“He was often expelled out of the classroom for being a poor performer. But, instead of sitting idle, he was always sighted sketching something on his notepad. “Reading blind” was the term attached to him, to explain the constantly changing orientation of letter while he read. After many years of failed attempts to study normal academics, finally he was enrolled in the school of arts at the age of 14.
His paintings often presented objects backwards, out of order, or turned any number of ways, which were thought as imagination-inspired, but were actually real to him.
He was dyslexic, and that was the normal orientation for him to view the world. This person was the most famous painter of 20th century. He painted the abnormal, he painted unique. He was Pablo Picasso.”
A famous bollywood movie “Taare Zameen Par”, was directed somewhere on these lines, depicting story of a kid who was sent to a boarding school at a very young age, and who suffered mental trauma because he was dyslexic. But, his parents were unaware of any such disorder. They were unable to understand their own child. This was the first big attempt to make Indians aware about dyslexia.
Dyslexia is not a disease. It’s just a reading disorder, and dyslexic people are often intelligent and are blessed with extraordinary talents. Our history proves this fact very well.
Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, George Washington, John F Kennedy, George W Bush, Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Agatha Christie, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and the list goes on.
Yes, this is a list of few of the many eminent personalities who were Dyslexic. But dyslexia never stopped them from being successful. It never came in their way of pursuing their dreams.
Rather, dyslexia helped them become successful. It helped them see the world like nobody else could see. It helped them move towards their goals with much more determination and challenge.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is defined as an unexpected difficulty in learning to read. Dyslexia takes away an individual’s ability to read quickly, and automatically, and to retrieve spoken words easily, but it does not dampen their creativity and ingenuity. – Yale Center of Dyslexia and Creativity
Dyslexics are slow readers, but contradictory to that, they are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning ability. Dyslexia is a cognitive disorder, and not a problem with intelligence.
Common symptoms of dyslexia include difficulties in ‘spelling words, reading and writing quickly, sounding out words in mind, and understanding what one reads’.
Most of the dyslexic cases are genetic, but it may be caused due to environmental factors as well. Traumatic brain injury, stroke and dementia are few of the common causes for dyslexia to begin in adulthood.
Possible causes of Dyslexia
- Hereditary: Dyslexia is often caused due to hereditary and genetic issues. Even if one member of the family is dyslexic, there are chances that child can also face difficulty in learning. Around 40% of siblings of kids with dyslexia have the same learning issues. Around 49% of parents of kids with Dyslexia have it too.
- Brain anatomy and activity: There are differences in brain with dyslexia and without dyslexia. The part of brain involved in learning ‘reading skills’ are slightly different in dyslexic kids. ‘Reading skills’ include how sounds are represented in words and what written words look like.
Signs of Dyslexia
Signs of Dyslexia keeps changing with age.
Early Signs of Dyslexia – Preschool Age
- Delay in language development, lack of fluency.
- Trouble recognizing whether two words rhyme
- Difficulty in learning new words
- Struggle in taking away beginning sound from a word.
- Problem in recognizing letters and matching them to word
- Mispronouncing words. Child may pronounce “animal” as “aminal”
- Inability to understand complete command or direction
Dyslexia affects the way brain processes language. So, very often it happens that dyslexic children may be unable to associate things with the actual names. And they find it difficult to grasp too many details at once.
Signs of Dyslexia at Middle School Age
- Too many spelling errors.
- Has to re-read sentences or paragraphs to understand its meaning
- Child stammers while speaking long sentences
- Often confuses between the words of similar sounds but different meaning. (For example: distinct and extinct)
- Spells the same word in different ways while reading a passage
- Difficulty in expressing ideas in organized way.
Dyslexia makes it hard to come up with the right word instantly, pronounce the word correctly, or decode meaning of a particular word. Dyslexia affects many aspects of communication, which in turn affects social skills of a child.
Signs of Dyslexia at High School Age
- Tends to skip small words when reading aloud
- Reading fluency is lower as compared to other children in the same grade
- Prefers solving multiple choice questions as compared to writing long sentences
- Inability to understand puns, proverbs, and idioms.
- Often gets confused between left and right
Dyslexia makes it hard to understand all kind of language. So, dyslexics find it hard to understand humour, direction, navigation, or any other foreign language.
Other Issues that can co-occur with Dyslexia
There are many other issues that decrease the ability to learn or stay focused. Sometimes they are confused with Dyslexia, or they can co-occur with Dyslexia.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD reduces the ability of a child to stay focused and learn. Be it reading or any other activity, they frequently deviate from what they are doing. Almost 40 percent of those with ADHD also have symptoms of Dyslexia. But kids with dyslexia may fidget or act out in class because of frustration over reading, not ADHD.
- Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): APD affects children’s ability to sort through the sounds they hear. They often have difficulty in distinguishing between letter sounds and sounding out new words. They might find it hard to locate where the sound is coming from, or understanding something in noisy environment. Spelling and reading skills can also be impacted. However, as opposed to Dyslexia, a child with APD may prefer reading a story as compared to hearing it.
- Visual Processing Issues: Visual processing issue makes it hard for a child to process what they see. They might have blurry vision, or see letters hopping on the page. They often reverse letters while writing, and find it difficult to write between lines. A child with visual processing issues may find it hard to distinguish between shapes, size, judge distances, or process too much visual information
- Dysgraphia: Dyslexia and Dysgraphia are both learning issues. Dyslexia mainly affects reading and Dysgraphia affects writing. Dysgraphia affects child’s ability to spell and to form letters and numbers. It also makes it hard for them to express their thoughts on paper.
- Dyscalculia: Dyscalculia is the difficulty in doing maths. It is often accompanied with Dyslexia as both of them are learning issues. Dyscalculia makes it hard to remember number and sums. It also affects the ability to learn how to count, and make graphs and charts.
Uncommon strengths Dyslexic kids possess
Dyslexic kids are often blessed with uncommon strengths that a typical kid might not possess at that age. Few of the strengths are listed below.
- Curious mind
- Problem solving attitude
- Generating and comprehending new ideas
- Creative and insightful thinking
- 3D construction
- Able to visualize a bigger picture
Find out what all strengths does your child possess.
Treatments to cure Dyslexia
There are no medications to cure Dyslexia. Medications might cure other co-occurring issues but not Dyslexia. Dyslexics just need a different technique to learn things. And apart from that, they just need care, love and support from their family to get cured.
Speech therapy makes a child phonologically aware. They begin to learn sound structure of words.
- Teaches to identify individual units of sound, like syllable, rhyming, and identifying sound in words.
- Helps them overcome the difficulty to read long paragraphs.
- Works on building vocabulary of the child, and helps him to read aloud.
Occupational therapy helps a kid learn through multi-sensory approach, which means multiple senses are activated simultaneously to make them learn things.
- Multi-sensory approach: Seeing, listening, speaking and doing the same thing all at once helps them learn things quickly. For example, if they are learning vocabulary, playing a recording of same words, and showing them the image of same things, helps them to relate all of them quickly.
- Visual Cues: Interpreting and following visual instructions becomes easier for them. Especially when a set of instructions is given, those instructions are visually sequenced in their mind.
- Letter formation practice: Letter formation is explicitly taught to the child, along with visual teaching. This helps the child strengthen his muscle memory, and not just rely on visual skills.
Behavioral and Physical Therapy
Behavioral therapy does not directly help in treating Dyslexia, however it might help in curing other co-occurring issues like ADHD, anxiety and depression.
Physical therapy helps dyslexic children strengthen their core muscles. Again, this is not a direct treatment of dyslexia, but it helps in proper coordination of all the muscles. For instance, proper coordination of eyes muscles makes reading an easier process.
Dyslexic kids are special, so they need special education too. They need a different kind of effort and care to learn things. So, along with all the therapies, we also provide them special education.
How is special education different from regular schools?
- We use visual methods to teach them, wherever possible. Long lists of words, or essays in the form of long paragraphs might be difficult for them to learn, but the same things when taught in visual form, becomes easier for them to understand and retain it.
- They need more number of repeated practice to learn a particular thing. We give them enough time and repeated exposure to the same task.
- They easily understand visual instructions, but find it difficult to understand instructions when given through words. So, we use visual means to instruct them, especially when giving a sequence of instructions to be followed.
- We give continued practice of the skills already mastered, along with teaching them new skills. We make sure that they retain whatever is taught to them.
- It is obvious that they need more time to read and interpret things. So, we allocate extra time than typical to complete a particular task.
While making a child physically and mentally strong, it is important to make him emotionally strong as well. As a child goes to school, and pressure increases, lack of motivation, low self esteem and isolation takes hold of him. Prolonged failure and difficulty in learning, results in sense of insecurity, lack of confidence, and makes it hard for them to socialize.
In such cases, counselling helps them overcome anxiety, anger, emotional instability, depression, fear and other issues. It makes them realize that they are different, and unique in their own way. They learn to cope up with their emotional problems. There are many other emotional difficulties that dyslexic kids might face, and counselling helps resolve them with ease.
Tips for parents
Apart from all the therapies and counselling your child is getting, he/she must be given special attention at home as well. You child will spend a major portion of his/her time with you, so you must ensure your parenting goes in sync with the therapies.
Here are few tips for you.
- First thing, be loving and patient with your kids. They might be going through a lot, and they need special care.
- Whenever you’re helping your child to learn something, try stimulating multiple senses at the same time. Tell your child to draw or scribble the image that comes to his mind when he reads a particular word or paragraph. This will help him be more imaginative and he could visualize what he is reading.
- While reading sentences, or long paragraphs, read aloud with your child.
- Be firm and consistent with the work that needs to be done at home.
- Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Entertain them, play with them, like you’d do with other kids. They also love to smile and laugh.