Defeat Dyslexia by Catching It Early by Mindy Toran

Hello Dear Readers,

I found this great article on dyslexia. It’s a little bit of a read but worth it; especially if you suspect your child or someone you know has dyslexia. (Taken directly from: 

“Awareness is the key to addressing dyslexia and other language-based learning differences,” says Julia Sadtler, president of the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Recognizing a learning disability earlier rather than later is important.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the population, or one out of every five students, has a language-based learning disability. The most common of these disabilities is dyslexia, a neurological disorder that results in difficulties with language skills such as reading, writing, spelling or word pronunciation.

Contrary to popular belief, people with dyslexia do not always reverse letters or read words backwards, although letters may appear transposed or closer together for individuals with dyslexia. The disorder is considered a language-based learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical school environment.

“Kids with dyslexia simply process information differently,” says Julia Sadtler, president of the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (PBIDA), which provides support and information for individuals, families and educational professionals concerned with issues of dyslexia and learning differences.

“Awareness is the key to addressing dyslexia and other language-based learning differences,” stresses Sadtler. “The earlier issues are identified, the easier it is for learning difficulties to be ameliorated and mediated through learning support.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that approximately 38 percent of fourth grade students have “below basic” reading skills. These students are below the 40th percentile (performing below the other 60 percent of their peers) and are at greater than 50 percent chance of failing school achievement tests. Yet, to a large extent, about three quarters of children who show primary difficulties with basic reading skills early in reading development can be helped to overcome those difficulties.

“Early recognition of language-based learning problems is the key to effectively addressing these issues,” says Eugenie Flaherty, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and past president of the PBIDA. Parents are often the first line of defense in recognizing any problems their child may be having with speech, pronunciation, recognizing letters and numbers, listening skills, and the like.

Early signs of dyslexia may include:

• Delayed speech or language development

• Difficulty learning new words

• Difficulty rhyming words

• Persistent pronunciation problems

• Difficulty learning the alphabet in order or counting

• Mixing up sounds while speaking

• Poor spelling

• Slow or incorrect reading

It takes kids with dyslexia a lot longer to process information than kids without language-based learning disorders. For example, when a child is asked a question, such as “Who was the first president of the United States?,” the child will typically provide you with the answer, “George Washington.” But the child with dyslexia needs to process the entire question before they can even come up with an answer. The child is so busy processing the question that they often don’t realize that the teacher has already moved on.

“Dyslexia takes an emotional toll on kids, who often have problems with self-esteem and think there’s something wrong with them,” says Wendy Ross, a developmental pediatrician with a private practice in Montgomery County. “In reality, these kids are not stupid or lazy, their brains simply process information differently.”

If parents suspect that their child may be having issues with speech, reading, spelling, and the like, it’s important to bring it to the attention of their pediatrician and/or teachers who work with the child on a regular basis.

The prospect that their child may have a learning disability can also be very upsetting and emotional for parents.

“When faced with the diagnosis of a learning disability or difficulty, parents often don’t know where to turn or aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing to help their child,” says Franca Paulumbo, a special education attorney and vice president of the PBIDA. “Parents often worry that when they ask for help or involve an advocate, the process becomes adversarial or litigious, which is usually not the case,” she stresses.

“Parents have a right to an evaluation from the school district and should put that request in writing, to identify whether the child has a disability and requires some level of special education. If a disability is identified, the parents then work as part of a team with teachers and/or therapists to develop an individualized education plan, or IEP, which spells out what type of services the child needs and how they will be delivered.

“One of the most important parts of treating or addressing a language-based learning disability in school is the delivery of a research-based reading intervention program,” says Paulumbo. “An appropriate reading program, with built-in assessments to monitor progress, and one that is delivered with fidelity to the publisher’s protocol, can have a significant effect on helping kids with dyslexia succeed in the school environment.”

Ross adds, “In addition to requesting an evaluation through the school district, which is provided at no cost to the parents under provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, medical contributors to learning problems — such as difficulty with vision or hearing — should be ruled out by a medical professional.”

Organizations like the PBIDA and the International Dyslexia Association can assist parents, students and teachers by providing current, research-based information about dyslexia and related language-based learning problems to aid in decision-making and the management of students’ academic careers. Many individuals with dyslexia have strengths in other areas, such as art, drama, sports, business, etc., and go on to lead fulfilling, successful lives.

The annual PBIDA conference, which will take place this October in Wayne, Pa., highlights advances in the diagnosis and management of learning disorders, applications for assistive technology in the classroom, teaching techniques, how to help dyslexic students flourish, and more.

In addition, the PBIDA offers Experience Dyslexia®, a dyslexia simulation that mimics the experiences and processing of individuals with dyslexia. The program has been presented to teachers in both public and private schools, college students, educational service providers, community groups, and the professional staff of early intervention Intermediate Units.

“Our goal is to raise awareness about dyslexia and provide resources for individuals, families, teachers, therapists and other professionals dealing with language-based learning disabilities,” says Sadtler of the PBIDA. “Through our annual conference, dyslexia simulation program and national Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, we aim to focus on how to recognize and diagnose dyslexia and address aspects of teaching and educating instructors so students have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

For more information on language-based learning disorders, visit the PBIDA website or the International Dyslexia Association at

Mindy Toran is a freelance writer based in Huntingdon Valley, Pa.


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