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Understanding Dyslexia

August 14, 2019 | Kaitlyn Wooten, MS, CCC-SLP

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“Back to School” is only a few weeks away! As the kids get back into a routine of reading and doing homework, you may notice your child is struggling with reading or spelling. But how do you know if it’s dyslexia?

What is Dyslexia?

According to the International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.

Dyslexia occurs on a spectrum, and can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can co-occur with other disorders, such as ADHD, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia. It is an unexpected difficulty with reading meaning that in relation to a child’s other cognitive abilities, they are struggling more with reading. It is a lifelong difficulty with reading, although people can learn to improve their reading skills over time.

Dyslexia occurs in approximately 10% of the population. While it is equally common in girls and boys, boys tend to be diagnosed more often due to behavior problems. Dyslexia tends to run in families and if you have a parent with dyslexia, you have up to a 50% chance of also having dyslexia. If a sibling has dyslexia, the risk is about 40%.

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Since dyslexia does range in severity depending on the child, the symptoms may present differently as well. Here are some of the most common symptoms of dyslexia:

  • Difficulty learning letters & sounds
  • Difficulty manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  • Difficulty rhyming
  • Mixing up sounds in words (e.g., “colvano” for “volcano”)
  • Mixing up similar sounding words (e.g., “‘continent” for “consonant”)
  • Mixing up function words when reading (e.g., “a” for “the” or “saw” for was”)
  • Letter reversals after 1st grade
  • Poor spelling
  • Poor reading rate and/or accuracy
  • Poor reading comprehension (usually a result of poor reading fluency)
  • Weak writing skills
  • Slow recall speed/rapid naming
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Mild articulation problems
  • Difficulty with left and right
  • Difficulty reading clocks
  • Difficulty memorizing math facts

There are some common misconceptions surrounding dyslexia and its symptoms. Here are some examples of what dyslexia is NOT:

  • Reading backwards
  • Seeing words or letters backwards
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Lack of intelligence
  • Developmental delay
  • Something that can be outgrown
  • Caused by lack of education or exposure
  • Caused by laziness

Assessment and Diagnosis

While there is no one official “test” for dyslexia, a diagnosis can be given based on a series of tests, a comprehensive family and developmental history, and an analysis of overall achievement and ability.

The Pediatric Therapy Department at Fisher-Titus offers dyslexia assessments for individuals six years old and over who are English speaking. If you think your child may benefit from a dyslexia screening, talk to your primary care provider about writing you a script for a “dyslexia assessment” at Fisher-Titus.

When it’s time for the assessment, a certified speech-language pathologist will do a comprehensive reading and writing assessment to determine if a diagnosis of dyslexia is appropriate. Testing takes approximately three hours and is made up of verbal language testing, reading fluency and comprehension testing, single word and non-word reading testing, and academic achievement testing.

Treatment

Once a child has a diagnosis of dyslexia, what happens next? With appropriate intervention, children with dyslexia can become successful readers and enjoy academic success as well.

Fisher-Titus offers comprehensive reading treatment for children with dyslexia. Orton Gillingham is an explicit, systematic, sequential, structured, and multisensory program. It is evidence-based and considered the “gold standard” of intervention for dyslexia and related reading difficulties. We also offer services to address pre-reading skills, reading fluency, reading comprehension, and writing.

Kaitlynn Wooten, MS, CCC-SLP is a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist with Fisher-Titus Rehabilitation. For more information about dyslexia assessment at Fisher-Titus visit fishertitus.org/rehabilitation-services or call 419-660-2700.