I love books. My husband and I regularly discuss literature. Reading is a very big deal at our house. And it broke my heart when my son told me that he hated to read. Fortunately for us, we found the root cause of his struggles and are now working on the appropriate skills to help him meet his scholastic challenges. We know that not all students like him are as lucky.
Sandi Smith of OG Work Tutoring assists students with dyslexia and is trained in the Orton Gillingham method of flexible reading instruction. She said students with dyslexia are often big picture thinkers, with gifts of creativity and perseverance.
“A diagnosis of dyslexia often comes as a relief for families who could not understand why their bright, articulate child was struggling with reading,” she said.
Smith cites research from Yale University that asserts that dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting 43.5 million Americans.
While many students are good at reading sight words and memorizing word blends, children with dyslexia struggle day after day in classes trying to figure out a way to meet what the teachers want. Sadly, even highly qualified teachers may not have extensive training for students with dyslexia. That means parents need to know more.
“Early intervention with a systematic and sequential, phonics-based, multi-sensory approach like Orton-Gillingham has been proven to help dyslexic learners succeed,” Smith said.
Unfortunately, detecting it early can be tricky. We thought my son just needed more practice or that he was resistant, but it became clear that something was wrong the morning he finally told us the words just wiggled across the page like snakes. Cue the head smack and mom guilt.
There are five factors that parents can look for and if a child meets even some, they might want to consider having their child tested. The two biggest for us were a family history of reading difficulty and coming from a literature rich environment but being unable to meet reading goals at school.
Smith said other examples include a delay in establishing handedness (eating or writing with both hands), language delay or making pattern errors such as b/d, p/q, u/n reversal.
“Parents can play word games in the car helping children to identify the first sound in a word or the last sound in a word,” Smith said. “They can sing children's songs and read stories with lots of rhymes, and they can clap the sounds or syllables in a word like elephant or butterfly.”
In the end, our takeaway is that like his cute nose and big feet, we wouldn’t change the fact that our son has dyslexia. It is as much a part of him as anything else and with help, his big brain will learn to decode words as easily as he negotiates for an extra 10 minutes of his favorite TV show.