Do you suspect your child may have dyslexia? Not sure what your next step is? Today, Sherri Turnquist, a friend and Dyslexia Therapist, shares some information that will give you both help and hope so your child can succeed.

Introducing Sherri

Hello! I’m Sherri Turnquist, a mom, wife, & Dyslexia Therapist. When Kay asked if I would like to guest post, I said, “YES!!”, of course! Dyslexia is a passion of mine – helping students with dyslexia is a joy and challenge I get to be a part of every day. I also share dyslexia resources, and practical & useful information about dyslexia on my blog, Turning Around Dyslexia. Blogging has been a blessing in disguise! I have met so many wonderful parents, students with Dyslexia, & other Dyslexia Therapists through blogging.

I am a Certified Academic Language Therapist {fancy name for Dyslexia Therapist} through ALTA – Academic Language Therapy Association & through IDA – International Dyslexia Association. I have been teaching students with dyslexia life-long strategies for spelling, reading and writing for almost 10 years. I spent the first 14 years of my teaching career teaching first grade. If you would like to know more about me, you can read more here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most frequent questions on my blog from parents who have just recently received testing results stating that their child has “Characteristics of Dyslexia” are:

“What now?!”

“What do I do next?”

“What are these ‘Characteristics of Dyslexia’?”

“Does it go away?”

“How do we fix this?!”

I created the “The Ultimate Parent’s Guide for Dyslexia” with the goal of providing information to help answer these important questions parents, just like you, are needing in order to move forward with the best plan for their child.

A diagnosis of Dyslexia is not an end-all to a child’s ability to attain future success. It is an open door to empowering oneself & their child to understand just how God has designed them. It is the beginning of “owning” this mysterious Learning Difference, Dyslexia – understanding what it IS…and what it is NOT. It is an opportunity to discover its strengths, of which there are many, and weaknesses -which can be strengthened by the right interventions. It opens the door for you as an “expert” and Advocate in the area of Dyslexia and other learning differences for your child.

The Ultimate Parent’s Guide for Dyslexia

Facts About Dyslexia

Characteristics of Dyslexia are sometimes misunderstood as an indicator of cognitive ability leading to misdiagnosis and inappropriate intervention. Here are the facts you need to know to help identify characteristics early:

  • Dyslexia is not an indicator of lack of cognitive ability
  • Dyslexia is a difficulty with processing sounds which causes difficulty in learning the (alphabetic principle (letter-sound correspondence), spelling, & reading.
  • Dyslexia is often related to certain hereditary factors in one or more relatives.
  • 1 in 5 people or 20% of people have characteristics of Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia is not a vision issue, it is a language-based issue.
  • People with Dyslexia have the same risk of vision problems as those without Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia can cause struggles with speaking – not being able to find the correct word to say & other social situations.
  • Dyslexia is not just reversal of letters or reading words backwards.
  • People with Dyslexia are working 5 to 10 times harder than peers to read, spell & write.
  • Dyslexia is not curable.  It is a brain-based condition with lifelong challenges.
  • Early intervention & accommodations will have a positive impact in language & academic development.

Definition of Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association defines “dyslexia” in the following way:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.(Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 12, 2002)

Contrary to popular belief, Dyslexia has been in existence for a long time and so has its evolving definitions. Newer more concise definitions arise as we discover more about it.

In the late 1960’s the World Federation of Neurologists said dyslexia was, “a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experiences, are unable to attain the language skills of reading, writing, and spelling, commensurate with their intellectual abilities.” We have come a long way since the 1960’s in our understanding of Dyslexia.

Although some people believe Dyslexia only affects children, difficulties actually persist throughout a person’s lifetime if not identified and treated early. The earlier we tackle dyslexia, the more successful the intervention will be. However, people with dyslexia who may not have been identified early on can still learn strategies to improve their language skills.

Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia in early learners could go undetected. One tendency of dyslexic children is to become frustrated by their struggles they encounter in learning to read. They can begin to “hate” the process of reading, when our goal for them is to love this process. Other problems that can arise and sometimes disguise the signs of dyslexia in an early learner may be:

  • low self-esteem & signs of depression
  • attitude and behavior problems
  • lack of motivation and a dislike for schoolwork
  • task avoidance

Dyslexia is learning difference, not a disability. And if handled correctly, a child with dyslexia could be the next Steven Spielberg or Albert Einstein…Yes!! Both geniuses who struggled with characteristics of dyslexia.

Other Possible Signs and Characteristics

  • Delay in early language development
  • Problems with segment words and processing the differences between similar sounds
  • Slow to learn new vocabulary words
  • Experiences difficulty in copying content from a book or the board
  • Experiences difficulty in acquiring reading, writing, and spelling skills
  • Unable to recognize or read a repeated word within a book
  • Difficulty with spatial relationships, especially processing left & right directions, as well as difficulty participating in organized games or sports
  • Difficulty with establishing a dominant hand.  This means they will use their left hand for some tasks and right hand for another, yet never seem to write well with either hand.

Dyslexia is a difficulty with processing phonemes (sounds), thus there is a difficulty connecting the sound to a letter(s) which represent the sound(s). Sometimes this is mistaken for a visual or auditory difficulty. Two or more learning differences can co-exists in a child. Here are some possible characteristics which may be confused with an auditory or visual difficulties:

  • A child with dyslexia usually finds it hard to remember and/or understand what he or she hears.
  • A child with dyslexia can experience difficulty recalling the sequences of things and executing more than one direction at a time.
  • When talking, a child with dyslexia may miss or mispronounce some parts of a word or parts of a sentence.  Their words come out sounding scrambled.
  • A child with dyslexia often interchange words, replacing the actual word with a wrong or similar word instead.
  • A child with dyslexia will often know what they want to say, but have difficult “finding” the actual words necessary to express their thoughts.

Here are some other signs, though subtle, that are common to children with dyslexia:

  • A child with dyslexia can show signs of withdrawing, seeming depressed
  • Sometimes, a child with dyslexia may start acting out, thus drawing the attention away from their struggles.
  • Low self-esteem & difficulty interacting with their peers and siblings
  • Sometimes, educators with a lack of knowledge about dyslexia & learning differences in general, may refer to a child with dyslexia as lazy or unmotivated because of their lack of interest in school-related activities.

Emotional signs and characteristics are as important as the characteristics which affect a child academically and should not be neglected.

Detection Means Success

Knowledge is power. If you notice any of these signs or characteristics in your child and suspect it is because of dyslexia, I highly encourage you to seek a professional diagnostician in your child’s school or community, to evaluate your child to discover what is causing them to struggle. Once you have a diagnosis, you and your team will decide the best intervention.

Early intervention is always best for a child. The earlier in their educational career they receive intervention for a learning difference, the more success they will experience.

Receiving a Diagnosis or Identification of Dyslexia

If there is not a Certified Academic Language Therapist who is qualified to assess in your child’s local school district,  you will want to find a diagnostician or psychologist and/or a health professional to effectively diagnose the difficulty.

Several factors are considered to carry out a proper evaluation for Dyslexia, specifically. The goal of a dyslexia evaluation is to help determine if there is an inconsistency between the child’s cognitive ability {ability at which they should be performing academically} and their actually performance in spelling, reading and phonological awareness.

A basis cognitive test, such as the K-Bit, is given to provide a baseline of cognitive abilities. Each assessment that is given in spelling, reading, reading comprehension & phonological awareness is determined by age level. Family history is also an important factor in carrying out a proper Dyslexia diagnosis. As mentioned above, Dyslexia is-neurological in origin and typically there are family members who have struggled with the same characteristics.

Having your child evaluated for a learning difference provides information about why they are struggling, as well as insight into your child’s strengths. And all of this information helps determine the best intervention for your child.

What Can You Do for Your Dyslexic Child?

The social-emotional well-being of your child is the best place to start after receiving a diagnosis of Dyslexia. This can be achieved in several ways.

  • Help your child understand what Dyslexia is and that this is something that they will have their entire life; however, they can learn strategies and skills to overcome the struggles they face in spelling, reading and writing. There are many books like: What is Dyslexia?: A Book Explaining Dyslexia For Kids and Adults to Use Together.  Also, watch the YouTube video: What is Dyslexia? by Dr. Kelli Sandman Hurley. I highly recommend visiting Understood.org. This website is the learning difference hub for parents & teachers. Understood provides anything you want to know about learning differences, including Dyslexia, right at your fingertips. There are parent forums where you can connect with other parents in similar situations as you. There are experts—live, on-hand—to answer your questions, too.
  • Make sure your child is receiving an Orton-Gillingham based intervention.  Read here about Multi-sensory Teaching Techniques.
  • You can find Dyslexia Therapists who are providing services in your area by visiting the Academic Language Therapy Association {ALTA}‘s Directory of Certified Therapists.  The International Dyslexia Association {IDA} is also a great resource.
  • Knowledge is power.  The more you know about Dyslexia & the laws that apply to your state as well as national laws including 504 & SPED, you will empower yourself to be the best advocate for your child. When your family is facing your child’s dyslexia together, everyone’s social-emotional well-being will be strengthened.

All of the resources linked above are a great resource not only to empower children to understand dyslexia, but for their parents as well.

What You Should Look for in a Curriculum

Multi-sensory curriculum & activities focus on utilizing the child’s strengths while strengthening his or her weaknesses. I will attest to the validity of the effectiveness of a multi-sensory approach because I use this with my dyslexic students as well as non-dyslexic students who struggle in the areas of spelling and reading, with great success. I see the most successful attitudes in my students whose parents are meeting their social-emotional needs in understanding their learning difference.  When a student realizes their strengths & positive attitudes will benefit them by strengthening their weaknesses, they receive way more than what I teach them through a multi-sensory approach. They learn life-long values and a positive mind-set for future successes.

Read more about why your child should be provided a multi-sensory approach to learning in this post.

If you have a Pre-schooler or Kindergartner and would like to begin laying a solid foundation or enhance their learning & understanding of the Alphabetic Principle {Sound to Letter Correspondence} using multi-sensory activities, take a look at these activities I use with my Early Literacy students:

Alphabet

Mouth Position Pictures

I’d love to hear the different perspectives about what you found helpful in “The Ultimate Parent’s Guide for Dyslexia” and if there was something specific to dyslexia you would like to learn more about.  You can always contact me through my blog, Turning Around Dyslexia or on my Facebook Page. I will be happy to schedule a time to talk over the phone or visit face-to-face through online meeting platforms, like Zoom.us or Anymeeting, to help answer your questions about Dyslexia and/or connect you with tools, resources, & organizations with other experts in the field of Dyslexia.

Sherri

Turning Around Dyslexia