With the return to school and the beginning of the new year, some parents may have received from the teachers the suspicion that your child has dyslexia. Other parents may already suspect it, due to the reading and writing errors that you saw your son or daughter commit, or because of the great difficulties that he or she presented in this area.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized, among other things, by difficulties in decoding written language, thus affecting reading and writing. It is a permanent condition of neurological origin not related to a lack of intellectual capacity, the severity of which can vary from one person to another, or even in the same person over time. It affects 10% of the population (according to the European Dyslexia Association), and it is important to emphasize that it is not a barrier to success: it is corroborated by some celebrities who suffered from it, such as the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, or the Spanish singer-songwriter Pau Donés.
What do I do if I suspect my child has dyslexia?
Some red flags that can indicate that our child has dyslexia are, in younger children, the hereditary factor, difficulties learning the alphabet or memorizing rhymes and songs; and from the age of 5-6 years, difficulty separating a word into syllables, difficulties identifying the first sound of a word, or frequent reading and writing errors, such as letter or word substitutions or ommisions, writing or reading letters in a mirror (b / d, p / q) and lack of reading comprehension. Often, math performance can also be affected.
The first thing we should do when suspecting dyslexia is to talk to our child's tutor to see if these difficulties are simply typical of learning to read and write. If this were not the case, it’s indicated to obtain a professional assessment, in order to obtain a diagnosis and the necessary help, since the sooner the intervention begins, the more it can help them.
The tests to be carried out are: vision and hearing (by your doctor or ophthalmologist), intelligence (by a psychologist), language (by a speech therapist) and a complete battery of academic performance (by a speech therapist). This evaluation will help us to rule out physiological problems; it will compare intellectual capacity with academic performance in reading, writing and mathematics; and if you there are other disorders that may affect literacy, such as attention deficit, or a language delay. The information obtained will be communicated to the school, so that the necessary curricular adaptations can be made.
Who can help my child with dyslexia?
In Spain, the professional in charge of diagnosis and intervention in dyslexia is the speech therapist. During the speech therapy sessions, your child will receive a specialized intervention in reading with a multisensory approach: it will be positive that they work with letters and words visually, audibly and tactilely. Some examples of activities with this approach are tracing a letter in sand while saying its sound, or reading a given word aloud, building this word with letters on wooden tiles, and finally writing this word.
It is important that learning is progressive: first, they must learn the sounds that correspond to each letter, or set of letters (th, oo), then combine these letters into syllables and short words, then apply this knowledge to longer words, and finally, proceed to the reading of texts. It is useless for our child to learn to distinguish if a word is written with "b" or with "v", if he has not learned what sound the letter "b" makes. In English, it’s also very helpful in the reading learning process to memorize high frequency words. All this applies to the learning of literacy in a second language, in which it will also be important, not only that our child knows the sounds of each letter or combination of letters before reading words, but that first they have knowledge of the vocabulary of the words they are learning to read.
Parents can also help in the literacy development of our children. Some activities that we can do are:
- Play "I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter…”
- Play counting how many words you can think of that start with the letter "x".
- Read an age-appropriate book with your child every day. You can talk about what is happening in the story, to also work on reading comprehension; and, when they start to read, you can read a page each to make it more bearable.
- Read and memorize rhymes and songs.
- Build letters or words with clay.
- Play games like “Scrabble”.
- Encourage them to do crosswords or word searches.
Some online resources are:
Progressive Phonics: an all-in-one reading program with read on screen or printable resources, easy, fun and free.
Reading is fundamental: online Reading and writing web with most resources in english and some in Spanish.
Oxford Reading Buddy: a virtual reading service that develops deeper comprehension skills and makes reading fun.
It will be always helpful for our children to feel our support and that we celebrate little advances and efforts. Although the goal of literacy may seem distant or impossible, it is important that they remember that they have us by their side and that success is possible.