What is dyslexia? | VailDaily.com

What is dyslexia?

Megan Potente
Vail, CO, Colorado

“Some people … being grown, forget the horrible task of learning to read. It is perhaps the greatest single effort that the human undertakes, and he must do it as a child . … (It is) the reduction of experience to a set of symbols.” John Steinbeck

Most people take the act of reading for granted. Many children learn to map sounds to letters and decode words with relative ease; some fly through chapter books as though making sense of letters on a page were as natural as walking.

But for a substantial minority of children, learning to read will prove to be one of the most cognitively challenging tasks they will ever attempt. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 15 percent of people in the United States have dyslexia.

For these individuals, learning to read can be incredibly difficult.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a type of learning disability in which individuals struggle with learning to read and understand written language. Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and is not due to lack of intelligence or desire to learn. Experts don’t completely understand what causes dyslexia, but brain imagery studies show that the brain of an un-remediated dyslexic processes information in a different part of the brain than someone without dyslexia.

What are common characteristics of dyslexia?

A common misconception about dyslexia is that letters appear reversed. Making letter reversals when writing may be one sign of dyslexia, but this problem is common among young children who are not dyslexic. Characteristics of individuals with dyslexia include the following:

n Family history of reading struggles.

n Difficulty learning to talk.

n Difficulty learning letters and their sounds.

n Difficulty organizing written and spoken language.

n Reading and spelling below grade level.

n A lack of fluency while reading.

n A dislike or avoidance of reading.

I think my child could have dyslexia. What do I do?

As a parent, you are the best advocate for your child; if you suspect a problem, get it checked out. While some kids develop more slowly than others, reading problems are usually not due to a developmental lag. Children with a family history and/or speech and language delays are at high risk and their reading development should be monitored closely. Studies indicate that early intervention and appropriate instruction are critical to helping dyslexics achieve success in school.

Research supports reading instruction for individuals with dyslexia that teaches the letter-sound system of our language systematically and explicitly. Many children with dyslexia need extra support outside of school from a tutor or educational therapist.

Screening measures may identify early indicators of dyslexia in children as young as five. For a formal diagnosis, a comprehensive evaluation needs to be conducted by a psychologist or qualified learning specialist, either through the school system or by a private practitioner.

What is the position of the schools regarding dyslexia?

The public schools here in Eagle County are currently implementing a model called RTI, or Response to Intervention, designed to better meet the needs of children who struggle in reading.

In addition, recent state legislation supports raised awareness and treatment of dyslexia. On May 27, Gov.Ritter signed House Bill 1223 into law. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Education to develop training for school personnel in awareness, identification, evidenced-based progress monitoring and scientifically-based interventions to address the needs of students with literacy challenges, including dyslexia. The bill is the first in the state’s history to provide help for students specifically identified as dyslexic.

More information about dyslexia and House Bill 1223 can be found at the following Web sites:

n The International Dyslexia Association, Rocky Mountain Branch: http://www.dyslexia-rmbida.org

n The International Dyslexia Association: http://www.interdys.org

Megan Potente, M.Ed., is an educational therapist in private practice in Eagle. She holds a special education teaching credential and is a graduate of the Educational Therapy Certificate Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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