Understanding Dyslexia

Your child has dyslexia, now what?

Dyslexia is a scary word for parents. Before deciding on a strategy — beating dyslexia or managing it — there is misinformation concerning dyslexia to deal with:

  1. Dyslexia is related to IQ. Not True. 
  2. Dyslexia is a vision-based disability. Almost Never True. Almost all dyslexia is caused by language processing difficulties.

We could add in a third misconception, that dyslexia is hard-wired or fixed. We think this is not true, but that’s still a controversial view. We will come back to it later.

Dyslexic children have the same difficulties of struggling readers, just more of them

Dyslexia, defined by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, is an unexpected difficulty in learning to read despite intelligence, motivation and education as per Sally Shaywitz. It is crucial to note that dyslexia and less reading difficulties are on same continuum, these children make the same errors, it’s just that dyslexic children make more of them.

This is important. It means that all reading difficulties, including dyslexia, have the same neurobiological origins.

And so interventions that help children with lesser reading difficulties can help dyslexic children also.

This means there’s hope. We know it’s possible to exercise and improve the cognitive skill gaps that hold back struggling readers. These same exercises can help dyslexic children. While there are no guarantees, there are too many stories of children and adults beating dyslexia to ignore.

The notion of beating dyslexia is controversial in some quarters, because many consider dyslexia permanent and unmovable. However, the language processing and cognitive skills gaps that cause dyslexia, like physical skills, can be exercised and improved.

Target The Underlying Cause of Dyslexia

There are two ways to deal with a dyslexia diagnosis:

  1. Manage or cope with the symptoms and/or
  2. Try to reduce symptoms by going after the underlying problem

Accommodation Strategies

Managing dyslexia symptoms includes aids like tinted dyslexia glasses and dyslexia fonts. It also includes behavioral coping strategies at school such as putting dyslexic children at the front of the class, a reader/writer for tests and of course, it includes using tutors.

These strategies do not address the underlying difficulty. And so long-term nothing changes. The day to day frustrations of dyslexia are still there and for parents tutoring costs year after year add up.

Beating Dyslexia

The concept of beating dyslexia or a “dyslexia cure” is still somewhat controversial. This is despite the many dyslexics who have gone on to great heights. This includes dozens of famous writers for goodness sake. Writers! Surely these successful individuals have overcome their dyslexia symptoms at least somewhat.

The Brain Is Constantly Changing

The ability for dyslexics to develop into great writers is possible because brain function is not only NOT fixed, it is a self-organizing organ that is always looking to improve. This is neuroplasticity.

This is a message and an opportunity that is spreading. For instance, Understood.org enumerates a number of ways to reduce dyslexia symptoms, as does WebMD.

Evidence-Based Treatmentsbeating dyslexia at all ages

If you can move the needle even modestly, it implies that dyslexia is movable. As a result, it should be no surprise that there are now dozens of dyslexia treatments available.

In addition, many of these therapies and programs, including ours, have been around for years and subject to countless research studies.  There has been plenty of time for their claims to be disproved.

Many struggling readers outgrow reading difficulties as phonological processing skills mature. Dyslexic children can benefit from this same maturing path, they just need more stimulation. This is how most dyslexia programs work – they accelerate the natural development process.

Finding the Causes of Dyslexia

If you know the cause, then you have a clue about how to beat dyslexia.

Most researchers describe dyslexia as a language-processing disorder. The most visible early symptoms relate to delays in phonological processing (distinguishing between ‘fan’ and ‘van’) and language manipulation, such as rhyming.  (Read about other symptoms here). 

The causes of language processing difficulties that can lead to dyslexia are:

Inherited Factors
About 40% of dyslexia is inherited. If your child has signs of dyslexia, and there is dyslexia in your family, then your child is at risk for dyslexia.

Ear Infections Early On
Frequent colds or ear infections in the first 3 years of life can impair hearing, depriving the developing brain of all-important language exercise time. Also known as “glue ear,” these ear infections are known to cause of dyslexia.

Did Not Hear English At Birth
Learning English in later life requires a much higher level of language processing skill. Even a slight processing glitch can cause dyslexia.

If you look hard enough and as is most often the case, your dyslexic child will have signs of listening difficulties. Consequently, you should seek out programs that work on language and language processing. 

For other causes, you may need to get a professional evaluation.

Dyslexia Help From Gemm Learning

We target the language processing first, then train reading skills second using Fast ForWord software with remote oversight.  Online protocols are individualized for each student.

The elementary-age programs focus primarily on phonemic awareness, reading speed, fluency, comprehension and learning efficiency. Middle and high school programs cover this territory also, before moving to reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.
Our reading program for dyslexia by age

To find out if your child is a candidate for one of our programs, call Gemm Learning for a free consultation.

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