If you are wondering about the signs of dyslexia, use our diagnostic checklist first. Then come back to this page.
Dyslexia can be difficult to define and diagnose because the learning problems can be subtle. There is usually a family history, indicating an inherited component. It is sometimes referred to as a language-based learning disability.
People with dyslexia exhibit problems with:
Brain scans of people with dyslexia show that the temporal lobe of the left hemisphere is the source of the problem. It doesn't light up during language tasks like it should. This persists into adulthood.
Some people say that this is an inherited brain difference, not a disability. There are examples of highly creative people with dyslexia who attribute their success to their unusual way of learning and thinking.
They are often denied proper assistance in the school system because they don't meet the criteria for a formal learning disability diagnosis. In fact, school can be a horrible experience for them.They get blamed for not trying harder. These early experiences can leave painful emotional wounds.
Grades K, 1 & 2: Referrals, Assessments, Speech Therapy and Reading Intervention
Teachers notice problems like inattentiveness and difficulty following directions. Sometimes students are referred for vision and hearing tests over and over, with normal results each time. This is a clue that they are having processing difficulties, which are not assessed in routine acuity tests.
If the student has unclear speech and can't talk in full sentences, the child is usually referred to a speech language pathologist. Sometimes extra help in learning to read is provided by volunteers or the learning assistance teacher.
Grades 3 & 4: Meetings, Assessments and Behaviour Intervention
Students who are still non-readers in grade 3 are discussed at a school-based team meeting. The school only has a limited number of spaces for psycho-educational testing every year, so the team decides which students are a priority for testing. By the intermediate grades, students with speech and language difficulties have been on the caseload for several years, so they are no longer a high priority.
Students with behaviour problems get assigned to child care workers, teaching assistants, counsellors and special classrooms.
Grades 4 to 12: Classroom Supports and Coping Strategies
Students who are diagnosed as learning disabled after psycho-educational testing qualify for supports. They are usually moved onto an Individual Educational Plan that is filled with coping strategies. Some of the common strategies offered are: 1) access to computers in the classroom and; 2) Kurzweil software. This software uses voice technology to read text. Even though students with dyslexia would benefit, they might not qualify for these supports.
The problems are obvious in Kindergarten, but young students are not assessed for auditory and visual processing.
During the primary grades, teachers focus on the alphabet, phonics and word lists. Learning requires memory, attention, processing speed and sequencing. Children with LD, Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD can't succeed because they don't have the underlying cognitive abilities.
School staff don't have the time, training or materials needed to provide therapy for underlying cognitive abilities.
Students in the intermediate and secondary grades become very discouraged. Coping strategies and behavioural interventions don't get to the root of the problem.
Students with dyslexia need brain based intervention. If they don't get this, their reading, writing and spelling problems persist into adulthood.
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