Reading may seem easy and automatic for people who master it without difficulty. However, reading is a complex and challenging task for our brains, so we shouldn't be surprised that so many kids struggle with it.
In fact, about 15% to 20% of the U.S. population has a specific reading disability called dyslexia, which is the major cause of reading failure in school. Dealing with this learning challenge can lead to frustration and self-doubt, especially when it goes undiagnosed for a long time.
The good news is that dyslexia can be identified early and kids who have it can be taught to become successful readers.
Reading and Dyslexia
Most kids begin learning to read by learning how speech sounds make up words (phonemic awareness) and then connecting those sounds to alphabet letters (phonics). Then they learn how to blend those sounds into words and, eventually, they can instantly recognize words they've seen many times before.
Reading is a little like riding a bike: it requires doing many things at once with precise timing. With practice, typical readers gradually learn to read words automatically so they can focus their mental energy on comprehending and remembering what they've read.
Kids with dyslexia, though, have trouble with phonemic awareness and phonics. Research has shown that dyslexia occurs because of subtle problems in information processing, especially in the language regions of the brain. For this reason, reading doesn't become automatic and remains slow and labored. When a child struggles with these beginning steps in reading, comprehension is bound to suffer and frustration is likely to follow.
A common assumption about dyslexia is that letters or words appear reversed; i.e., "was" appears like "saw." This type of problem can be a part of dyslexia, but reversals are very common among kids up until first or second grade, not just kids with dyslexia. The major problem for kids with dyslexia is in phonemic awareness, phonics, and rapid word recognition.
Dyslexia is usually diagnosed during elementary school. In some cases, it doesn't become apparent until a child is older and is expected to read and comprehend longer and more complex material. Continuing problems with advanced reading, spelling, and learning a foreign language may be signs that a bright teenager has dyslexia.
Delays in identifying kids with dyslexia can create a bigger reading problem and a drop in self-esteem. So it's important to recognize symptoms early in elementary school and begin specialized reading instruction right away.
In preschool and elementary school kids, some signs of dyslexia include difficulty with:
- learning to talk
- pronouncing longer words
- learning the alphabet sequence, days of the week, colors, shapes, and numbers
- learning letter names and sounds
- learning to read and write his or her name
- learning to identify syllables (cow-boy in cowboy) and speech sounds (phonemes: b-a-t in bat) in words
- sounding out simple words
- reading and spelling words with the correct letter sequence ("top" versus "pot")
- handwriting and fine-motor coordination
Older kids, teenagers, and adults might have these same signs of dyslexia and probably also will:
- read and spell far below grade level
- avoid reading and writing
- work slowly on reading and writing assignments and tests
- struggle with learning a foreign language
Dyslexia runs in families. Kids of parents with a history of reading struggles are likely to have problems, too. Children who struggle with learning to talk as preschoolers also are at higher risk for dyslexia. The reading progress of kids with either or both of these factors should be closely monitored.
Dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation by a reading specialist or psychologist, either at school or in the community. Pediatricians often know the signs of dyslexia and can guide families to proper help. It's important that the person who evaluates a child be properly trained and have experience with dyslexia.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
WE'VE GOT A GREAT ROUND-UP OF ACTIVITIES PERFECT FOR LONG WEEKENDS, STAYCATIONS, VACATIONS ... OR JUST SOME GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FUN!Get Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process