Sunday, December 17, 2006

Speaking of Dyslexia

Children suffering from dyslexia often diagnosed with other maladies

Imagine learning your alphabet but not being able to make sense of those letters as they combine to make words. Imagine being able to read the words but not able to comprehend the meaning of the sentences. Imagine trying harder yet falling further behind in school each year.

One out of 10 students doesn’t have to imagine. They live this frustration every day. An estimated 10 percent of all students have learning disabilities, most of these affect language processing. October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month so it’s an appropriate time to raise understanding about this disorder.

What is dyslexia? A simple definition is that dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write and spell in your own language despite average or high intelligence and despite exposure to teaching methods that work for almost anyone else.

A research-based definition by the National Institute of Child Health and Human development is that dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

These difficulties typically result from a deficit in phonological component language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do nondyslexics.
Although dyslexia may be the most common specific learning disability, it is not formally identified in schools. Many parents and professionals may be more aware of the attention deficit disorder checklists than one for dyslexia. Many kids are labeled with ADD when, in fact, they are dyslexics.

Parents need to be alert to the possibility of dyslexia so they can help their kids get proper assessment, accommodations and remediation they need. Some common signs and symptoms of dyslexia may include reading that is slow and effortful, especially when reading out loud. There is a tendency to make wild guesses with new words, skipping over small words – like a, an, the – while mixing up orders of letters.
There is a common misconception that dyslexic people see letters and words backwards but, according to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a professor of pediatrics at Yale University School of medicine, that is not the case. There may be some reversals in writing but no more than the other kids. Perceptual skills of what the child does with a word on a page is the problem – making the transition from print to language.

Children with unrecognized dyslexia are mislabeled as inattentive, lazy, careless or slow, but that can be far from the truth. There is a very long list of people who have overcome dyslexia and became successful. Dyslexics are over-represented in creative and inventive fields like arts and architecture or computers and engineering. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Leonardo Da Vinci all exhibited signs and symptoms of dyslexia. Famous and successful people with dyslexia include Charles Schwab, Jack Horner, Winston Churchill, Nelson Rockefeller, and the list goes on.

However, not all people with dyslexia go on to greatness. It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of adjudicated juveniles and adults have been found to have learning disabilities compared with 5 to 10 percent prevalence in the general population.
Learning disabilities increase a child’s risk of delinquency by a staggering 220 percent. Dyslexia is a form a learning disability and our kids who suffer from it must be given proper attention and help.

Early identification and remediation is a crucial key in overcoming dyslexia.
Parents and teachers have a crucial role in identification by recognizing the child’s patterns of difficulties as it relates to dyslexia symptoms. The earlier a child is given the proper help, the easier it is for the child to overcome difficulties in school, and succeed in life.

For more information on dyslexia and other learning disabilities, visit the Web sites Schwablearning and LDOnline.

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