Saturday, 19 October 2013

‘Dyslexia has a Wide Spectrum’ by Dyslexia Dublin CETC ©2013

One often hears psychologists and others referring to the child/adult as having ‘dyslexic tendencies’.  What does this mean and how can we keep an eye on or manage this learning need?
 Dyslexia, along with many other specific learning needs, is not a one size fits all (spectrum).  It can vary greatly from those that struggle with B’s and D’s, to those that have letter reversals and the sounds that we hear from letters or groups of letters (phonemes, graphemes).
It is thought that early learning helps to avoid dyslexia.  It will give you some indicators that children are not hitting spelling and reading milestones, however it’s through a multi-sensory learning approach that benefits dyslexics and not the entry point of that learning.

Most children will learn if given the opportunity and presented in their preferred learning style.
Language is a vital part of helping those that have dyslexia… this is time consuming, but so worthwhile.  We need to spend a few hours a day in direct face to face language sessions with our toddlers at the predicted milestone, or the minute they attempt to form early sounds/words.
Any delays in hitting these milestones could point to possible presence of language impairment and/or dyslexia.  Further indications as they progress in reading/spelling/speech could be missing out letters… this can be because they are too difficult or the child is not hearing, or able, to make that particular sound, eg. ‘ bagetti’ instead of ‘spaghetti’,  ‘fog’ instead of ‘frog’.
As children progress they can overcome certain words through repetition and eventually many words will be stored in their long term memory; however, certain letter sounds may plague them for a very long time.  You could find that as a result, they start throwing in random words during reading or in conversation.  Phonological awareness is so important and by changing one letter we can bring in a new word like dog and fog!.
It is really important that you spend time listening to your child read, preferably alongside them or behind them.  When they get to certain words or the end of a paragraph, stop them and check their comprehension of certain words… this will help with sentence building and improve their conversation.  This will also cut down on the use of random words being used.
As children progress new challenges will naturally occur, like reading out loud in class and taking work down from the whiteboard.  The early use of multi-sensory intervention will help this, as your children will have had a greater understanding of letters and letter sounds and this will allow them to build new words, or understand new words in conversation.  Encourage the use of a dictionary/thesaurus at this point, as seeing the definition will help retention.
The English language is by far one of the hardest languages to learn and would have one of the highest rates of dyslexia per capita.  This starts to become more evident as children in Primary/infants move away from single syllable to multi syllable words and we introduce graphemes (one or more letters that make one sound).  Many children spell how they hear or speak, so ‘should’ becomes  ‘shud’ or ‘cough’ becomes ‘cof’ or ‘coff’.  Much work will be needed in this area to move on and again, if we use a good multi-sensory intervention programme that shows these unique sounds of the grouped words, they will progress quite well.
It is no harm to check their reading speed at certain points throughout the year and this will alert you to problems very quickly.  Around 1st class/junior they should be reading on average 80-100 words, rising to 220-250 by the time they are starting 6th class/senior school.
When they start senior school, keep an eye open for problems when a new subject is introduced, like a language or a technical subject like home economics, engineering or the sciences, as many words require a different technique.
What about writing speed as they get older?... slow speed is quite often down to poor spelling or a weak short term memory.  It’s important to introduce memory games and also for you to play alongside, these can be like the ‘BrainBox’ games… very subject specific.  This will also improve their assignment writing skills.
We are seeing fewer cases of people leaving school without being identified and those that are and go on to third level are picked up by the excellent tracking and support in third level.
Many adults that left school at a similar time to myself, didn’t have the opportunities that modern teaching/learning resources or diagnosis have, and will struggle.  It’s quite difficult for them to seek help and also denies them the chance to take up adult evening courses, etc.  We find that they seek out centres like ours, 1: because there is anonymity and 2: they are amongst others who have struggled through their education and early adult life and have also become adept at substituting a difficult word with an easier one.  Dyslexia also causes problems with organisation and planning, although many have excellent long term memories that they can use as a crutch and to get out of occasional tight spots.
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