Dyslexia: How Do I Teach This Child?

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Written by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP



What Is Dyslexia?

Educators have not been able to agree on what dyslexia really is. Some authorities believe that it is strictly a language-processing problem involving the distinguishing of sounds of letters. Others believe that it is a visual/perceptual problem, since these children also reverse words laterally (b/d) and vertically (m/w) as well as scrambling letters (the=het) when they read and write.

I believe that both groups are correct. It is an auditory/language problem, visual/perceptual problem, and often a visual/motor (eye/hand) problem as well. I have worked with many teenagers who have been through years of tutoring in a good “phonemic awareness” program. Why were they still in my special education class? Although they now were able to decode very long, difficult words, because their problem with inadequate eye tracking had not been addressed, they could not read with any fluency. Words continued to “move” as they read, or reverse, or they had to use so much energy to keep their eyes tracking correctly that they forgot what they had just read. Therefore, in my classroom, I also addressed the eye tracking issue so that they could read fluently and with comprehension on grade level by the end of the year.

Through prayer, study, and observation, I realized that many of the learning “processes” had not become automatic for these students. For example, their eye tracking should have transferred to their automatic brain hemisphere six months after they practiced it. If it isn’t automatic, the child has to “think” about the eye movement so he/she doesn’t accidently say no for on.

Auditory processing, such as the process of remembering phonemes, or phonics, also had not transferred to the automatic hemisphere. In 1981 Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist, found that the name of a word, letter, phoneme, or person is processed in the left, auditory brain hemisphere. However, the picture of the word (what it looks like) is processed in the right, visual brain hemisphere. The reading problem that a child experiences when he cannot remember the name of a phoneme or sight word is that the left-brain name does not connect with the right-brain word picture.

This learning process can be likened to the driving process. If you had to think about how to turn the signals and when to brake and accelerate while you were driving, it would be a very difficult procedure indeed, and you definitely wouldn’t drive for pleasure.1

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

You can suspect dyslexia in your child when the following auditory and visual processing symptoms occur, and your child is about two years behind in reading. Not all reading problems indicate the presence of dyslexia. Again, there are many opinions, but many special education teachers consider that a child is considered to have “true” (not just auditory) dyslexia when he/she scrambles words and letters visually, auditorily, and in writing and tests two years behind level.

We, of course, would like to intervene before that child is two years behind, by treating the scrambling symptoms. I have found that this can be done quite easily in the home setting. Contact me at craft@ecentral.com to request a free copy of the Quick Word Recognition Test; put only the words “Quick Word Recognition Test” in the subject line. You can easily use this tool to easily and quickly assess your child’s progress throughout the year.

Some symptoms to consider (a child does not need to display all the symptoms to be diagnosed as having dyslexia):

Auditory Processing

1. Difficulty learning the names of alphabet letters when in kindergarten

2. Spelling has no phonetic pattern to it (Tuesday=Tunday)

3. Sounds out all words, including sight words (many, could, these)

4. Poor memory of words just read in a previous sentence in reading

5. Sounds out the letters in a word, but can’t put it into a whole (b-a-t)

6. Memorizes stories but can’t remember same words in another story

 Visual Processing

1. Visually reverses whole words (on=no, was=saw)

2. Regularly reads big for dig

3. Very slow, labored reading (often takes a deep breath)

4. Reading a year and a half or more below grade level

6. Says words when he reads

7. Reads a word from the line above and adds to present line, often

 What Is the Difference Between Dyslexia and Dysgraphia?

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