What is Dyslexia and who can evaluate my child for it?

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Question of the month: What is Dyslexia and who can evaluate my child for it?

Answer: October is also Dyslexia Awareness Month. Did you know Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 people? Discovered more than 100 years ago by Dr. Berlin, those with Dyslexia often process written and spoken information differently. Dyslexia is a specific Learning Disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity of this very specific disability varies by individual but can affect several areas including reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, spelling, writing, and sometimes even with speech.

Typically, psycho-educational batteries are used to determine patterns of strength and patterns of weakness. Who can administer these assessments? Professional clinicians who assess Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and Dyslexia may have M.A., M.S., M.Ed., Ed.D., or Ph.D. degrees in Education, Reading, Speech Language Pathology, School Psychology, Psychology, or Neuropsychology. According to the International Dyslexia Association, the areas recommended through individual testing should include the following:

• Phonological Awareness – an individual’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of his/her oral language
• Phonological or Language-Based Memory – ability to recall sounds, syllables, words
• Rapid Automatic Naming – speed of naming objects, colors, digits, or letters
• Receptive Vocabulary – understanding of words heard
• Phonics Skills – understanding of the symbol (letter) to the sound(s) relationship, either individually or in combination with other letters
• Decoding –ability to use symbol-sound associations to identify (read and pronounce) words
• Oral Reading Fluency – ability to read accurately, at a story-telling pace to facilitate and support comprehension on the single word, sentence and paragraph level
• Spelling
• Writing

Some of the signs and symptoms might include:

• Losing your place while reading
• Misreading as well as extremely slow reading
• Mishearing one word for another (ie specific for pacific)
• Left and right confusion
• Limited comprehension
• Difficulty when writing with finding the right words, organizing ideas and forgetting punctuation
• Difficulty remembering sequences like phone numbers, the alphabet, or the days of the week and months of the year
• Difficulty recalling names, finishing on time and staying focussed
• Challenges with learning a foreign language
• Inaccurate copying and/or mixing up letters
• Difficulty spelling
• Number and letter reversals
• A gap between listening comprehension and reading comprehension often exists
• Decreased working memory (difficulty storing and remembering more than 3 pieces of information)
• Decreased processing speed, whether in reading, writing or completing homework tasks

Many people who have been diagnosed with Dyslexia often have average to superior intelligence and are frequently found to have amazingly creative skill sets. Many successful entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires have been diagnosed with Dyslexia including Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Leonardo daVinci, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill just to name a few. Wondering what a few of the positives are???

• Leadership skills—seeing the bigger picture
• Thinking outside the box with unusual ideas and angles
• Excellent spatial awareness and understanding making for skilled architects and builders
• Increased creativity necessary for poets, musicians, writers and actors
• Strong visual thinking skills making for excellent problem solving abilities

There are a myriad strategies to assist specifically in the classroom and beyond such as providing a quiet area for reading and answering comprehension questions, use of books on tape or books with large print, multisensory teaching methods, chunking information into small, manageable units, use of “picture thinking”, mnemonic memory strategies and use of rhyming words to help with spelling, and allowance of alternative forms for book reports or the ability to use a computer for in-class essays and lecture notes.

Focusing on ABILITY rather than DISability may very well be the most important intention we can have and share. For more information and further guidance, reach out to our experienced clinicians and consider these valuable resources:

1. Learning Disabilities Association of America
2. International Dyslexia Association
3. Lindamood-Bell Learning Outcomes
4. National Institute for Learning Development

— Anne Toolajian, MA, CCC-SLP

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