–Dyslexic Second Grader
How is it possible for a dyslexic non-reader to fool her parents and teacher to the point that they honestly believe that she can read?
Dyslexic learners are generally quite bright and often have very good comprehension. If they also have good language and memory skills, they may be able to memorize the stories – especially in first or second grade.
I have found our dyslexic students, both children and adults, to be remarkable. They are very perceptive and creative. They know what a reader should look like and can mimic the behavior even though they struggle to read and write. If they can recognize enough of the words, they can make fairly good guesses abut the context and use their deductive reasoning to answer questions.
If they can’t read enough of the words, I’ve seen many dyslexic students simply make up their own story with such good inflection that they sound like they really are reading.
Some dyslexic students get very disoriented when looking at the words on the page. The words may seem to move around, disappear, or change places. Some students have said that if they look at the words too long, the sentences turn into lines across the page. To counteract this, students may read extremely fast, filling in whatever seems to make sense to them. Their reading is inaccurate, but it’s so fast, that the listener may not be sure what was said and not pick it up.
Fluent, easy reading requires an internal understanding of the sounds in words and the ability to automatically decode. Dyslexic students have varying degrees of challenge with processing the sounds and sounding out words. When this is a key issue for them, they often mumble or slur through words that they don’t know. Instead of recognizing the reading problem, others may think that the student is just shy or just speaks softy.
I have seen dyslexic students successfully hide their extremely weak reading behind being the class clown, the sports star, the actor, the social butterfly, or the sweet, just-under-the-radar helper. They may use their intelligence to deduce answers when they really haven’t been able to read most of the text.
I am in awe of the ingenuity of our dyslexic students as they find ways to hide their challenges and navigate the world of print without really being able to read at the level needed. One student that we tested recently got all the way into medical school before his compensations for a dyslexic thinking style and his 6th grade reading level caught up with him.
Being able to compensate is a survival mechanism that helps students to manage socially and in school, but the ramifications can be many in the long run:
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor performance misunderstood by parents and teachers
- Feel stupid because they have to work so much harder and longer than others and do poorly anyway
- Don’t get the help they need because it seems like they can do it
Compensations only last for so long, and at some point, the student simply can’t keep up with the demands of the grade level.
The good news is, that most dyslexic challenges can be corrected. The underlying auditory and visual memory and processing skills that support being able to read and spell can be identified and retrained so that students with dyslexia and other reading challenges can learn to read! This takes specialized and intensive cognitive training and reading/spelling remediation, but it is absolutely possible.
Dyslexic learners can keep their talents and creative thinking style and become proficient, independent readers, and it is possible at any age.
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Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author: At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers
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