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Understanding dyslexia

Dyslexic children may be quite bright, but their written work will often not reflect the extent of their vocabulary

By Saadia Khan |
PUBLISHED January 02, 2022
KARACHI:

Dyslexia is a very common word used these days, The word dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that among other things, comes from a Greek word, meaning, difficulty with words or language’’ can impact on an individual’s ability to break words down into their component phonemes, a crucial skill involved in reading, writing and spelling. People with dyslexia may be highly intelligent and creative individuals but still struggle with basic literacy skills. (Like Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare)

The skills we learn at school are important for success in later life and difficulties with learning at school, or learning difficulties can in some cases to impact on a person’s life long after they leave school. With the right help, these challenges can be dealt, but because no two dyslexic students present the same set of symptoms, it is sometimes difficult for educators to identify the most effective teaching solutions. That’s one of the reasons why researchers have attempted to group commonly observed forms into different categories, to make finding treatment easier and ensure dyslexic children of all types don’t fall behind their peers.

However, knowing how to identify dyslexia early on is just as important as being familiar with the different types. A child with dyslexia may be quite bright, but his written work will often not reflect the extent of his vocabulary.

How can we help a dyslexic child?

Usually these children are under pressure and quite stressed out. Look out for signs of emotional stress. Consequences of dyslexia are frustration, anger, low self-esteem or becoming withdrawn. Before reading and spelling can be improved your child needs to believe they can succeed. So encouragement is a must.

Such children face criticism quite often, so eventually develop low self-esteem.  Children with dyslexia need constant praise and support to rebuild self-esteem. Reading to children means they will associate books with love and affection. Reading can be for pleasure or it can be for fluency and accuracy. Children learn best when they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them. So the emphasis has to be on what a child can do, instead of what he cannot do. Whether it’s a parent, teacher or friend, it’s important to have someone who believes in a child, is supportive. Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have, its about understanding your child exactly the person they are supposed to be.

Never compare a dyslexic child’s school work with that of their brother or sister. Perhaps because they already feel bad about themselves people with dyslexia are often sensitive to criticism. Don’t get angry when kit is lost or homework forgotten. Failing to remember spoken and written instructions or forgetting where something has been left is a consequence of dyslexia. Teaching how to organize their work, should be in a very calm way. The school bag they carry, their lunch boxes all should be easy to manage. Teaching strategies to organize task should be taught. For example, this child might take more time to wear clothes, keep his books in his bag etc.

At the beginning of each school year meet your child’s educator. Plus parents and teachers can never play the blame game. This child needs help from both. Get your child assessed as early as possible. Yes there are institutes in Pakistan that help such children. READ is one, where a child is assessed and taught.

Organisation Strategies

A person with dyslexia is likely to find it difficult to organise everyday tasks. In order to help, parents and teachers can start by providing checklists and setting routines. A helpful aid could be to colour-code their timetable so that lessons can be seen at a glance. Parents should help a dyslexic child pack school bags the night before and put them by the front door. They should Establish a place where everything must be put away immediately after use.

Spelling and writing techniques

Along with spelling, a dyslexic child’s creative writing skill can be hampered. Indications that tell this child’s creative writing skill needs attention may include types of spelling errors (omissions, substitutions, additions, reversals, bizarre spellings), syntactic structure (grammar, use of clauses, punctuation, use of capitals), fluency or flow of ideas, originality of content, vocabulary and motor control skill and handwriting weaknesses.

To improve a dyslexic child’s spelling, parents and educators can work with techniques such as blending and segmenting, vowel dipthong and digraphs, blends, word within a word technique (for example in the word HEAR there is EAR) or teaching a child through introduction of a root word with in a word. In addition, spellings become easier for such children if they learn them through other methods. For example spelling games are available on the Internet and they can be installed in the child’s devices so they can play and improve in their spare time.

But it is important to not that word formation is not reason behind why a dyslexic child’s creative writing skill can be hampered. Instead, it is overwriting which reflects a lot of diversified underlying causes. Some of them can be too many thoughts, difficulty in sequencing thoughts and ideas or difficulty in comprehending thoughts on paper. Moreover I have also observed weak syntactic structure, that is punctuation and spelling errors. A dyslexic child’s writing further reflects the fact that they need to make an exceptional effort to improve their vocabulary.

To remedy this and improve creative writing skill, logical thinking and sequential memory the child should first write down all the random thoughts, about the topic, he wants to write, on a piece of paper and then later organize his work. (Sort of a rough draft in points form). This will boost his sequential memory and logical thinking skill. This child should be encouraged to substitute innovative words in place of simple words in his compositions. They should be encouraged to use an electronic dictionary or Google search different words to increase their vocabulary. Usage of Thesaurus is recommended. Spelling rules should be taught to them.

Apart from this, correction of spelling mistakes should be done through rainbow writing. Rainbow writing is a strategy used for corrections of spelling mistakes .It is done through seven color pencils. As colours leave an impact on our mind, each spelling mistake should be written seven times, using one color each time.

Exposure to various books is recommended on various topics. Interest does not develop by giving a book in a child’s hand. Preferably books with pictures are recommended, as they will grab the child’s attention. For example National geographic magazine for children is quite catchy and infectious to broaden a child’s horizon and enhance their intellectual capability.

These children learn better by engaging multiple senses, therefore it’s important to give them exposure to activities like gardening. Children, who have learning difficulty, can feel no one understands them.  Somehow children who have any sort of learning difficulty enjoy activities like gardening, clay modeling and are often pet lovers.

Organising their room, packing their school bag, and making their bed should all be done by the child. These activities are encouraged as they are considered to be mind relaxers. And these activities improve sequential memory. Such children will also show marked improvement in their work, if they get encouragement and vigilant guidance in school and at home. In the words of Ignacio Istrada ,“If a child does not learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach ourselves the way they learn.”

Symptoms, if a child is dyslexic:

•             Expression (as he has delayed speech and slow language development )

•             Comprehension

•             Associating, remembering and assimilating information.

•             Learning spellings