As parents we just want our children to have happy lives, whatever that means for each individual. But struggling at schoolclearly makes that difficult. Any significant difficulty with reading or writing is always going to be a big issue.
In addition to that worry, there is always the question of ‘dyslexia’ hanging around. There is lots of confusion about what that means and what can be done about it.
The first thing to know is that confusion is quite normal. I have worked in this area for 10 years and I have never heard two matching definitions of dyslexia. If a word cannot be defined it is effectively meaningless! However, the term is in constant use and so we need to do our best to deal with the situation.
The next most important thing to understand is that we have a constant flow of children working through Easyread who have been “diagnosed” as dyslexic, but end up being able to read and write better than the average for their age. So giving up hope is a big mistake.
People often list “indicators” of possible dyslexia. These will be very wide ranging, from high artistic ability to organisational difficulty. For me, they all relate to the 7 causes of reading difficulty that we list on our site. Here are some examples:
· High artistic ability – Cause: Optilexia, caused by a strong visual memory
· Poor organisation – Cause: weak short term memory
· Low verbal ability and poor reading ability – Cause: Optilexia, caused by weak hearing or weak auditory processing
· High verbal ability and poor reading ability – Cause: Optilexia, caused by strong visual memory
· Poor focus, easily distracted – Cause: attention deficit.
· Difficulty with small text – Cause: eye-tracking weakness or Irlen Syndrome
· Low confidence in public – Cause: stress spirals
I hope it is obvious from this that there is not one thing that we can call dyslexia, unless we are just using it as an umbrella term for difficulty with reading and writing. There is no connection between these different underlying causes of difficulty, any more than a low oil level has any connection with a weak battery in a car. The exciting thing is that just as a good mechanic tries to understand the cause of poor performance in a car, once you can relate the “dyslexia symptoms” you see to real underlying causes of difficulty, progress becomes a lot easier to achieve.
Sometimes people feel that the dyslexia label is a comfort. I agree that it is better than a belief that one is stupid. The danger is that it leads to an acceptance of poor reading and writing ability. Nobody should have to go through life with poor literacy because it puts them at a huge disadvantage and makes achieving their full potential far harder. From our experience it is almost always possible to become a good reader and writer.
Should you be worried by a suggestion of dyslexia? If you do nothing, yes. So long as you get the right help… no...
David Morgan is Managing Director of the Easyread System, an online synthetic phonics program designed to teach struggling dyslexic and highly visual children how to read. Find out more at www.easyreadsystem.com