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Dyslexia in Children


What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes decoding problems with reading. Decoding means breaking words down into what they mean. A learning disability means your child has trouble with an academic skill even though tests show he is intelligent. Dyslexia is caused by the way your child's brain developed before he was born. The parts of the brain that handle language do not develop as they should. Other parts of the brain, such as the parts that control hands-on skills, may develop especially well.

What are the signs and symptoms of dyslexia?

  • Trouble spelling words
  • Delays in learning the alphabet
  • Not being able to hear sounds that are part of a word
  • Trouble pronouncing written words, especially words such as pint and mint that do not rhyme but are spelled alike
  • Struggles in expressing thoughts verbally or recalling words to say
  • Not knowing left from right, how to tell time, or how to follow directions
  • Trouble remembering new vocabulary words or numbers written in sequence, such as a phone number
  • Mixing up the order of letters when writing words
  • Leaving out words in a sentence or letters in a word when writing or reading

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

Your child's teachers may suspect your child has dyslexia from his homework and test scores. He may avoid reading out loud in class or writing answers on the board. He may not be able to answer questions about work read at home or in the classroom. He may not want to read another student's writing in class or do group writing assignments. Healthcare providers will give your child reading, writing, and vocabulary tests to find problems that may mean he has dyslexia. For example, your child may be given syllables and asked to create words out of the syllables. He may also be asked to repeat a list of words to test how well he hears sounds that are part of a word.

How is dyslexia managed?

  • Learning specialists such as tutors and speech therapists can teach your child in a way that makes sense to him. Children with dyslexia often have strong hands-on skills, such as building objects. Specialists can help your child learn vocabulary words through hands-on games and puzzles. Your child may be shown a letter of the alphabet and asked what sound it makes or what words start with the letter. He may be asked to write the letter in the air or on paper while he says the letter out loud.
  • Electronic devices include computer programs that type what your child says, or that read print out loud. Many libraries carry books on tape. Your child may also be able to request his textbooks to be read onto a tape. Your older child may be able to record a class and listen to it later. He may be able to take notes on a laptop. These methods can help him focus on the information so he does not lose focus trying to spell each word correctly.
  • An individualized education program (IEP) may be used through high school graduation. The IEP identifies your child's learning needs and helps his teachers understand how to help him learn. His plan may include a person who takes notes for him during class. The IEP may help your child build skills he will need after high school. He may be able to use other accommodations in college to help him continue to succeed. Examples include verbal instead of written exams, or tests that are not timed.

What can I do to help support my child?

  • Always encourage your child. Reading may be tiring for him, and he may lose focus quickly. Praise him for reading, even if it is only for a few minutes. A few minutes at a time will help build his confidence and prevent fatigue. Encourage him to take short breaks but always come back to the homework and finish. You may feel frustrated if your child takes a long time to write or read an assignment. Do not tell him reading and writing are easy or that it should not take so long to finish. These types of comments may make him feel anxious or ashamed about having trouble.
  • Read often with your child. Read stories with your child every night before bed. Have him sit where he can see the words as you read them out loud. Point at words as you read them. Tell him the meaning of new words. Then have him tell you what the words mean. Context and repetition will help him remember new words more easily. Ask him to tell you what he thinks will happen next in the story, and to name items pictured on the page. This will help him with word recall and story comprehension.
    Read with Your Child
  • Encourage your older child to read to you. Be positive and try not to tell him words if he hesitates. He may need to sound out the word slowly and carefully. After he reads a page, ask him to tell you what he read and what he thinks will come next.
  • Help your child read outside of school and home. For example, read road signs as you drive by them. Road signs often include pictures that can help your child understand the words and remember them. Have your child tell you the company name that goes with a logo he knows. These activities will help him understand that reading skills are not just important for school.
  • Focus on your child's strengths. Your child may feel his problems with reading mean he is not good at anything. Help him understand that reading is only one of many skills a person can have. Children with dyslexia are often creative. Let your child tell you about his interests, and help him build confidence in his abilities. He may also be more willing to work on his reading skills if he feels confident about other skills.
  • Do not focus on grades. Praise improvement, such as an improved test score or more points for completed homework. It is okay to praise a good grade on an assignment or test, but do not make grades the goal.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.