Understanding this Common Learning Disability
Dealing with Dyslexia
Although dyslexia is a lifelong disorder, individuals with the condition frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate intervention.
“My second grader reads okay, but she’s terrible at spelling,” says Dorothy Carlinsky, a Texas mother of three. “According to what I’ve read so far, she has many of the warning signs of dyslexia, but the school says she can’t be dyslexic because she can read.”
Not completely true, says Brian Cato, a remedial teacher from Newark, Ohio. “Most children with dyslexia can read, but they rarely make it to the fourth-grade reading level because they’re reading in a very different way from the rest of us,” he explains. “They are not reading by sounding out the words. Instead, they are reading by memorizing the shapes of words and guessing based on pictures and context. So, of course they’re getting poor reading comprehension scores. They read too slowly and inaccurately.”
The IDA proposes several compensatory strategies that provide ways for the child to get around the effects of dyslexia. These include audio taping lectures or texts, using flashcards to learn new things, positioning the child in the front of the classroom to better observe his teacher, and using a computer with spelling and grammar checks. “Many dyslexic students need one-on-one help so that they can move forward at their own pace,” says Dr. Lissa Weinstein, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department of the City College of New York and herself a parent of a dyslexic child. “It is therefore helpful if these students’ outside academic therapists work closely with their classroom teachers.”
The Gifted Side of Dyslexia
“Even if your child is doing poorly in school, never think it means he or she is stupid,” says Dr. Shaywitz.
Reading ability has been often associated with intelligence, and one might expect a dyslexic to have difficulty in higher-level thinking—such as the semantics, syntax, and discourse part of the language system. “In reality, for the dyslexic, it is reversed,” Dr. Shaywitz explains. “The difficulty is in the phonological area. If you can’t identify the word, you can’t get to the meaning, so often the dyslexic will use content to guess the word.
Because a student with dyslexia, even with appropriate intervention, often finds school a struggle, the development of his healthy self-image is at risk. “Parents are well advised to focus on activities which the child may find easier and at which he may even excel, such as sports, hobbies, music, art or drama,” suggests Dr. Susan Stine, Medical Coordinator of the Neurofibromatosis Program at Kalfred I. Du Pont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. “Dyslexia often provides that extra drive, that spark of creativity that comes from developing different ways of thinking and working around a system.”
“Dyslexics [are] amongst the highest level [of] conceptualizers,” says Dr. Shaywitz. “They are often highly accomplished and become leaders in science, medicine, and law—among other professions. So, far from being stupid, they’re actually highly gifted people.”
Albert Einstein, Carl Lewis, Jewel, Magic Johnson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison, Henry Winkler, Tom Cruise, and Winston Churchill provide proof that even with a learning disorder such as dyslexia, your child can go on to be a thinker, philosopher, athlete, actor, singer—the possibilities are endless. So parents of dyslexic children take heart—with love and support, your child can also overcome dyslexia and become a super achiever in her lifetime.
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