When I’m asked to tutor a child, it’s extremely common for a parent to ask me if I think the child could have dyslexia. Having worked with many children with dyslexia in my intervention experience, I do have an understanding of some common characteristics and some common myths that I am able to share with the parent. I try to keep my blog posts from sounding like research papers, but this one may be slightly more technical as I explain in the most understandable terms what the Texas Dyslexia Handbook says about the reading disability. Let’s pretend you are my neighbor, and you see me going for a walk with my family and pull me aside to ask if your child could be dyslexic. Here is the information I would explain to you:
First, I would ask you why you think your child may be dyslexic. If it’s because he/she reverses letters or writes as if he/she is looking into a mirror, I would tell you that this is a common dyslexia myth…
Mirror writing and letter reversing are not necessarily characteristics of dyslexia. When parents see that a child struggles with writing letters correctly, or is reversing a letter such as b and d, it is common for them to think it could be a characteristic of dyslexia. This is not necessarily the case. In many cases, this may be developmental. It is very normal for a child as young as kindergarten or first grade to reverse letters or get them confused during reading.
If you mention that your child seems to be struggling in all subjects in school, I would tell you that this is another common dyslexia myth. In fact, schools use the term “unexpectedness” to explain that a child with dyslexia will likely be really good in subjects unrelated to reading or writing, such as math. Students with dyslexia are generally very intelligent, so one would expect the student to also be a good reader and writer. When they struggle with these two subjects, the school would say that the reading and writing difficulty is “unexpected” and they would consider this a characteristic that may indicate dyslexia (if it occurs along with other factors.)
What other factors could indicate dyslexia? When your child is being evaluated for dyslexia, you would likely be asked if your child:
- Struggles with spelling
- Reads slowly
- Has difficulty understanding what they read, but understands books that are read to them
- Avoids writing
- Has family members who have been identified as dyslexic (that’s right, it can be genetic!)
- Was a delayed speaker
- Has difficulty “sounding out” words, hearing all of the sounds in words, and being able to put sounds together to make words
- Struggles to remember the names of letters and their sounds
- Has difficulty rhyming (for young children)
- Has difficulty recognizing common sight words
Dyslexia is identified using a series of formal assessments. In the state of Texas, these assessments look at spelling and a child’s ability to sound out words and hear the different sounds in each word (for example, if I say the sounds for the letters “d o g” slowly, the child is able to recognize those sounds together as the word “dog.”) As a public school reading specialist, I could generally administer these assessments in a few hours, but it may take several days or weeks to get the school committee to decide whether the student should receive dyslexia services.
- If this sounds like your child, have a conversation with his/her teacher and request dyslexia testing.
- As the parent, you have the right to request testing from the school district.
- The earlier a student can be identified for dyslexia, the earlier they can receive interventions and begin to improve their reading.
- Make sure that you are using the resources of this website to work on reading with your child at home in addition to the work that a dyslexia interventionist may do.
Most importantly, if your child does seem to match these characteristics, I want to reassure you that he or she is going to be okay. I have seen dyslexia intervention programs make HUGE progress with students, and students with dyslexia often go on to being very successful in life.
Feel like you need more information? Check out my article “My Child Has Dyslexia- What Does That Mean?” for information on what to do if your child does have dyslexia.
It should also be noted that the criteria to qualify for dyslexia varies depending on what state you live in. The information on qualifying factors is for the state of Texas specifically.
Resource: The Dyslexia Handbook, Texas Education Agency (2014)