Not all children with literacy difficulties have dyslexia. Some children just need extra practice or a more structured approach. Others have just lost confidence.
Dyslexia is a common term for children who have a specific language based difficulty with literacy. It can influence reading, spelling and writing skills.
Research scientists are starting to determine that it appears far more widespread than was initially thought.
Official statistics are unclear in Australia, however, based on the USA, dyslexia is estimated to be influencing 3.5% of the population. If those figures are extrapolated to Australia with a population of 23 million people, then there are 800,000 people with dyslexia.
Dyslexia can be confusing to pinpoint because other cognitive or thinking skills can be strong. Pure dyslexia is not related to intellect.
Before beginning diagnosis, it is suggested parents try working on your child’s learning with a speech pathologist, or a literacy specialist. Literacy specialists in Australia must be highly trained in reading, writing and spelling and usually trained in MSL (Multi-Sensory Learning) which is sometimes called Orton-Gillingham because these two specialists created the methods. If after working with a literacy specialist your child still struggles, or you feel you need a diagnosis for your own peace of mind, then an educational or clinical psychologist specialising in dyslexia can diagnose. At present in Australia intelligence weaknesses need to be ruled out before assessing for dyslexia.
The exact cause is not currently known, but scientists are now concluding it is a neurobiological issue where the actual structure of the brain appears to be different in a child with dyslexia. In other words dyslexia is something children are born with and becomes evident as they mature and literacy becomes more difficult.
The most important step is to begin to support your child. Although diagnosis can be important, it is more important to begin working on your child’s difficulties in reading, spelling or writing.
Literacy difficulties are on a continuum from mild to severe. Whether your child has a literacy weakness, or dyslexia, they can improve and learn to read, spell and write. The extent and speed of improvement will depend on how severe the difficulties are. This will all be discussed in the initial assessment.
There is not always a clear-cut answer to this question but typically from year 2 at school dyslexic issues become more evident.
The difference is dyslexic issues may need more structure and repetition.
It is essential to first understand the causes of the literacy difficulties that your child is experiencing or what knowledge they lack. Typically sounds are taught carefully and with high levels of structure, one sound or one sound group at a time, rather than exposing your child to various sounds which can be distressing and confusing.
Once your child knows the sounds they can be introduced into words and finally sentences.
If your child knows some sounds, then gaps will be carefully filled to ensure they understand the essential sounds to be able to read and spell. Precious resources should not be used to teach skills your child already has as this can cause frustration.
As your child is taught, they will use multiple senses to support their learning. These different senses are visual auditory and kinaesthetic (feeling) and provide children with different ways to remember the concepts.
Associated difficulties must also be understood and targeted. These associated difficulties can slow learning of literacy or contribute to your child’s reading difficulties.
Repetition is one of the most important factors. Some children will need to be exposed to a basic sound 10, 50 or even 100 times before it is learnt and becomes automatic.
When researching children's dyslexia it can be confusing and potentially frightening. The aim is to explain the types simply for you.
Dyslexia can result in mistakes when reading out words which slows the pace of reading and reduces fluency. Children will then often have difficulty understanding what they have read and don’t enjoy reading.
A child of average or superior intelligence can be diagnosed with dyslexia.
There are two main types:
This type of dyslexia is most common and is typically what people are referring to when discussing dyslexia.
Phonological dyslexia means that children have difficulty with sounds. Sounds are throughout spoken language and while a child may have learnt them when someone is speaking or they are speaking, difficulties occur when they are in print and words. As children with dyslexia are learning sounds, they have difficulty perceiving and remembering them. As a result, children may take a long time learning their first sounds or putting the sounds together when reading or spelling words.
Children will have difficulty remembering whole words that are irregular. When an irregular word such as ‘what’ is presented they will try to sound it out. Some scientists consider they struggle to form or recall the word from their visual memory.
Children can have both types of dyslexia and this is not unusual.
Step 1: You will be asked to complete a history form. This form will ask you as a parent to share your observations related to your child’s literacy. There will be a checklist, which will include numerous reading behaviours such as the following:
Step 2: During the assessment John will review your child’s history form to discuss what assessment he is proposing. Your child can be a part of this process if appropriate or younger children can relax in the waiting room.
Step 3: After this John will carry out the assessment with your child where he will consider the following areas:
Step 4: All results will be discussed and explained with parents and your child where appropriate.
Step 5: A support and treatment plan will be discussed.
While not all children who have reading and spelling difficulties have dyslexia, it is important for children with literacy weaknesses to have a more structured approach.Children with dyslexia will need more structure and more support to learn the sounds and English rules that support reading skills.If your child is approaching the end of year 1 and you are worried their literacy is not progressing, or their teacher keeps raising concerns, please seek support.