As a parent you’ve undoubtedly heard the educational doomsday forecast that ‘if your child is not reading on grade level by the fourth grade, he/she will have a 75% chance of never reaching grade level reading skills.’ Great! Your child seems to be struggling with reading so now you have one more thing, (along with the West Nile Virus), to keep you awake at night!
The important information to discover is whether he has a reading delay or true dyslexia. A reading delay means he’s just missed some of the strategies such as phonics or word attack skills and that with early help, those skills will come. It’s a matter of filling in the gaps. Getting tutoring. Dyslexia is much different.
Dyslexia is a complex learning difficulty because it varies from individual to individual. In general it is a specific type of learning difficulty where a person of normal intelligence has persistent and significant problems with reading, writing, spelling and, sometimes, mathematics. The person may be extremely creative, think laterally and have excellent problem-solving skills or artistic skills. It may be helpful to think of dyslexia as an information processing difficulty.
Margaret Livingstone, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School and the Dyslexia Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Hospital in Boston defined dyslexia as follows: "Developmental dyslexia is the selective impairment of reading skills despite normal intelligence, sensory acuity, and instruction. Several perceptual studies have suggested that dyslexic subjects process visual information more slowly than normal subjects. Such visual abnormalities were reported to be mmfound in more than 75% of the reading-disabled children tested." Therefore, it is important to rule out problems with sensory acuity (including visual acuity and visual processing) before labeling an individual as truly dyslexic.
Where can I find someone to diagnose Dyslexia?
Not everyone is trained in diagnosing and treating Dyslexia and there is not just one test, it requires a battery of testing to determine if a child has dyslexia or other processing disorders. SCREENING is not a valid way to determine if some has dyslexia.
Remember to first rule out whether or not your child needs glasses or whether or not he has a visual perceptual problem like the Irlen Syndrome. (For more information on this Irlen Syndrome, see the article under visual processessing disorders on this website.
Research reveals several important points about when to have your child evaluated:
- Parents report waiting too long to get testing for their child because they believed their child just had a ‘developmental lag.’
- There is a crucial ‘window of opportunity’ for identification which is during the first couple of years in school.
- The National Institute of Health states “that 95% of poor readers can be brought up to grade level if they receive effective, early help.”
- Older children can be diagnosed and helped as well; it just takes a more intensive, longer program to accomplish the same thing.
- The most effective reading program must include intensive instruction in at least these areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies
Our diagnostic battery of tests uses nationally recognized standardized testing and takes about three hours to complete
Once your child is diagnosed it’s important to help him understand that now that the problem is known, he can start getting help. Let him realize that 20 million school-age children suffer from reading problems as he does, but that only a small fraction can get help like he will receive. Dyslexia often runs in families and I think that by explaining that other family members have this reading problem, too, your child understands that the situation isn’t hopeless. Keeping self-esteem high is important.