As an educator, I look on with a cautious eye as my students mix up their bs and ds and write numbers backwards. When I see a student write his name right to left in perfect mirror image, I want to run to my computer and send a HELP ME email to the campus Dyslexia Specialist. This summer I decided to learn more about dyslexia. Imagine my surprise when reading, “Reversals are irrelevant to the diagnosis of dyslexia,” in the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Reading this book opened my eyes to what dyslexia really is, and how early intervention is key to creating successful, motivated and confident readers.
Eye-opening points from Dr. Shaywitz:
- Dyslexia affects one out of every five children worldwide, it spans across cultures, races and social demographics.
- The root of dyslexia is a weakness in the phonologic system (using sounds to form and break apart words) rather than a lack of intelligence or visual impairment.
- Family history is a strong indicator of dyslexia.
- Dyslexia can be a result of a weak, early language environment at home and/or school.
- An early warning clue of dyslexia is a delay in speech development as a toddler.
- The inability to verbally “word play,” such as rhyming, matching beginning or ending sounds, and blending or segmenting words is also an early clue that a child may struggle with reading.
- Rote memorization and rapid word recall are challenging tasks for dyslexics because poor readers rely heavily on context clues to decode and comprehend unfamiliar vocabulary.
- Dyslexics are often able to accurately read content words (such as baseball, museum, airplane) by relying on the context; however, function words (i.e. the, and, on, in) are commonly misidentified because they lack meaning to the reader.
- Dyslexics have many intellectual strengths such as creativity, thinking, reasoning and understanding.
Dr. Shaywitz’s book Overcoming Dyslexia explains dyslexia in great detail from brain research to diagnosis to intervention strategies. This book is an excellent resource for teachers as well as parents who wonder why the pieces of the reading puzzle do not always fit as they should.
Kasie Thibodaux is an educator and aunt to two preemies. She is entering her tenth year of teaching at Fern Bluff Elementary. Thibodaux graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Applied Learning and Development and a specialization in Reading.