In layman’s terms, dyslexia is a condition which manifests itself in a weakness around learning to read and/or write. This difficulty may well be accompanied by problems in such areas as short-term memory, working with numbers, motor skills, sequencing and visual and/or auditory perception.
In the main, the effects of dyslexia tend to centre on using written language including letters, numbers and musical notation. Alongside this, verbal skills may well be affected.
Whilst it is biological in nature, dyslexia is not a disease and therefore cannot be ‘cured’. With the right help and teaching, however, it can be managed and coped with much more effectively, and needn’t cast a blight over the rest of a child’s life. It should always be remembered that dyslexia has a tendency to run in families and is in no way a reflection of a child’s natural intelligence or socio-economic background.
Whilst this general guide can help parents to identify and cope with the signs of dyslexia, it is recommended that an individual assessment is sought as the needs of each separate child are unique, and will be best met by specifically tailored teaching.
Signs of Dyslexia
The signs of dyslexia can be divided along the lines of those which are strictly related to matters of reading and writing, and those which manifest themselves in more general terms. Alongside this, certain signs can be divided along age lines, and the stages of education with which they generally coincide.
- Similar problems running in the family
- Child finds it difficult to dress themselves, particularly when putting shoes on the right feet and when dealing with buttons and laces.
- Gets pleasure from being read to without paying attention to individual words or letters.
- Will often appear to be distracted or not paying full attention
- Clumsiness when moving around, tripping over or running into things etc.
- Has a problem when attempting to throw, catch or kick a ball, along with other games such as skipping or clapping out a rhythm.
- Language and speech specific signs
- May start to speak later than expected.
- Learns new words slowly
- Find rhyming words, such as nursery rhymes, difficult
- Mixes up phrases consistently – ie ‘Dirthbay’ for ‘Birthday’, ‘Double Extra Bus’ for ‘Double Decker Bus’.
- Common confusions occur around the letters b and d and the numbers 6 and 9.
- Finds it difficult to remember the names of everyday objects such as ‘lamp’ ‘television’.
- Mixes up direction specific words such as in for out and up for down.
- Difficulty remembering or reporting sequences, such as days of the week or sequences from stories and games.
- Slow to learn the letters of the alphabet.
- Early Primary School – problems learning the alphabet, counting syllables in words, breaking words down into separate sounds and solving problems based around remembering and naming.
- Later Primary School – slow or poor reading, particularly reading aloud, and very poor spelling. Problems with time keeping and keeping track of time whilst engaged in a task, allied to a general lack of organisational skills. Words or letters often omitted when reading or writing.
It has to be remembered that any or all of these signs might be present or absent to varying degrees. Each child is different, and this guide merely presents the situation in general terms. What should also be borne in mind is that children with dyslexia can also sometimes demonstrate particular strengths. Amongst these strengths, the most prevalent are:
- Often very creatively talented, with drawing skills and a strong grasp of colour.
- Can boast an aptitude for technical toys and tasks, particularly things such as building bricks, puzzles, computer interfaces and television remote controls.
- Is clearly bright but somewhat ‘detached’
- Develops own ideas and acts upon them quickly, but is slower to follow instructions
Supporting Dyslexic Children With Their Reading
If your child is exhibiting the symptoms of dyslexia, there are steps which you, as a parent, can take to encourage their reading development. These can be divided into activities which are designed to tackle the problems in general, and those which are aimed specifically at reading.
- Saying nursery rhymes aloud with them.
- Getting them to ‘act out’ the rhymes.
- Use pictures as the basis for discussion, noting details and positional factors.
- Games such as ‘Hunt the Thimble’, relating to the position of objects, and those like ‘Follow My Leader’ and ‘The Hokey-Cokey’ which make use of various parts of the body and of movement skills.
- Whilst it often has a bad name, watching television with your child can be highly beneficial, provided you engage with the programme and with your child, sharing your views and discussing the contents.
- Share the solving of simple puzzles such as dot to dots and spot the difference.
- Get your child to repeat a simple rhythm you clap out, gradually making it more complex. As they grasp the concept, link the rhythm to the syllables of words, encouraging them to clap the syllables as they say the word.
- Play memory and sequence games such as ‘I Went To Market’ or ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm’
- Read aloud to your child – this will foster an interest in, and love of, books, and an ability to follow a story.
- The next step on from reading aloud is to get your child to ‘share’ the reading. Initially, this will amount to encouraging your child to join in by discussing what’s happening in the book, using the illustrations as reference points.
- Reinforce the reading process by running your finger along the line of text as you read it, creating an association between the print on the page and the words being said.
- As your child grows in confidence, encourage them to join in, reading certain words.
- Get them to tell the story in their own words.
- After this comes supported reading, which means encouraging your child to read to you. Give them time to work out what the words are (a maximum of five seconds is recommended, in order to avoid frustration) and help them, teaching them to refer back to other, similar words they’ve already read.
- Get them to think around the words, suggesting what the story is about, what’s going to happen, why characters behave the way they do.
- When your child is sufficiently confident, they can be left to read silently alone. This is best encouraged by example, letting them see that you enjoy reading books and do so regularly.
- Fit reading into the regular daily routine, but try and make it a treat rather than a chore. Reading should always be fun, and if your child finds a book they really love, don’t be concerned if they want to read it over and over again.
- At every stage of the process, offer lots of praise and encouragement.
Choosing Dyslexia-Friendly Books for Kids
When choosing books which might be termed ‘dyslexia friendly’ it has to be remembered that the specifics of the condition vary from person to person. For some, written text is impossibly difficult to grasp, while others love reading.
Use your judgement to gauge whether your child finds it impossible to read five or more words on a page and, if they do, move on to a simpler book, as this will render reading the story too much of a chore and ruin the fun of the story.
One of the things which has to be borne in mind is the individual taste of your child.
Subject matter or a story which will grip and interest them is even more important than any technical details. Always remembering this, and matching the book to your child’s reading age, it is recommended that you look for the following factors:
- Short sentences and paragraphs, designed to maintain both interest and a sense of progress.
- Pages which are set out using wide margins and lots of white space.
- Unjustified right margins make it easier for your child to distinguish between the lines which they have and haven’t read.
- Pictures which help to break up the text give clues to the content and guide the reader through the story.
- Books printed on tinted paper make the text easier for someone with dyslexia to handle.
- The use of a clear and simple font such as sans serif, making each separate letter easily identifiable, and printed to the largest size possible.
- Steer clear of over complex syntax, grammar and sentence construction.
The Books We Recommend…..
We are proud to stock books suitable for dyslexic children and teenagers from the highly regarded publisher, Barrington Stoke. At Barrington Stoke, each book is specially commissioned to meet the needs of dyslexic and struggling readers. We have chosen this fabulous selection to excite and nurture enjoyment for those who struggle with reading.
The books in this collection have been carefully selected from leading special needs publisher, Barrington Stoke and are designed to develop reading skills as well as an enthusiasm for reading. Only the best storytellers have been invited to write their gripping and engaging stories and expert editors ensure that the words and sentence lengths make them accessible for those who struggle with complex writing styles. Every story is sent to children of the right interest age and reading age and their feedback is taken on board so you can be assured that each of these books has been tried, tested and approved.
Coping with dyslexia can often be hard, particularly for a child, and, if they become despondent and discouraged, it can be useful to point out that the following celebrities are amongst the many that have triumphed over the condition:
- Damon Albarn – Singer / Song writer
- Orlando Bloom – Actor
- Richard Branson – Entrepreneur
- Brian Conley – Comedian and Actor
- Tom Cruise – Actor
- Roald Dahl – Author
- Albert Einstein – Scientist
- Harrison Ford – Actor
- Noel Gallagher – Singer
- Bill Gates – Microsoft Chairman
- Eddie Izzard – Comedian
- Steve Jobs – Founder of Apple
- John Lennon – Musician
- Jamie Oliver – Chef
- Steven Spielberg – Director
- Marco Pierre White – Chef
- Benjamin Zephaniah – Poet