“Don’t worry Mom, I’ll never learn my letters. I’ll just stay home with you and play with My Little Ponies.”
Even my 4 year old at the time could sense my frustration with her inability to learn letters. I couldn’t understand why did my youngest daughter could not pick up what the other 3 had learned so easily. She could write her name JULIA but when I asked her which letter was the L, she had no clue. It was baffling to me and it took years and lots of research before I learned that she had dyslexia, a common learning disability or “learning difference” that affects 15%-20% of people, yet is not often taught or even discussed in education.
Isn’t dyslexia just flipping letters?
Dyslexia is much more than reversing letters. It is a difference in the way people learn language that can actually be seen on MRI. This difference in brain circuitry causes difficulty in learning to read, write, spell and sometimes speak in people of normal to above average intelligence and is often hereditary.
It is not a cognitive problem meaning, people with dyslexia are not “ slow” or “lazy” and in fact some of the most brilliant and creative people are dyslexic.
Math genius Albert Einstein, inventor Thomas Edison, business people like Richard Branson, statesmen like Winston Churchill and John Kennedy, military leaders like George Patton, sports heroes Muhammad Ali, musicians like John Lennon, actors like Anthony Hopkins, authors like Agatha Christie and designers like Walt Disney are just a few amazing dyslexics.
A teacher sent the following note home with a six-year-old boy: “He is too stupid to learn.” That boy was Thomas A. Edison”.
– Thomas Edison
Click for more quotes from famous dyslexic people.
It was very difficult and frustrating to figure out that my daughter was dyslexic and I missed some of the early warning signs. Had she not been my youngest and I knew how my older twins struggled with reading, would I have thought that I should be persistent in getting a diagnosis and her help.
Early Warning Signs
1. Delayed Talking
Anytime there is a delay in speech, parents should take notice of other possible problems. Don’t wait it out or make excuses. If your child has not spoken 5 words or not talking at all by 18 months, talk to your pediatrician and seek referral to a speech and language pathologist.
I used excuses, “She’s the youngest so everyone talks for her,” or with the boys, “They are twins, they have their own language.”
2. Trouble with the Alphabet
Trouble learning the alphabet, difficulty recognizing letters, remembering the names and sounds of letters are all signs of dyslexia. No matter how many times we did flashcards to learn letters, my daughter could just not get it. The preschool said, “She pays attention and is well socialized, so she is fine.” Dyslexic children are not dumb and often very bright so don’t ignore this warning sign.
3. Difficulty with Word Retrieval
Word retrieval is not being able to remember the word they are trying to say. They will often use fillers like Um Um to stall until they can think of the word or use “Thingy” or “whachamacallit”. They will often describe a word, as my daughter would describe, “like a bagel but we put syrup on it” when asking for a waffle.
4. Difficulty Pronouncing Words
Trouble with hearing or manipulating sound within words is a hallmark of dyslexia. They might use psgetti instead of spaghetti or not be able to hear certain sounds within words. Trouble rhyming can also be a sign.
5. Poor Spellers
Thankfully we have spellcheck but if your child always misspells words while writing, (but does not necessarily do poorly on spelling tests) they may have dyslexia.
This is hardly a comprehensive list but early intervention is key. While dyslexia cannot be cured, it can be managed. The earlier a child receives help, the less problems they will have as reading effects almost every subject in school. It is never too late and even adults can get help.
How do people with dyslexia get help?
Unfortunately, historically many schools have done a very poor job identifying and treating children with dyslexia. When I was getting my daughter diagnosed, the school told me that dyslexia was a medical diagnosis and didn’t want or know how to deal with it.
Thankfully the governor of Ohio signed 2 bills to help with dyslexia recently and hopefully other states will follow suit. Texas has been a leader in this area for a while as teaching teachers about dyslexia helps all their students.
Ohio House Bill 96 clarifies the definition of learning disabilities in the Ohio Revised Code to specifically include dyslexia, and it also establishes a 3-year pilot program for the early identification of students at risk for dyslexia
House Bill 157 will improve professional training for teachers and will have a tremendous impact on the education that students with dyslexia will receive in the State of Ohio.
My daughter receives Orton-Gillingham based tutoring through the Cincinnati Dyslexic Center of Cincinnati.
Carl Lindner, with the support of the Masons, initially funded this organization but continue to need to raise funds as they provide free private tutoring. You can help children to learn to read by donating or supporting the Teddy Bear 5K Run Walk to support the center. Join us this Sunday at 9am at the downtown Masonic Center, 317 East Fifth Street. For more information click here.
You can find more information about dyslexia and how to find a tutor at the International Dyslexia Association or the Ohio Valley Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Don’t give UP!