What does dyslexia mean?

Dyslexia means difficulty with words. It affects reading, spelling, writing, memory and concentration, and sometimes maths, music, foreign languages and self-organisation.

The key feature of dyslexia is that the child with dyslexia has normal intelligence. Research shows that at least three times as many boys as girls need additional teaching for dyslexia. It can accompany, but is not a result of lack of motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or limited opportunities.

The effects of dyslexia can be eased by skilled specialist teaching and committed learning. Many dyslexic people have visual and spatial abilities that enable them to be successful in a wide range of careers.

What causes dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a congenital and developmental condition. Its cause has not been fully confirmed but the effect is to create what are called neurological anomalies in the brain. These anomalies bring about varying degrees of difficulty in learning when using words, and sometimes symbols.

What are the signs?

About 60% of dyslexic people have phonological difficulties - ie, they find it difficult to sort out the sounds within words. This means that they have problems with reading, writing and spelling. The majority of dyslexic children have difficulty with language, memory and sequencing processes of basic maths.

Pre-school signs

  • Family history of dyslexia problems.
  • Later than expected learning to speak clearly.
  • Jumbled phrases.
  • Quick 'thinker' and 'do-er'.
  • Use of substitute words or 'near misses'.
  • Mislabelling - eg, lampshade for lamp post.
  • A lisp.
  • Inability to remember the label for known objects - eg, colours.
  • Confused directional words - eg, 'up/down' or 'in/out'.
  • Excessive tripping, bumping and falling over nothing.
  • Enhanced creativity - often good at drawing and good sense of colour.
  • Obvious 'good' and 'bad' days for no apparent reason.
  • Aptitude for constructional or technical toys - eg, bricks, puzzles, lego, blocks, control box for TV and video, computer keyboards.
  • Enjoys being read to but shows no interest in letters or words.
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes.
  • Finds difficulty with rhyming words - eg, 'cat mat fat'.
  • Finds difficulty with odd-one-out - eg, 'cat mat pig fat'.
  • Did not crawl.
  • Difficulty with 'sequence' - eg, coloured bead sequence.
  • Appears 'bright' yet seems an enigma.

For children of 9 or under

  • Particular difficulty learning to read and write.
  • Persistent and continued reversing of numbers and letters - eg, '15' for 51, 'b' for 'd').
  • Difficulty telling left from right.
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet and multiplication tables, and remembering sequences such as the days of the week and months of the year.
  • Continued difficulty with shoelaces, ball-catching, skipping etc.
  • Inattention and poor concentration.
  • Frustration, possibly leading to behavioural problems.

For children of 9-12

  • Continued mistakes in reading, or a lack of reading comprehension.
  • Strange spelling, perhaps with letters missed out or in the wrong order.
  • Taking an above average time over written work.
  • Disorganisation at home and at school.
  • Difficulty copying accurately from blackboard or textbook.
  • Difficulty taking down oral instructions.
  • Growing lack of self-confidence and increasing frustration.

For children of 12 and over

  • Tendency to read inaccurately, or without comprehension.
  • Inconsistent spelling.
  • Difficulty with planning and written essays.
  • Tendency to confuse verbal instructions and telephone numbers.
  • Severe difficulty with learning a foreign language.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty with perception of language - eg, following instructions, listening comprehension.

Can dyslexia be cured?

Each dyslexic person's difficulties are different and vary from slight to very severe disruption of the learning process. There is no total cure but skilled specialist teaching can alleviate the effects of dyslexia and learning programmes.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Recognise the signs early.
  • Learn as much as you can about dyslexia. If you are concerned that dyslexia may be the problem, talk to your child's teacher.

Most importantly, make sure that your child is given appropriate specialist teaching to enable him/her to cope in the normal classroom. Your child may need individual specialist teaching for between one to three hours per week depending on the degree of difficulty. This type of teaching has been found to be the most effective in helping a dyslexic child to flourish in the normal classroom and you should insist on it.

  • Reassure your child that their difficulties are not their fault and build up damaged confidence and self-esteem.
  • Praise your child for their effort - remember how hard he/she has to try to achieve success in reading and writing.
  • Support your child when he/she is doing homework.
  • Help your child to be organised.
  • Encourage hobbies, interests and out-of-school activities.

If you are concerned that your child may have dyslexia, contact the Association of Children with Learning Difficulties (ACLD) for advice. The group has branches nationwide. The contact points are:

ACLD, Suffolk Chambers, 1 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2. Phone: 01-6790276 Fax: 01-6790273.

Another useful contact is the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester. http://www.inpp.org.uk

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