What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. It refers to a cluster of symptoms which result in difficulties with specific language skills such as reading. Children with dyslexia also experience challenges grasping other language skills like writing and spelling. Difficulties with phonological awareness, verbal memory and processing speed are also common in dyslexic children.
Dyslexia usually affects individuals throughout the course of their lives. It is regarded as a learning disability, due to the fact that students with dyslexia may find it hard to succeed in an academic environment. Depending on the severity of the condition, students may also require access accommodations in school e,g, allowing more time to complete time-based tests.
Children with dyslexia do have normal intelligence and vision, enabling them to learn in mainstream schools. However, they do not process information in the same way as others. The impact that dyslexia has is different for each child. This is dependent on the severity of the condition, the age the child started attending remediation and the effectiveness of remediation.
Common symptoms of dyslexia include:
- Reading well below the expected level for their age or grade
- Confusing letters that look alike. For example: b/d, p/q
- Reverse letter sequences e.g. "was" for "saw", "on" for “no”
- The inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
- Difficulties in finding the right word or forming answers to questions
- Difficulties remembering and understanding text passage
- Makes a lot of spelling errors when completing essay compositions and open-ended questions.
- Spending an exceptional amount of time completing tasks involving reading or writing
How does the condition impact learning and development?
Students with dyslexia mainly have difficulties with word recognition, reading fluency, spelling, grammar and writing. Some children may learn to read and spell early, especially with excellent instruction. However, they experience more pronounced problems when complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding concepts taught in school, writing essays, building vocabulary and reading comprehension. Consequently, they take a longer time to learn and complete written work, causing them to fall behind their peers.
In addition to reading text, some students with dyslexia also have trouble with math. Not every student with dyslexia faces such difficulties. However, some do find associating number names with numerals a challenge. They may also be unable to solve complex multi-step word problems and equations, due to the slower ability to retrieve basic math facts or understanding the language in the math word problems.
People with dyslexia can have problems with spoken language as well. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak. Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school.
As the effects of dyslexia depend on the extent of the disability, each child’s learning and development will be affected differently. One student may have more trouble with reading, whilst the other has pronounced difficulties with language or speech.
Dyslexia can also affect a person's self-image. Children with dyslexia often end up feeling less capable than they actually are. They experience a great deal of stress due to academic problems. They may become discouraged about learning and show signs of learned helplessness, such as a failure to ask for help, poor motivation, procrastination and low self-esteem, avoiding tasks that are difficult and school refusal.
How is an assessment carried out by Thomson Kids?
To diagnose dyslexia, our psychologist uses a battery of standardised tests such as Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Fifth Edition, Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, York Assessment of Reading Comprehension, Conners Continuous Performance Test, NEPSY-II and Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing-II.
Our psychologist also speaks to parents and teachers to gather detailed historical information about your child’s development, behaviour and learning. As part of the assessment, our psychologist will assess your child’s schoolwork and school reports to gain a wider perspective of the kind of reading and writing difficulties they are experiencing.
Students with dyslexia need access accommodations in school to help bridge the gap between them and their peers. Our psychologist has extensive experience working with schools, teachers and therapists on how to accommodate and modify the learning environment, so that your child can fulfil his or her learning potential.
Benefits of dyslexia assessment
As most child development specialists agree, early identification of children with developmental and learning challenges like dyslexia is critical. Dyslexia is a complex condition, and many children do not get identified early in their schooling years.
It is crucial that an assessment and identification of the condition takes place as early as possible, to ensure that the right intervention strategies are put in place. Early assessment and appropriate interventions can lead to significantly better outcomes for children with dyslexia.
Early intervention takes advantage of what’s commonly referred to as ‘brain plasticity’ or ‘neuroplasticity’. This is the ability of the brain to alter and reorganize itself based on experience. Neuroplasticity seems to be especially salient during the early years. Therefore, parents should take advantage of this window period to seek help for their child.
Early intervention will also help prevent other negative consequences related to dyslexia. If a child is unable to keep up in school due to dyslexia and their condition is not treated, they would not develop the study skills required to perform well. In turn, this affects their self-esteem and causes a cycle of failure, discouragement, depression and anxiety.