Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is often characterised by difficulties in one or more areas of reading, spelling and writing. Some of the accompanying weaknesses may include difficulties in language acquisition, phonological processing, working memory, sequencing and organisation, visual perception and motor skills. There is an unexpected gap between a child's potential for learning and his or her academic achievement.
The exact causes of dyslexia are not completely clear but it is commonly explained as a difference in the brain area that deals with the processing of language-based information.
Dyslexia is not the result of an intellectual disability and many of these children have average to above-average intelligence. It is also not the result of poor motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or lack of opportunities, but it may occur alongside any of these.
Difficulties in acquiring and using language, reading, spelling and writing letters in the wrong order is just one manifestation of dyslexia and does not occur in all cases. Examples of other problems experienced by children with dyslexia include:
It is important to note that not all children who have difficulties with the above weaknesses have dyslexia. A child with dyslexia usually has several of these characteristics which persist over time and interfere with learning. Formal testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Early identification and treatment are key to help children with dyslexia achieve success in school and in life.
Treatment for dyslexia consists of using educational tools to enhance the ability to read and/or write. Children with dyslexia can be taught by a method that involves several senses (hearing, seeing and touching) at the same time or what we call a multi-sensory approach.
Formal dyslexia assessment can be done after a child is 6 to 7 years old. Younger children who appear to be at risk for dyslexia can be enrolled in reading programmes before a formal assessment is done.
It is important to remember that all children learn differently and at different rates. You will need to understand your child's strengths and weaknesses, rate of learning and interests in order to help your child be successful in overcoming or coping with his or her difficulties.
The following is a list of ways that you can help your child with dyslexia develop reading skills and feel good about themselves.
Find time to read to your child every day. Point to the words as you read. Draw attention to words that you encounter in daily life, such as traffic signs, notices, and labels.
Show your child how important reading is to daily life. Know your child's interests and make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for him or her to explore and enjoy independently.
Play rhyming games, sing songs that emphasise rhyme and alliteration, play word games, sound out letters, and point out similarities in words.
Point out new words, play spelling games and encourage your child to write.
Hang up simple charts, clocks, and calendars, so your child can visualise time and plan for the future.
Find books that your child can read but that you will also enjoy. Sit together, take turns reading, and encourage discussion. Revisiting words that cause trouble for your child and re-reading stories are powerful tools to reinforce learning.
Research has shown that parents who read to and with their children make a positive difference in learning basic reading skills.