All About Dyslexia: Info for Parents

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects children and adults of varied intelligence levels. Continue reading to learn more about dyslexia, reading tips for dyslexics and special education options.

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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a reading disorder that makes reading, writing and spelling challenging for children and adults of average, above-average and gifted intelligence. Specifically, dyslexia affects peoples' capacity to translate word sounds, or phonemes, into complex words. The meaning center of the brain is not affected by dyslexia, thus a person may be able to describe a complex word like combustion with perfect accuracy. They're likely, however, to struggle with recalling the word and pairing the word with its meaning when they see it on paper.

For this reason, dyslexic readers may need more time to read a text passage than non-dyslexic readers. Since dyslexics must work carefully to make meaning of words and to string linked word concepts together, they may experience reading as an arduous task. Dyslexics also commonly struggle with writing letters and numbers in the right order to correctly spell words and complete computations. Finally, they often find rhyming and rote memorization to be challenging.

It's not uncommon for dyslexics to compensate for their reading difficulties by developing other cognitive functions to a greater degree than typical non-dyslexic people. Thus, dyslexics may have unusually strong critical thinking, concept formation and problem solving skills. Proper teaching methods and early diagnosis can be a key to helping dyslexics establish reliable learning skills.

Tips for Parents

Early Diagnosis

Although dyslexia is a disorder that's commonly associated with reading, there are ways to diagnosis your child before she reaches a reading age. Look for issues with rhyming, word finding and simple pronunciation as she learns to speak. Is it easy or challenging for your little one to name individual letters on paper? Do you know of any problems related to speaking, writing or spelling within your family history? If you answered yes to either of these questions, consider having your child tested for dyslexia. If your child is diagnosed early, she can also begin special training, which may help her find novel ways to connect phonemes before she begins traditional schooling.

Reading Help

There are many ways to support young dyslexic learners on a day-to-day basis. Reading aloud to your dyslexic child may give him a new context for putting words together and help him recognize reading fluency, which may not come naturally to him. Playing the radio often can be another useful way for your child to learn new vocabulary words in an auditory manner. You may also consider exaggerating consonant sounds, such as pronouncing the word tree as ttttrrree when your child is learning to speak. Asking him to mirror these sounds back to you may help him recall the sounds more readily the next time he hears them.

Playing rhyming games that offer your child a chance to separate new phoneme sounds can also be an exciting learning activity for dyslexic kids. To play a rhyming game, ask your child to associate a single crayon with each sound she hears in a word and to lay the crayons on a table one-by-one as she hears each new sound. Thus, for the word tree, she would lay down one crayon for the sound tr and one crayon for the sound ee. Next, she might do the same for the word free. For added fun, have your child make a design with the crayons and see if you can guess what she's created!

Special Education and School Advocacy

To learn about available special education options at your child's school, consider scheduling a meeting with the school's educational resource team. This team may differ at each school, but should consist of some of the following positions: school psychologist, school administrator, special education expert, school nurse or speech therapist. Your child's teacher should also be present to offer insight on what he's seen in the classroom. This team will look at school records and may offer your child extra tests to assess the severity of her dyslexia and to come up with an according education plan.

In general terms, several types of options are available for dyslexic students. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 assures an appropriate school education regardless of disability ( If your child's school resource team decides that a Section 504 is the best option for your child, he will likely remain in a regular classroom setting and receive targeted individual support. This can take different forms, such as giving your child more time for homework assignments, reducing his workload or shifting testing structures, so that he takes fewer multiple-choice tests. A Section 504 will also mean increased parent-teacher collaboration; therefore, as you learn more about your child's dyslexia, you can continue to offer his teacher suggestions on what you think would be most helpful.

Alternatively, your child may qualify for special education services. In this case, the resource team will create an individualized education plan with measurable annual objectives. Your child may then work with a special educator for part or all of the day. This can happen in a regular classroom or in a special education setting. Any changes made to your child's individualized education plan require your consent.

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