What Should I Do If I Suspect My Child Is Dyslexic?

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean that a child is not clever. It means they have trouble with reading and other skills that involve language. Dyslexia is a learning difference that makes reading difficult. It often runs in families and affects up to 10 percent of Australians.

Some children with Dyslexia can keep up with their peers (with lots of extra effort) for the first two years of school. But by Year 2, when the class is no longer learning to read and are instead ‘reading to learn’, they run into trouble.

Does dyslexia run in the family

Could your child have Dyslexia?

You may be concerned because your child has been a school for a while now and still:

  • Mispronounces common words. 
  • Reads very slowly and often makes mistakes when rading aloud
  • Struggles to read familiar words, especially if there are no pictures
  • Can’t spell, even though they work really hard to learn and practice 
  • Has trouble explaining what happened in a story or answering questions about it
  • Can’t solve Maths problems that include words
  • Has trouble learning the alphabet, days of the week, colours, shapes, and numbers

In the first year or two of school, you might assume that your child’s literacy difficulty is just a phase that will work itself out. Your child is bright and despite their problems with reading and writing, does well in other subjects at school.

Then, you discover that other members of your family struggled with reading and literacy when they were growing up. Could your child have inherited this trait too?

Signs of dyslexia in kids

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia often runs in families. It is not simply a problem with reading and writing, and it’s definitely not a sign of low intelligence.

Dyslexia affects the part of the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read, or spelled. Dyslexia can also cause difficulties with working memory, attention span, and a person’s organisational ability.

This difference makes it difficult for children who are dyslexic to process linguistic and symbolic codes, like the letters of the alphabet. 

Having Dyslexia can be hard. You might find that your child avoids reading because it is stressful and tiring. As a result, your son or daughter is at risk of missing valuable reading practice and falling behind their classmates. Understandably, this can have a knock-on effect on their self-esteem and behaviour.

Signs of dyslexia in children

Key Facts about Dyslexia

Even though about 10% of the population has mild to severe dyslexia, most people don’t know much about it, and myths abound. In fact, in Australia, the term ‘dyslexia’ is not used as widely as it is overseas. Here, we usually refer to the symptoms that are often associated with Dyslexia as ‘Specific Learning Difficulties’.

Here are some important facts about dyslexia you might not have known:

  • Dyslexia isn’t a problem of intelligence, laziness, vision, or reading letters backwards.
  • According to a Yale University study, dyslexia affects boys and girls equally
  • Dyslexia is not a visual processing or vision issue
  • Dyslexia is a life-long condition, but with the right support, children with Dyslexia can get better at reading

It’s important to help your child understand that Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. Intellectual giants like Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Winston Churchill all struggled with Dyslexia.

If your child is dyslexic, you might find that he or she has other strengths, just like actors Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, and Tom Cruise whose creativity has resulted in fame and fortune.

Entrepreneurs Dick Smith, Richard Branson, and Jamie Oliver also have not let their diagnosis with Dyslexia stop them from achieving their goals in life.

Children who are dyslexic often excel at solving puzzles, have a better than average sense of spatial relationships, are strong in the areas of conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, and abstraction, and typically have a large spoken vocabulary for their age.

Does dyslexia run in the family

How to Know If Your Child Has Dyslexia

Dyslexia manifests itself in different ways depending on the learning challenges associated with developmental stages.  For example:

  • Pre-school children often have trouble memorising nursery rhymes, recognising letters (including those in their own names), or pronouncing familiar words
  • Children in Kindergarten and Year 1 often exhibit reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page, or might not understand that words come apart or be able to sound out even simple words.
  • Children in Year 2 to Year 6 may exhibit slow or awkward reading, or be unable to recognise or sound out unfamiliar words based on context (for example, although they know the word “sun” they can’t understand the word “sunburn”). They may make ‘guessimates’ when reading aloud, substituting words like house when the story says home. You may also notice that your primary schooler has trouble sounding new words out and recognizing common ones.

In general, however, there are symptoms of dyslexia that are not age-specific.

For example, people who are dyslexic often:

  • Have trouble processing both spoken and written language
  • Find it difficult to break down unfamiliar words into letter-sound segments, and thus their reading tends to be slow and awkward
  • Can’t understand that words can be broken up into parts (for example, that “batboy” consists of “bat” and “boy”) and so struggle to through contextualization
  • Have trouble remembering dates, names, and telephone numbers
  • Have extreme difficulty learning foreign languages
  • Avoiding reading whenever possible or getting frustrated or upset when reading

Does my child have dyslexia?

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Dyslexic?

Although there is no “cure” for dyslexia, it’s important to identify it as early as possible so that trained professionals can give your child the help needed to compensate for their learning disability.

Typically, to be diagnosed with Dyslexia, a child must first have had at least six months of formal literacy instruction at school. Realistically, this means that your first point of call should be your child’s classroom Year 1 teacher who should be able to tell you how your child is managing the demands of early reading and writing tasks.

A visit to an optometrist to check your child’s vision is a helpful next step. Naturally, sight issues have a big impact on children’s capacity to read what is printed on a page or whiteboard.

If experts who know your child well share your concerns about their learning, a psychologist with experience in assessments can evaluate your child’s skills. Typically, this involves an assessment of your child’s intellectual skills to determine their capacity for learning, plus an assessment of their academic skills to see if there is a difference between their potential and their actual performance.

Concerned about your child’s reading and writing?

Kids First’s speech pathologists are trained in the area of literacy support and can create a tailored program for your child.

Our psychologists also offer assessments that, in combination with an evaluation of your child’s literacy skills, can identify Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties.

Contact us on 9938 5419 to chat about your child’s learning and support needs.

Dyslexia Assessments at Kids First

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