This October, our Burlingame doctors, and staff are pleased to celebrate with you, National Dyslexia Awareness Month.
Dyslexia is not a vision based disorder. However, because it affects reading, many students are referred for an eye exam to be sure that other types of eye problems are not contributing to reading difficulties. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability (LD) that results from a deficit in the phonological component of language that affects reading and learning. People with dyslexia have trouble recognizing phonemes,-that is the sound that each letter makes when you say it out loud, like “buh” for the letter B. This causes impaired decoding, where students are unable to sound out words, and leads to difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, impaired spelling and writing, and interferes with reading comprehension. . As a result, dyslexic students struggle with reading
Dyslexic brains are “wired” differently even before birth. Compared to typical readers, children with dyslexia use different parts of their brain for processing written words, and these pathways are less efficient. Effective remediation requires teachers, parents, and doctors to diagnose dyslexia early and address reading deficits with a structured literacy program. In order to “level the playing field” in school, our students need accommodations, such as additional time on tests, recorded books, text-to-speech reading software, spell checkers, specialized computer technology, and alternative testing strategies, ie, verbal test taking.
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability and affects 1 in 5, or 20% of school-aged children in the United States. There is a strong genetic basis, with 50% of dyslexics having a first degree relative with dyslexia or a learning disability. It is a lifelong condition—one does not “grow out of it.” It is not related to decreased intelligence--people with dyslexia are not “slow” or “stupid.” Dyslexics do not “see letters upside down or backward” nor do they have “tracking issues.” A small percentage of our patients may have a convergence insufficiency (difficulty turning their eyes inward to focus on near objects, like books). This can be diagnosed and treated with home eye exercises. Vision therapy, colored lenses, and nutritional supplements have not been statistically proven to benefit our patients with dyslexia. Costly therapies that are ineffective can delay proper diagnosis, delay proper instruction or remediation, and waste time and money. Our pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr Kim Cooper, can help rule out eye problems related to reading difficulties, and, if needed, refer you to an educational specialist or neuropsychologist who can accurately diagnosis dyslexia.
While dyslexia cannot be “cured”, but it can be remediated to reduce the impact on the daily lives of our students. We know that all children learn differently, and this holds true for children with dyslexia, too. Students with dyslexia should have and are entitled to, accommodations in school, such as extra time on tests, spell checkers, modified homework assignments and additional help organizing projects, which “level the playing field” and allow dyslexic students to perform at their academic best. If you think your child might have dyslexia, diagnosing and starting treatment early, even as soon as kindergarten or first grade, can improve their happiness, and their self-confidence as well as their performance in school.
Possible indicators of dyslexia include:
Take the opportunity during National Dyslexia Awareness Month to make sure your child can see clearly. If you are concerned about an undiagnosed reading problem or learning disability, talk with us, or with your pediatrician. For an appointment, please call us at 650-259-0300.
Other resources regarding dyslexia include:
AAPOS Learning Disabilities Resource List - includes “A Parent’s Guide to Dyslexia (Reading Disability)”, “Learning Disabilities Resource List for Parents”, free copies available at my office
International Dyslexia Association Handbook: What Every Family Should Know – www.interdys.org/ewebeditpro5/upload/IDADyslexiaHandbook WhatEveryFamilyShouldKnow.pdf
National Center for Learning Disabilities – www.ncld.com
Decoding Dyslexia (your states initals – CA for example) – www.decodingdyslexiaca.org
Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Overcoming Reading Problems at Any Level – Sally Shaywitz, MD, New York, NY, Knopf; 2003.