If your child is having issues with delayed speech or reading, such as pronouncing words or comprehending what they have read, these are signs of reading difficulties like dyslexia, a learning disorder.
Discovering that your child has dyslexia can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for any parent. Dyslexia is a condition with neurological and genetic origins that affect a person's ability to read, write, and spell. It does not reflect your child's intelligence or potential, and with the right support, they can thrive academically and personally.
Keep in mind that dyslexia also comes with some remarkable strengths. Your child may possess exceptional skills in spatial reasoning, creativity, and thinking outside the box, which can be incredibly advantageous in fields such as art, engineering, and entrepreneurship. It's worth noting that many successful entrepreneurs, creatives, and brilliant minds like Sir Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci had dyslexia too.
What is Dyslexia?
In preschool and school-age children it is common for students with dyslexia to be misunderstood and labeled as unintelligent or unmotivated, especially if their teachers are not well-informed about this condition. It is crucial to recognize the issue early on and acknowledge that there are different forms of dyslexia to determine the most effective teaching methods.
Dyslexia can be either developmental or acquired, and there are various types that are moderate to severe, including phonological, rapid naming, double deficit, surface, and visual dyslexia, each with its own characteristics and navigational approach. Understanding the nature of dyslexia, its characteristics, and how it affects your child’s learning and behavioral abilities will empower you to make informed decisions in and out of the classroom.
What to do if you suspect your child has dyslexia:
If you're worried about the possibility of your child having dyslexia, understanding your options can ease those concerns.
If your child is aged 2-5 and you are concerned your child may have dyslexia but have not yet received a formal diagnosis, understanding risk factors early might be an opportunity to gain some insight. Parent self-reported assessments like the IDA Dyslexia Screener or Sharpen’s Early Advantage Assessment can provide help to understand your child’s risk factors, including inherited genetic factors. The Early Advantage Assessment combines early language and literacy development with family history and includes detailed information about genetic markers associated with reading-related traits and skills. Together, the assessment provides a broad picture of your child's potential risk for reading struggles and the likelihood of your child needing additional support or intervention.
If your child is 5+ and you suspect that your child has dyslexia, the first step is to consult a professional, such as a pediatrician, a psychologist, or an educational specialist, who can evaluate your child's reading and writing skills, and determine if they have dyslexia or another learning disorder.
Remember, early intervention is key! In addition to testing, offering your child access to evidence-based reading programs as early as 4-5 years old can make a huge difference in reading development. Whether your child has a formal diagnosis or not, programs based in the science of literacy, like that in the Sharpen Reading Program can provide additional support as well as advance your child’s reading abilities.
How to support your child:
One of the most effective and vital ways to help your child is through evidence-based literacy programs that follow the science of reading. An evidence-based approach emphasizes the essential components of reading, such as phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. These programs are designed to be systematic, explicit, and cumulative, helping children with dyslexia master language skills and become confident readers. The effectiveness of these programs can be life-changing, and it's essential to find a program that suits your child's needs.
Misguided reading approaches like Guided Reading or Balanced Literacy are not effective for students with dyslexia because these approaches do not focus on the decoding skills struggling readers need, often leading to detrimental long-term effects.
There are children with dyslexia in nearly every classroom across the country, but no specialized reading instruction for these students. Therefore, it is important to advocate for your child's needs in the classroom. This may involve working with the school to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan that provides accommodations and support for your child's dyslexia. Additionally, seeking out resources and support groups for parents of children with dyslexia can be a valuable source of information and emotional support.
Early identification of dyslexia signs is crucial, as it allows you to start supporting them as soon as possible. Parents can take steps to help their children develop strong language and literacy skills from a young age. This includes reading to your child regularly, encouraging them to write and draw, and providing a language-rich environment in the home.
It's essential to consider that dyslexia often co-occurs with other conditions, such as ADHD. It's crucial to assess your child for any additional learning, attention, or behavioral difficulties they may face. Collaborating with professionals, such as psychologists, educational therapists, or counselors, can provide valuable insight and guidance on how to support your child holistically.
Finally, don't underestimate the power of emotional support and understanding. Children with dyslexia have incredible strengths and abilities to see things and express ideas in ways that others do not. Remind them of their strengths often, and let them know that it's okay to ask for help. Recognize the effort your child is putting in and celebrate their successes, no matter how small. By fostering a supportive and nurturing environment, you're instilling resilience and self-confidence in your child’s reading development.
Discovering that your child has dyslexia is merely the beginning of a transformative journey. By educating yourself, exploring structured literacy programs, focusing on early screening and intervention, addressing co-occurring conditions, and providing emotional support, you will make a lasting impact on their ability to overcome challenges and achieve success in life.
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