Reading is one of the most important skills a child needs to master because it provides a foundation for learning every other subject in school and beyond. Developing reading skills is difficult, especially for those with dyslexia. However, with appropriate intervention, those with dyslexia can and do learn to read.
Before working with a child who struggles with reading, understand that although widely believed, dyslexia is NOT reading backwards. Confusing letters like “b” and “d” is common for beginning readers and has nothing to do with the disorder. The source of reading problems may also be due to an inability to hear the differences between distinct phonemes (sounds), gaps in ability to identify all of the letters of the alphabet, or not learning to distinguish between consonants and vowels. Dyslexia is a specific condition in which the normal neural (brain) connections between visual symbols (letters) and the sounds they make do not happen automatically.
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Symptoms of a Reading Disorder
- Despite repeated exposure, has difficulty matching letters and sounds.
- Inserts or deletes words when reading.
- Demonstrates a persistently weak vocabulary.
- Has trouble comprehending what has been read.
- Reads a word but cannot remember it seconds later.
- Cries or becomes upset when asked to read.
Strategies for Working with Children Struggling with Reading
- The first step is helping them learn the phonemes and develop strategies to recall and apply them. Playing games that require repeated connections of letters and the sounds they make in order to win is by far the best way for your child to practice until those connections are automatic.
- To make reading easier and to facilitate fluency, have the child memorize commonly used “sight” words.
- Provide easy-to-read books for the child (one or two levels below the grade level he or she is on).
- Have the child read the same books, poems, or plays over and over again. Familiarity improves fluency, as well as retention and confidence.
- Be sure to give the child adequate time. All children need to learn phonics, but those with reading problems tend to need more time than average readers to develop alternative neural paths when decoding words.
- Play memory games using new sight words and vocabulary words.
Remember, children who struggle with reading may or may not have dyslexia. Remember that diagnoses of learning disabilities of any kind depends on the existence of more than one symptom. For example, if your child reads accurately and fluently, and comprehension is the only difficulty, then dyslexia is not the issue. Contact an educational testing professional to have your child tested, or call Dr. Linda at 845-628-7910 for a free 15-minute consultation.