What Is Dyslexia?
Children with dyslexia have problems processing the information they see when looking at a word. Often a dyslexic child will have trouble connecting the sound made by a specific letter or deciphering the sounds of all the letters together that form a word. Given these challenges, children with dyslexia often also have trouble with basic skills like writing, spelling, speaking, and math.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia in Children
Children with dyslexia can have mild to severe impairment. Signs of the condition vary widely from person to person. Young children with dyslexia may have the following signs and symptoms:
An estimated 25% of people with dyslexia also show signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
In older children or adults with dyslexia, these other signs may appear:
Causes of Dyslexia
Researchers have found that dyslexia is caused by a difference in the way the dyslexic brain processes information. Experts do not know precisely what causes dyslexia, but several recent studies now indicate that genetics plays a major role. If you or your partner has dyslexia, you are more likely to have children with dyslexia. Over the next few decades, we are likely to learn much more about dyslexia and how to treat it.
Complications of Dyslexia
Children with dyslexia are at serious risk of developing emotional problems — not because of the condition itself, but because of the daily frustration and sense of failure they meet in the school environment. One study of children with dyslexia found that most of the children observed were well adjusted in preschool. But they began to develop emotional problems during their early years in school, when their reading issues began to surface.
If children with dyslexia are not identified, they are likely to begin to fail in school, and may act out, or stop trying altogether. Teachers and parents may assume that these children are simply not trying and even punish them. The child may begin to internalize the message that he or she is stupid or bad. This can become a fixed part of his or her identity, undermining self-confidence. It is not surprising, then, that children with dyslexia are at higher risk for behavior problems and depression.
Fortunately, dyslexia is now far more likely to be identified than it was in the past, when the condition was not well understood. Today, if a child has trouble reading in the early grades, parents and teachers are likely to detect the problem and provide help for the child. There are many resources now available to children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
How to Help Children with Dyslexia
There is no cure for dyslexia. But early intervention can give children with dyslexia the encouragement and tools they need to manage in school and compensate for their disability. If you suspect that your child has dyslexia or another learning disability, talk with your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your doctor can rule out any physical issues — such as vision problems — in your child. They may then refer you to a learning specialist, educational psychologist, or speech therapist. The first step will be to have your child evaluated so you can take the appropriate steps at school and at home.
Most children with dyslexia can learn to read, and many can remain in a regular classroom, but they will need help to do so. Usually, learning specialists use a variety of techniques to work with children with dyslexia on an ongoing basis. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, children with dyslexia are allowed special accommodations in the classroom, such as additional time for tests and other types of support.
Tips for Parents of Children with Dyslexia
As parents, there are many things you can do to help a child with dyslexia: