Dyslexia is again receiving attention as the “go-to” diagnosis for poor performance in reading and math. It has become a “catch-all” diagnosis for poor visual and auditory skills, lack of phonics, difficulty with expressive or receptive language, poor memory, visual motor deficiencies, and lack of fine motor skills. True dyslexia is a neurological condition that is often found to be genetic. There can be a mild range of the disability, or it can manifest as a severe impairment.
Dyslexia is often diagnosed when a young student in kindergarten or first grade fails to gain reading skills. The good news is, if appropriate interventions are undertaken at an intense level, dyslexia can become a minimal symptom or reverse entirely!
Upon seeing such a significant increase in dyslexia, educators should take a serious look at current reading methods. Sight reading and reading speed are inappropriate for beginning readers. In fact, this approach can manifest symptoms of dyslexia that do not represent a true dyslexic brain.
It is interesting to note that previous generations were taught with a reading curriculum heavy in phonics, drilling, and reciting. Dyslexia symptoms were minimal and young students rarely failed in school.
My four decades working with dyslexic children and adults leads me to the following conclusions:
Early intervention to change or shape the brain is necessary. Intense language training can also benefit a child who is also language-delayed and showing beginning signs of reading failure.
Improve beginning reading programs with systematic intense phonics for all students. Delaying sight words for most beginning readers would help ensure greater reading success.
Return to a preschool/Kindergarten curriculum that also uses perceptual training, language, and reading readiness that will create a first grader ready to read!
Reading that is timed for students is inappropriate. Many young students do not have visual tracking skills to maintain speed. Speed reading in itself can cause many visual reversals, and it fails to give young readers the time they need to decode. This causes so much frustration for beginning readers.
True dyslexia should be guided with much expertise and precise diagnosis. Intensive systematic phonics for a period of time will open the gates to success for even the most challenging student!