Ah, October! The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are falling, and people are ready to get cozy. One of the many cozy things people like to do is snuggle up and read. Well, speaking of reading, guess what else October represents? Dyslexia Awareness month! Yes, this month is a great time to educate yourself about dyslexia, widely known as the “reading disability,” and to take a moment to learn what it is and how it affects millions, specifically our 1 in 5!
What is dyslexia?
Let’s start from the bottom of the matter: What is dyslexia? It isn’t an intelligence problem, nor is it related to hearing or sight. It is a language processing disorder. Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder caused by crossed wiring in the brain, which causes difficulty reading. Essentially what this crossed wiring does is it makes it hard to match up the letters on the page with the sounds that they make (also known as decoding), and that can make it difficult to impossible to learn to read, hence why it is considered a learning disorder. It also tends to run in families, so know your family health history.
Some symptoms of dyslexia in your child (we’ll start from school age, as that is when it’s most likely to be noticed) can be things like problems processing things that are said, reading below their expected level, issues seeing/hearing similarities and differences in letters or words, or taking a remarkably long time to do tasks related to reading and writing.
If left untreated, dyslexia can cause trouble for someone in the long run. It causes difficulties with learning because reading and writing are at the foundations of most schooling. Individuals find themselves at a disadvantage in school and in classrooms. It can cause social issues from feeling left out, creating low self-esteem, anxiety, behavioral issues, etc. If it goes on into adulthood, individuals may never be able to reach their full potential, which can have long-term negative effects on many areas throughout their lives.
Around 20% of people worldwide have dyslexia, and that group makes up roughly 80% of all people with learning disabilities. It is far more common than people think, so chances are that you know someone with it. Before you ask the question, no there is not a cure for dyslexia. However, that doesn’t mean that kids or adults diagnosed with dyslexia can’t find their way to success.
How to Work Around Dyslexia
One of the keys to overcoming dyslexia is early intervention. The earlier you can get formally diagnosed, the easier it will be to overcome. Usually, the first people to really notice that your child may be struggling might be their teachers. They are the ones trying to teach your child the necessary foundational reading skills, and they’re learning what to look for. You should also keep an eye on their progress at home. As soon as you start to notice the signs, set up a time to talk with your child’s healthcare/education provider to see if that is in fact what’s going on.
Once diagnosed, the next step is learning the proven scientific-based strategies to work alongside their dyslexia. One of the steps to implement is getting solid foundational phonological awareness and phonics instruction. You can use repetition and review, drilling sight words, teaching comprehension strategies, and even using multi-sensory learning to teach decoding skills. There is also the use of accommodations in classes. Depending on the level of dyslexia, you may also want to look into small group or individual learning time, with a higher intensity. The goal is basically to make your child more comfortable with reading. Celebrate their learning process and their wins, no matter how small. This will encourage them to continue progressing towards their full potential and embracing their Dyslexia Superpower!
Those with dyslexia may face difficulties in the beginning, and they will have to try hard every day to push forward and succeed in life. Dyslexics can make their way as high up in the food chain of life as they choose, providing that they put in the work. Start teaching young using “first good instruction”, and make sure that you are supporting the dyslexic person in your life with encouragement, showing them their strengths, and making sure that they have all of the learning supports that they need!