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In this episode of the LD Expert Podcast, we’re discussing dyslexia - what it is and how to determine if you or your child might have this thinking style that can be both a challenge and a gift.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- What dyslexia is
- Key characteristics of dyslexia
- Dyslexia can appear to be a comprehension problem
"Having dyslexia or a learning disability can be quite traumatic. These kids go to school every day afraid that they will be singled out in front of the class and embarrassed by their poor reading, spelling, or slow work. They live in fear that their peers will notice that they can’t do the work.
Recognizing dyslexia helps you, your child, and the teacher understand that this is not your child’s fault, or the result of laziness or lack of motivation. That change in perspective will make a huge difference."
- Jill Stowell
LD Expert Podcast - Episode #49
Does My Child Have Dyslexia? Do I? - Jill Stowell
Have you ever wondered if your child might be dyslexic? When you look at your child’s struggles, does it remind you of what you went through in school?
Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia and learning differences.
Today, we’re discussing dyslexia - what it is and how you might know if you or your child might have this thinking style that is both a gift and a challenge.
I’m your host, Jill Stowell, founder and executive director of Stowell Learning Centers and author of “Take the Stone Out of the Shoe, A Must-Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning, and Attention Challenges.”
I started the episode with the question, “Have you ever wondered if you or your child might be dyslexic?” So if you have, what signs do you see that make you think that? Let us know in the comments.
At Stowell Learning Centers, we work with children and families like yours - helping parents understand what’s going on when their bright students struggle in school and what can be done to change that permanently, and we understand that having a child with dyslexia or a learning challenge can be very lonely for a parent. You feel like you’re the only one whose child is struggling and you don’t know who to talk to. This podcast is for you. I wanted to do something that would equip parents with the knowledge and practical tools to understand and help their child. If this episode brings up any questions for you, go to stowellcenter.com and give us a call. We would love to talk to you.
I have a special free resource for you today - an At-A-Glance Dyslexia Screener that lists some of the most common functional characteristics of dyslexia based on Stowell Learning Center’s extensive experience with evaluation and treatment for children and adults with dyslexia. You can download the dyslexia screener at stowellcenter.com/dyslexia.
As a part of our assessment process at the Learning Centers, parents fill out an intake questionnaire. I can almost always tell by what the parent writes whether a student is likely dyslexic because there are some common characteristics. Here’s an example. This parent writes:
“We have noticed some continued struggle with reading and with homework problems. Also with some basic skills like holding a pencil. He is so smart and a very curious and engaged learner but when it comes to reading and writing he gets incredibly
frustrated, which seems to be inhibiting his growth.
He says he wants to succeed and "do better.” He feels he is doing ok but sometimes he calls himself "dumb.”
His acting coach recommended dyslexia testing.”
Notice that this student was described as “so smart,” curious, engaged, and motivated to succeed, and as an actor. But…he was “incredibly frustrated” when it comes to reading and writing and sometimes calls himself “dumb.”
Does that sound familiar? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a similar scenario from parents.
This student’s testing did indicate dyslexia as well as dysgraphia, which is often seen along with dyslexia and something that we’ll discuss in depth in another episode.
So how do you know if you or your child might be dyslexic? Here are some common indicators:
Dyslexia is considered to be a hereditary neurobiological thinking style. If your child has slow or laborious reading or spelling and you have a family history of dyslexia or others in the family who struggled in a similar way, it is likely that your child is dyslexic.
By definition, those with a learning disability have average to above average intelligence. Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning disability.
In our experience, dyslexic individuals are very often highly intelligent, which is one of the reasons their difficulties are so frustrating to them. They’re aware that they should be able to do better and consciously or subconsciously put a huge amount of mental energy into covering up or coping with their challenges with reading and writing.
While every person with dyslexia is unique, they often have a creative visual spatial thinking style that lends itself to excelling in the creative arts, building, mechanical abilities, or sports. Your child might be a Legomaster, or the car packer, or the go-to person to fix things in your home because they have the ability to mentally see how everything fits together without reading instructions!
Chances are, when you think about dyslexia, problems with reading and reversing letters and words immediately come to mind. But did you know that among the defining factors of dyslexia are these kind of particular strengths?
Dyslexic individuals typically have “big picture” thinking, strengths in situational awareness, high rapid real world visual perception, and dynamic spatial problem solving and reasoning. They can mentally see things from many perspectives and often describe their thinking as three-dimensional.
This is why dyslexic individuals appear to be over-represented in fire departments and among entrepreneurs.
Your child with dyslexia may be highly empathetic or charismatic. I’ve known many dyslexic students who can just talk or charm their way out of anything! One of the real challenges for these kids is that their social abilities can mask how much they’re struggling.
Dyslexia is a learning disability in reading. It affects people differently, but generally students with dyslexia will have difficulty reading at a good pace without making mistakes. This can affect comprehension.
Parents often tell me that their child has a comprehension problem because they score poorly on reading comprehension tests, but more often than not, we find that it isn’t a comprehension problem. It’s a reading problem. The child loves to be read to and comprehends well when someone else is doing the reading.
There are usually both visual and auditory components to dyslexia, but one of the biggest factors in dyslexia is an auditory processing ability called phonemic awareness - the ability to think about the sounds inside of words. Here are some symptoms that you might see if you or your child are struggling with dyslexia:
- Difficulty remembering, discriminating, or blending letter sounds.
- They sound out every word and then they don’t recognize words that they just read when they show up again later on the page.
- They guess at words based on a few letters in the word.
- Misread the word but gets the meaning, so maybe they read cat for kitten or physician for doctor.
- They have, or have had, difficulty with naming, sequencing, or writing letters of the alphabet.
- They can’t decode new words; they’re dependent on their fund of memorized words.
- They have letter or number reversals after age 7.
- Their oral expression much stronger than written expression because they write with words they can spell.
- They can memorize spelling words for the test but can’t remember them later to use in writing.
- They have confusion with small common sight words such as “the”, “of”, and “if” when reading. This one takes a little explanation: Dyslexic thinkers can visualize pictures and things easily. Connecting words with a mental picture helps students retain the words (for example, the word cat can be connected with the image of a fluffy, 3-dimensional cat). But what is an “if” or a “the?” Because many of these small, common sight words aren’t easily connected with a concept or image, they trigger confusion or disorientation for the dyslexic student when reading. Even if they could read all of those little words in a list, but as soon as you put it into a paragraph, they stumble over them.
A number of years ago, a mom called me, desperate for help for her brilliant 9-year-old son. Derek was in a special day class at school and his reading goal for the year was to learn “10 survival words.” Ten words - in a year! When I heard that, I thought, “Well, no one ever expects this boy to read.”
When I met Derek, he was friendly, and charming, and confident. He was also a complete non-reader. Derek was profoundly and classically dyslexic.
He had all of the symptoms we talked about earlier. He was confused about the alphabet and letters symbols. Sounds made no sense to him at all. He became extremely disoriented when he looked at the print - feeling like the letters and words were moving all over the page.
Over a period of two years, we worked with Derek’s mom to provide him with the kind of instruction that developed the underlying auditory and visual processing skills needed to support reading. He learned to read and write, he exited special education, and went on to graduate from honors classes in high school. I found out later that Derek was a talented singer and actor, and I was so happy to hear that he was able to pursue those passions in college.
If you wonder if your child might be dyslexic, download the At-A-Glance Dyslexia Screener by going to stowellcenter.com/dyslexia. Feel free to share it with your child’s teacher and pediatrician. This is a first step in understanding why your child can be so brilliant or talented in some areas but struggle with reading and homework.
Having dyslexia or a learning disability can be quite traumatic. These kids go to school every day afraid that they’ll be singled out in front of the class and embarrassed by their poor reading, spelling, or slow work. They live in fear that their peers will notice that they can’t do the work.
Recognizing dyslexia helps you, your child, and the teacher understand that this is not your child’s fault, or the result of laziness or lack of motivation. That change in perspective will make a huge difference.
Help your child embrace their dyslexia. Explore it together. Learn about the talents and struggles of famous people with dyslexia. Dialogue with your child about what would be helpful in class and help them advocate for themselves with the teacher. This becomes empowering for everyone.
So here are our takeaways for today:
- Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning disability.
- Key characteristics of dyslexia include slow or difficult reading AND strong talents and abilities. related to a creative, visual-spatial thinking style
- Download the At-A-Glance-Dyslexia Screener by going to stowellcenter.com/dyslexia.
- Empower your child by helping them understand and embrace their dyslexia.
Next week, we’ll continue our discussion on dyslexia. We’re going to be talking with one of my favorite and most respected people in the the field, Dr. Joan Smith about how the dyslexic brain is wired differently for reading.
At Stowell Learning Centers, we help children and adults eliminate struggles associated with dyslexia and learning differences. We want to make this journey easier for you. Connect with us on social media and on our website - stowellcenter.com, for information and free resources.
If you found this episode valuable, make sure to subscribe and turn on notifications so you don’t miss out on new episodes. The struggles associated with dyslexia and learning differences can be eliminated. Help us get the word out by leaving a 5-star review. Let’s change the narrative for these amazing kids, together.
- Episode 69: Embracing Differences and Building Social Emotional Health – Suzanne McClure
- Episode 68 – Executive Function Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Students + T.E.F.O.S. – Part 2 – Seth Perler
- Episode 67 – The Executive Function Online Summit PLUS a Special Message for Kids – Part 1 – Seth Perler
- Episode 66 – Auditory Processing and Managing Anxiety – Jill Stowell on the Re-Focus Podcast with Angela Stephens
- Episode 65 – “Smart but Struggling” – What Does it Mean? – Jessyka Coulter, Love to Learn 2023
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