes now in teaching approach. Most teaching involves stimulating the children visually or through hearing; lectures and lessons where the teacher stands at the front of the class don’t allow much interaction, movement or any combination of the five senses. If the child’s auditory or visual memory is weak, then test scores and comprehension results will be low.
Games and activities involve movement, visual learning, hand gestures, speaking, solving problems, and writing, taking notes and repeating answers. Card games involve recognising letters, making sounds, and spelling all without the pressures of learning. Without having the burden of “dyslexia” or any “label” on their minds, children are able to process information faster and for longer periods.
When you play the games, teach the child to work through the problems. Teach them to read the problems to themselves quietly while it’s someone else’s turn. This will have them reading, using visual memory and respecting the play of others. Show the child how jotting down key facts or notes also help in solving problems – children taught to mind map at an early stage are helped enormously and seem to retain information more effectively.