What is Dyslexia?

What is dyslexia?

How Phonics Help Children With Dyslexia Learn to Read

Dr. Linda advises a worried mom to have her child tested for dyslexia, and then explains what dyslexia is and why a phonics-based reading program helps.

Dear Dr. Linda,

Our daughter is in the third grade and was just diagnosed with dyslexia. She’s embarrassed to go to school, because she can’t read. My husband and I are willing to pay anyone who says that they’ll teach her to read.

One of my friends said that her son went for eye therapy and that helped him read. Another friend told me to try a program called “Fast Forward.”

Someone else mentioned trying one of the “movement-based learning” programs. Some are expensive and many involve hours of after school time.

She’s only eight, so we don’t want her to spend all day in school and after school doing schoolwork. We also don’t want to spend a lot of money unless it will help. If it will help, we’ll spend whatever we need to spend. What else is available that won’t be hours and hours a week? Claudia D.

Dear Claudia,

This is a common question. As you know, when a child is already in the third grade and still struggles with reading, many parents will pay for any program that claims it will teach your dyslexic child to read. When a child can’t read and has been diagnosed with dyslexia, it not only affects her intellectually, but emotionally as well. And often parents don’t know what is dysxlexia so they can’t be sure if the diagnosis is correct, much less if a program is any good.

No matter how much you praise your child and try to make her feel good about herself, it doesn’t help. When she’s sitting in a class and everyone takes turns reading, she gets nervous and embarrassed because she won’t be able to read. So, why wouldn’t a parent pay for a program that claims they can help your child read?

But, which program is a good question. Most programs that claim to help dyslexic kids read have not been proven to help. The research shows that dyslexic children are more likely to improve reading from intensive reading instruction in phonics.

I recommend not spending a lot of money and your child’s precious time going through a program that doesn’t specifically address dyslexia as defined by the International Dyslexia Association. Some programs which help with reading difficulties in general don’t use an accurate definition of dyslexia.

What is Dyslexia?

Next, before starting any program, be sure that your daughter truly has dyslexia.

Dyslexia is not reading backwards nor is it simply any reading problem in general. It’s not caused by a visual problem or poor eyesight. While vision is a critical part of reading because you need to be able to see adequately and comfortably in order to read, vision has nothing to do with dyslexia.

If you child’s friend improved his reading after eye therapy, the child didn’t have dyslexia but a visual problem with reading.

Dyslexia is an auditory problem. According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), dyslexia is a phonologically-based reading impairment.

More simply, our language is made up of about 44 little sounds called “phonemes.” Open any dictionary and you’ll see them listed at the beginning. Reading is remembering the sounds that go with each of these phonemes.

The average reader picks up these sounds naturally and puts it with the letters and words. The dyslexic child needs a phonologically-based reading program to learn these sounds. So, be sure that your daughter has been diagnosed correctly.

Other reading problems would not be treated the same way. For example, a child who is poor in reading comprehension doesn’t necessarily have dyslexia and wouldn’t necessarily need phonics.

Orton-Gilllingham Methodology for Dyslexia

If your daughter has been diagnosed correctly by a reading specialist, a neuro-psychologist or an approved evaluator by the IDA, you can go directly to your school with the diagnosis. Almost every school has a reading teacher who is trained to teach children with dyslexia.

Also, contact the International Dyslexia Association in your area. They will give you a list of qualified tutors who can work with your daughter. See who they recommend.

Remember that more doesn’t mean better. You need someone who knows Orton-Gillingham methodology and can make your daughter comfortable. When she feels comfortable, she’ll start wanting to read and enjoy reading.

In the meantime, read with her. She reads the words she knows and you read the rest. Be sure she chooses a book she would like to read. And a book that’s easy enough that she’ll be able to read some of the words herself.

Dr. Linda

P.S. Playing card games can help with reading also. Pick up a set of my Phonics Card Games today.


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