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Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard to read, write, and spell. It occurs because the brain jumbles or mixes up letters and words. Children who have this problem often have a poor memory of spoken and written words.
Having dyslexia doesn't mean that your or your child's ability to learn is below average. In fact, many people with this problem are very bright. But not being able to read well can make many areas of learning harder.
Dyslexia is also called specific learning disability, reading disorder, and reading disability.
Experts don't know for sure what causes dyslexia. But it often runs in families. So it may be passed from parents to children. Some studies have found problems with how the brain links letters and words with the sounds they make.
Signs of dyslexia in children who are too young for school include:
After a child begins school, the signs of dyslexia include:
Dyslexia and other learning problems are diagnosed by a psychologist who specializes in children and how they learn (called an educational psychologist). A diagnosis is made by an assessment process that may include:
After the educational psychologist looks over all of the information they gathered, they will write a report. The report includes:
Treatment uses a number of teaching methods to help your child read better. These methods include:
If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, the educational psychologist will develop a plan for your child’s support and treatment. This is called an individual program plan (IPP) or individual support plan (ISP). The educational psychologist will ask you, your child's teachers, and others at the school who they work with to take part in designing the plan. Your child will get an updated plan each year based on how well they are doing and what your child's needs are.
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Signs of dyslexia in children who are too young for school include:
Preschool A preschool-age child may:
After a child starts school, the symptoms of dyslexia include:
Kindergarten through grade 4 Children in kindergarten through fourth grade may:
Grades 5 through 8 Children in fifth through eighth grade may:
High school and university Students in high school and university may:
If your child has one of these signs, it doesn't mean that they have dyslexia. Many children reverse letters before age 7. But if your child has several signs and reading problems, or if you have a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your child checked for the problem.
If your child struggles with language, reading, and sounding out words, you may want to have your child checked for dyslexia. You can also speak with your child's pediatrician, teacher, school psychologist, or school counsellor if you believe your child's reading or other language skills are not advancing compared to other children their age.
If you have dyslexia and are concerned that your child may have some of the signs of dyslexia, you may want to talk to your doctor or to school staff. Your child is at increased risk for having dyslexia.
There are many programs to help children develop their reading and writing skills (called structured literacy intervention). They all follow several rules or methods that include:
Provincial laws may require schools to set up a learning plan to meet the needs of a child with dyslexia. An example of this is an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP may also be called an Individualized Program Plan (IPP). You, your child's teachers, and other school personnel will have a say in designing the plan. The plan is updated each year based on how well your child is doing and what your child's needs are.
If you seek special education assistance for your child, it's handy to keep copies of:
It’s important to remember that children do not learn at the same rate. Children with dyslexia have their own strengths and areas for growth. They will also learn skills at their own pace. Because their reading and writing skills are below the level of others in their grade, it’s important that they get ongoing help and support. Schools can offer support and use teaching technology to help students with dyslexia succeed. This may include:
It is important to know that dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Even though early treatment during childhood can help, your child will likely always have to make an extra effort to read and write.
Children who have dyslexia may need emotional support for the many challenges they face. Here is a list of ways parents can offer encouragement.
Information about dyslexia can help you better understand and help your child.
For example, if your child understands more when listening, let him or her learn new information by listening to an audiobook or watching a DVD. If you can, follow up with the same story in written form.
Most children with dyslexia can be challenged by parents who encourage intellectual growth. Be honest with your child about dyslexia. Explain it in understandable and age-appropriate examples and terms. Offer unconditional love and support.
Be honest with your child about what dyslexia is. Explain it in understandable and age-appropriate examples and terms while offering unconditional love and support.
There may be some things your child will always struggle with. Help your child understand that this doesn't mean that he or she is a failure.
Expecting perfection and arguing with your child over homework will create an unhealthy relationship and will put the focus on your child's failures.
You can be a positive force in your child's education. Following is a list of ways parents can help their young children who have dyslexia develop reading skills.
Find time to read to your child every day. Point to the words as you read. Draw attention to words that you run across in daily life, such as traffic signs, billboards, notices, and labels.
Show your child how important reading is to daily life. Make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for your child to explore and enjoy independently.
Play rhyming games, sing songs that emphasize rhyme and alliteration, play word games, sound out letters, and point out similarities in words.
Point out new words, play spelling games, and encourage your child to write.
Hang up simple charts, clocks, and calendars, so your child can visualize time and plan for the future.
Find books that your child can read but that you will also enjoy. Sit together, take turns reading, and encourage discussion. Revisiting words that cause trouble for your child and rereading stories are powerful tools to reinforce learning.
Adaptation Date: 8/3/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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