In General Knowledge for the Family, Physical & Mental Health

Dyslexia: Understanding Learning Disabilities


Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, are neurological disorders that can keep children and teens from reaching their full academic potential. Dyslexia makes it very difficult for people to acquire the language skills they need to complete their education. Through alternative learning methods, many people with learning disabilities are overcoming academic difficulties to achieve their life’s goals. By identifying dyslexia and other learning disorders early on in your child’s life, they can receive the support they need to acquire quality education and establish a successful career.

Defining Dyslexia

According to recent studies, about 15% of the American populace suffers from dyslexia. What is dyslexia? By definition, it is a learning disorder that hinders children from learning essential language skills such as reading, writing, spelling and communication. Educators believe dyslexia to be a major learning disruption. The effects of dyslexia vary from person to person and may even change throughout a person’s life. Although dyslexic victims often have similar symptoms, the severity of their disability can range from a mild case to severe dysfunction. Students with severe cases of dyslexia will need specialized training to overcome the difficulties they face in their studies.

Reading is a fundamental skill required for establishing almost any career. Most schools teach reading through phonemic awareness – the ability to sound out letters to form words – and through recognizing and remembering words by sight. From the time they are young, students build their reading skills through the consistent practice of these two aspects. Children who suffer from dyslexia have problems processing phonetic sounds and retaining words. This makes it difficult for them to keep up with the rest of the class in developing their reading skills. In large classroom settings, it’s quite easy for dyslexic students to not receive the time and attention they need to progress in their language studies. As a result, they find themselves failing or falling far behind their classmates.

The cause of this learning disability is not yet known. However, studies show that the disorder is genetic, making it possible for various family members to suffer from the same problem. Brain studies of dyslexic individuals reveal that their brain develops and processes information differently than the norm. These differences could be the cause of their learning disability, despite the fact that they have the intelligence and willingness to learn.

Signs of Dyslexia

Identifying dyslexia early on can make a big difference in helping children overcome this learning disability. Although there is no “cure” for this disability, educators have found ways to help dyslexic students gain the academic skills they need to succeed. By learning some of the signs of this disorder, parents and teachers can help identify the problem as early as preschool age. This enables their children to receive the help they need to achieve their full academic potential.

The following are some common dyslexia symptoms to look out for in preschool and elementary school-age children. Young dyslexic children will often experience difficulty in these areas:

  • Learning how to talk.
  • Pronouncing words.
  • Learning the names and sounds of the alphabet.
  • Learning basic numbers, colors, shapes.
  • Learning speech sounds.
  • Rhyming.
  • Identifying syllables.
  • Identifying letter sequence in words.
  • Reading, writing and spelling simple words.
  • Following directions when given in sequence.
  • Understanding word problems.

If left to themselves, dyslexic children will experience even greater learning difficulties as they grow into adolescence and young adulthood. Some symptoms of this learning disability in older children, teens and adults include:

  • Reading and spelling skills are far below the capacity for their age.
  • Lack of ability to keep up with reading or writing assignments.
  • Struggle in understanding non-literal language.
  • Difficulty in organization and time management.
  • Lack of memorization skills.
  • Difficulty in communicating with others.
  • Trouble summarizing or relating details in sequence.

If parents perceive symptoms of dyslexia in their children, they should request a dyslexia test or evaluation from a reading specialist. A specialist will start by examining the child’s ability to comprehend language skills. He will then delve into the student’s history, social and educational background and intellect to determine if dyslexia could be the cause of weaknesses in his or her learning capacity. Early diagnosis of this disability can save students and teachers time and frustration in the classroom. Once a child has been diagnosed with this disability, he or she can be given specialized instruction for learning the academic skills he or she needs.

Effects of Dyslexia

Left “untreated”, dyslexia can have devastating effects on a child, making him or her feel inferior and incapable of learning. This learning disorder can easily destroy a child’s confidence and self-esteem. The disability makes it extremely difficult for children to learn the basics of language skills. This automatically sets them apart from the rest of the class and often causes them to be labeled as “slow” or “stupid.” Children with mild cases of dyslexia may do fine learning basic reading and writing skills. However, they often run into problems later on when facing the complexities of advanced grammar, spelling and reading in higher grades.

Some dyslexic students experience problems in communicating with others, due to not being able to express their thoughts and ideas clearly. Others find it difficult to understand what’s being said, due to difficulty in processing verbal speech and abstract thoughts. These problems can manifest themselves at home, in the classroom, at work or other social environments. It’s not uncommon for dyslexic children and young people to become frustrated, angry, depressed and even fearful concerning their learning disorder. Their emotions can often work against them, making it very hard for them to concentrate on their studies. Many students begin to lose hope that they will ever accomplish their dreams.

Dyslexia presents many challenges to children and young people who want to get a good education, but feel they are incapable of learning. Parents and teachers will be instrumental in meeting dyslexic children’s educational needs. The more parents, educators and students know about this learning disorder, the better they can cope with its difficulties and help dyslexic students accept its challenges. These students are often quite intelligent and capable of learning; howbeit, they often need alternate means of learning to achieve their academic goals.

The Role of Parents and Educators in Helping Dyslexic Students

Most school systems today offer alternative learning methods for students as part of the dyslexia treatment program. This specialized instruction enables students to make progress in their academic training. With proper support and assistance, these children can learn how to overcome their disability and get the most from their education. Dyslexic students in the U.S. now benefit from federal laws that entitle them to specialized instruction and training that will enable them to further their education.

Children who are diagnosed with dyslexia in their younger years increase their chances of learning language skills quicker and easier. However, that shouldn’t stop older dyslexic learners from making an effort to acquire the skills they need. A well structured multi-sensory language program for dyslexic students can benefit children, teens and adults alike. At the same time, students should be aware that they may need to work harder and longer than their peers to reach their academic goals.

It’s important for parents and educators to provide a strong support base for their dyslexic students to help them succeed. Parents may need to provide extra assistance at home to boost their children’s confidence and self esteem. Teachers may need to invest extra time and effort to ensure academic progress is made. By combining their efforts, teachers and parents can make a positive difference in a dyslexic child’s life. Dyslexia is an obstacle that can be overcome. Countless people with dyslexia have been successful in learning to read, write and communicate at a high level, enabling them to establish prosperous professional careers.

Learning Strategies

Parents can be of tremendous help in boosting their dyslexic children’s language skills by reinforcing their academic training at home. They can also boost their morale through their support and encouragement. The following are some helpful strategies parents can put into effect at home to foster greater progress in their children’s reading and writing skills:

  • Read out loud to your children as much as possible.
  • Encourage your child to develop writing and drawing skills at an early age.
  • Introduce your child to the letters and sounds of the alphabet at preschool age, to increase linguistic awareness.
  • Have your child practice reading from various types of texts to include books, comics, magazines, advertisements in newspapers, etc.
  • Incorporate multi-sensory media into your child’s learning program and encourage him to participate in early learning activities.
  • Take advantage of modern technology such as computers, screen readers, MP3 players, etc. to help your child learn language skills.
  • Once your child enters school, make sure he or she gets the extra attention and specialized instruction required for dyslexic students.
  • Provide all the encouragement and motivation your child needs to overcome his learning difficulties.

The older a child becomes, the more self-conscious they are of their learning disability. This weakness can cause a breach between them and their peers. To help offset these academic difficulties, parents should ensure their children have opportunities to develop other talents or skills they are interested in. This can include sports, music, or arts. All children have strengths and weaknesses – encouraging your child to develop other talents and skills will boost their self-confidence and give them pride in their accomplishments. This is especially important in helping children feel they are just as good as their peers.

Famous People with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is not limited to any one sector of society or ethnic background. It affects people from all nationalities and walks of life. It’s perhaps the most widespread of all learning disabilities. Many famous people had to overcome dyslexia in their youth in order to establish their careers. These careers are as diversified as the people themselves, proving success is possible for those who don’t quite. The list of overcomers includes such celebrities as:

  • World renown movie director Steven Spielberg.
  • Actor Henry Winkler (aka the “Fonz”).
  • Olympian champion Bruce Jenner.
  • Newscaster Anderson Cooper.
  • Clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger.
  • Professional NBA basketball star Magic Johnson.
  • Actress Liv Tyler.
  • Comedian Jay Leno.

Celebrated actor Jim Carrey was diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD as a young adult. Yet he continued with his education and now excels in his profession. Ironically, that profession deals specifically with using language skills that require reading and memorizing lengthy movie scripts.

Seeing how others have overcome this learning disability gives young people hope that they, too, can fight their learning difficulties and establish successful careers. Dyslexia need not be a roadblock to achieving a person’s educational goals. Through hard work and perseverance, dyslexic students are fully capable of reaching their full potential academically and on a professional level.

By learning to face the obstacles that dyslexia puts in their path, young people can gain a greater respect and appreciation for their education. Their difficulties in reaching their goals will make their accomplishments even more rewarding. Parents with dyslexic children should make every effort to see their children receive the academic assistance they need to succeed. Knowing dyslexia can be overcome should give parents, teachers and students the confidence to persevere until they win.

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