Is my child dyslexic?

October 25, 2018 | by Therese Gracey, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

You may take reading for granted now, but do you remember what it was like at first? It’s hard work.

When kids first learn to read and write, it can be challenging. For instance, it is not uncommon for children to reverse letters, misinterpreting a “b” as a “d” or a “6” as a “9,” or “was” as “saw.” As kids become better readers, they usually outgrow these issues.

But for some kids, reading is tougher and takes much more effort — they may read slowly, mix up similar words, or have trouble with spelling. If this sounds like your child, could it mean he or she is dyslexic?

Dyslexia is a very common language-based learning disability which makes reading difficult. According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), dyslexia affects about 15-20 percent of Americans, and represents 85 percent of those with learning disabilities.

The exact cause of dyslexia is still not completely clear, although we know it often runs in families. And it’s not a vision problem, but rather a problem with the way the brain processes information. People with dyslexia have a hard time recognizing, spelling and decoding words.

Also, dyslexia has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence. In fact, plenty of smart, gifted people struggle with dyslexia — most have average or above-average intelligence. While they may be slow readers, they are often very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

While dyslexia is usually diagnosed during elementary school, the signs can appear as early as preschool. Some early signs of dyslexia include difficulty with:

  • Learning to talk
  • Pronouncing familiar words
  • Recognizing rhyming patterns
  • Learning the letters of the alphabet
  • Associating letters with sounds
  • Learning to read and write his/her name
  • Telling left from right
  • Reading and spelling words correctly (e.g., "top" rather than "pot")

Kids with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see with the sounds those letters make. And when they struggle with the beginning steps, all the other steps are more difficult. Teens and adults might have the above signs, and may also struggle with:

  • Reading aloud or reading fluently
  • Spelling words correctly
  • Reading and writing assignments (working slowly)
  • Summarizing a story
  • Understanding the meaning behind jokes
  • Learning a foreign language

Not all children who have these difficulties have dyslexia. If you are concerned about your child, talk with his/her pediatrician or primary care doctor.

Dyslexia can affect a child’s self-image. He or she may feel “dumb” and less capable than they actually are. They may get frustrated and avoid reading because it’s hard or stressful. These issues can get worse as reading becomes more important for learning. The sooner a problem is found, the better.

Formal testing of reading, language and writing skills is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia. If your child does have dyslexia, he or she can work with a specially trained teacher or reading specialist to learn how to manage the condition. Your child’s school may also be able to provide specialized instruction, extra time for tests or homework, or help with taking notes.

In addition to school and reading specialist support, at home, parents can create a language-rich household — but keep it fun. Read to your child often, play word games, and take advantage of audiobooks.

Some of the most bright, creative people have dyslexia. While dyslexia can’t be cured, it doesn't have to keep your child down. With the right help, most children with dyslexia can go on to become highly successful students and adults.

Need a primary care doctor for your child? Edward-Elmhurst Health has hundreds of board-certified physicians to choose from. You can book online today to set up your first appointment.

Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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