Living with dyslexia

Lexicon Reading Center director on the challenges of dyslexia


Rudolf Stockling, Clinical Director of Lexicon Reading Center talks about dyslexia and what it means for your child long-term.

An estimated five per cent of children around the world have some form of dyslexia and associated dysgraphia, which are the most common learning disorders, affecting 80 per cent of kids with learning difficulties (LD). Children with the disorder typically experience a difficulty to learn to read and write with traditional methods of instruction. The difficulty is due to a phonological processing impairment that affects the ability to associate letters with sounds in reading and segment words into individual sounds for writing. This difficulty exists despite average or above-average intelligence.

The severity of dyslexia can vary from mild to severe, and the sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. Research has shown that Dyslexia has a strong hereditary component. Visual perceptual problems can add to the difficulty, but they are not the cause of dyslexia. Dyslexia, like most language related difficulties, is more common among boys than girls and its symptoms often persist throughout a child’s life into adulthood.

Dyslexia must not to be associated with a lack of intelligence or motivation. Many children and adults with dyslexia are highly creative, and have many cognitive and emotional strengths despite a weakness in decoding words. Children and adults with dyslexia often find alternative ways of gathering knowledge and innovate strategies to learn, work, and achieve in life. They are, however, able to learn to read and write when taught through direct, systematic, and individualized instruction in reading and spelling.

The conventional education system is not always ideally placed to teach children with LD. Studies have shown that students with LD may be prone to being more poorly accepted by their peers, at greater risk for social alienation from teachers and classmates, less frequently selected to play or join in group activities, and more willing to conform to peer pressure. As a result, it could impact self-esteem, often resulting in frustration or volatile behaviour.

Besides teaching these students to read and write in a manner appropriate for their difficulty, specific assistive technologies (text to speech and speech to text) can aid in school and work. These help individual strengths come to light and focus on providing the necessary support to overcome the condition and realise the potential to succeed.

1. How do I know if my child is dyslexic?
Although dyslexia often is not detected until elementary school, characteristics such as slow language processing speed, lack of concentration, forgetfulness of words and difficulty in following instructions become prevalent can be associated with the condition and identified as early as pre-school years.

2. What signs should I be looking out for?
• Difficulty with reading, writing and spelling
• Learning to talk late
• Trouble with learning a foreign language
• Poor handwriting
• Problem with pronunciation
• Inability to connect letters with corresponding sounds
• Inability to follow a sequence of direction such as distinguishing right from left
• Poor short and long term memory particularly numbers, order of alphabets and colours
• Difficulty rhyming words

3. How will dyslexia effect my child in the long term?
If untreated at the right time, a learning disadvantage could leave your could unable to keep up with the academic standards of their peers. A shorter concentration span and mental struggle with understanding words could result in conditions like Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The right treatment can prevent social problems that lead to anxiety, aggression and withdrawal from society.

4. How do I deal with it?
It is important to remember that dyslexia is not a disease, but a condition that makes aspects of learning difficult for your child. It does not mean that they lack intelligence or the capability to succeed. It is advisable that you learn more about dyslexia so you can help your child overcome their difficulties. It would be helpful to recognise your child’s limitations and understand their strengths to ensure that they are not pressurised for underachieving in certain areas.

5. What is the best way of dealing with it?
Take the initiative to consistently read with your child so that they might attain basic reading skills and encourage them to enjoy the activity. Work with them on their spelling to encourage writing in a non-tedious manner and point out their mistakes in a way that does not discourage them. Games and songs that emphasise rhyming and alliteration can help differentiate the sounds within words. Perhaps most importantly, acquire the services of a tutor who is specialised in helping dyslexic kids overcome their difficulties and learn to read, spell and write.

6. What are the recommended practices of teaching children with learning disabilities?
Lexicon Reading Centre prescribes Simultaneous Multisensory Structured Language teaching which is used by clinically trained teachers worldwide and has proven to be one of the most effective approaches to help students with literary difficulties. It uses visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic-tactile pathways to contribute to the systematic development of literacy skills.

Individualised Schooling (Homeschooling) is another alternative to conventional schooling. However, while schools have the secondary function of teaching children how to successfully participate socially in society, there are clear academic advantages of individualised schooling for children with learning disabilities. On the other hand, there is a legitimate concern about the social impact of individualised instruction. It is for this reason that any decision about individualised instruction has to be carefully evaluated.

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