Homeschooling parents know their children’s abilities better than anyone. Thus, they can pretty much identify difficulties their children might be experiencing. This is especially true throughout the elementary years when children are exposed to more formal instruction in subjects such as reading, writing, math, and spelling.
With 'Dyslexia Awareness Month' well under way, here is a guide for homeschooling parents who might be wondering whether their child could possibly be dyslexic.
First, let's start with the definition of dyslexia. According to interdys.org, dyslexia is a neurological learning disability, characterized by difficulty with accurate and/or fluid word recognition in addition to poor spelling and decoding abilities. It is most associated with difficulties in language skills, especially with reading.
Secondly, dyslexia is a life long condition that is hereditary and can affect both boys and girls. Because dyslexia is quite varied, it can go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for years. In addition, because dyslexics are slow to acquire certain language skills, especially in reading, they are inappropriately referred to as 'slow learners'. In reality though, many dyslexics are quite a contradiction to that reference. Since dyslexics utilize a different part of the brain than most individuals, they tend to be very bright, gifted, intellectual and creative individuals.
If you are trying to determine whether your child could possibly have dyslexia or would need to be formally tested for this condition, here are some key signs to keep an eye out for. What's important to remember is that dyslexics may have a few or many of these symptoms, but not necessarily all of them.
- delay in speaking
- pronunciation of words may be difficult
- beginning sounds may be dropped or sounds may be inverted (i.e. pisgetti for spaghetti or aminal for animal)
- difficulty with rhyming words
- as the child ages, he may hesitate when speaking words or may use many indirect words to get his concept across
- slow reader
- difficulty pronouncing words with repeated attempts and may have difficulty recognizing or hearing individual sounds and phonemes
- choppy reading
- substitutes, skips or truncates words for those unrecognized
- by second or third grade, your seemingly good reader may all of a sudden have reading fluency problems
- may omit common short words like 'a', 'the', 'an','for,'that'
- may read one word fine on one page, but may not recognize it on another
- spelling may be difficult
- often omits vowels when writing words
- spelling words memorized one week are often forgotten by the next
In addition, dyslexics tend to also suffer from one or more of the following conditions:
- dygraphia (penmanship)- odd pencil grip, poor/slow handwriting, unsure of handedness, difficulty copying, poor fine motor skills, forgets how letters are formed, misuse of capitalization
- dyscalculia (math)- difficulty in counting, misreads numbers, difficulty memorizing math facts, many math calculation errors
- ADHD Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder- inattentive or easily distracted, impulsive or hyperactive
- dyxpraxia (motor skills)-body movements may be uncoordinated
Other notable characteristics typically exhibited of dyslexics include:
- appears ‘unorganized’ or ‘messy’
- appears 'lazy'
- difficulty in learning to tie shoes
- become little 'experts' in topics that interest them
It is only fair to mention that dyslexia is not a 'seeing things backwards' disorder as most people generally believe. Yes, it is true that many dyslexics write letters or numbers backwards, but it is a processing and directional issue rather than a vision problem.
If dyslexia runs in your family tree, or if you notice any of the above signs while working with your children, especially if reading is slow to progress, you should consider having your child formally evaluated for dyslexia. Evaluation can begin as early as 5 years old.
Because testing for dyslexia involves a battery of tests, a dyslexic specialist or a Certified Language Therapists are the most qualified to complete the testing. Parents can take any one of the following steps to have their children evaluated for dyslexia:
- Contact your Pediatrician for a referral to a specialist for evaluation
- Contact International Dyslexia Association
- Contact your local public school or ESC office to see if they offer testing services to homeschoolers or if they can provide you with a list of certified language therapists in your area
- Locate learning centers in the area that may offer testing
- Contact a nearby University with an Education or Reading Specialist program, to see if they can refer you to a certified language therapist.
- If you are lucky enough to live near a dyslexia center or hospital that tests for dyslexia, contact them for further information.
If you are still unclear about dyslexia, check out Susan Barton's videos that provide a wealth of information on dyslexia. You can also read, 'Overcoming Dyslexia' by Sally Shawitz, M.D. who is a leading authority on the science of dyslexia and how to overcome it.
On a final note, as a homeschooling mother of two and possibly three dyslexic children, take comfort in knowing that your child’s education is best suited at home with you rather than in a public or private school that cannot offer the early intervention and individualized attention you can.