Dyslexia: what is it and how to treat it

Dyslexia is a condition that affects children’s ability to read and learn. Children with dyslexia have a hard time differentiating sounds and letters in words. Even though it was thought that this condition had to do with a visual impairment, this is not correct. Dyslexia is a lingüistic issue, it doesn’t affect vision, and it definitely has nothing to do with intelligence.

Since this condition affects reading, children with dyslexia can also experience problems with reading comprehension, spelling, writing, and math. However, this doesn’t affect the ability to understand something that’s being read to them. A child with dyslexia can be bright, smart and very successful in life!

The main cause of dyslexia is now well known, even though it’s believed that it might be genetic. It’s more common for a child to have this condition if one or more of their family members (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc) also have it. Another probable cause is for it to be an acquired condition during childhood due to some type of trauma or brain injury.

What are the main symptoms of dyslexia?

Signs of dyslexia can be discovered even before a child starts reading. In some cases, children with this condition learn to crawl, walk or ride a bicycle later than their peers. Even though the symptoms may differ from person to person since there are different degrees to this condition, there are a few characteristics that are common in most cases:

- Inability to distinguish different sounds in a word. Due to poor phonemic awareness, children experience difficulties connecting the sounds of the letters and also making the connections between those letters in a word.

- Children with dyslexia often read slowly, as they can’t distinguish the spelling of the words, and letters become confusing.

- Difficulty spelling and writing. Oftentimes, children with dyslexia have messy handwriting, sometimes they see the letters upside down, or just mix them up for other letters, this is why it takes them a long time even to write down a simple word. This, of course, makes much more difficult to put their thoughts into writing.

- Children might get frustrated and their overall attitude can be affected. Sometimes, dyslexia can be confused with laziness, carelessness, or even behavioral problems due to children not trying hard enough to succeed. However, this is far from the truth, since learning comes hard for them, their attitude towards school changes.

- Learning can come easier through experiments, hands-on activities, or visual observation when a person has this condition.

- Children with dyslexia often have a hard time comprehending what they read. Since identifying words and sounds doesn't come easily, reading comprehension is affected as they’re unable to understand the words and make sense of the sentences.

- Often, a person with dyslexia experiences non-existent movements while reading or writing. If a child seems to have difficulties with their vision that doesn’t come up in an eye exam, it might be a sign of dyslexia.

- Poor eye-hand coordination can also be a symptom of this condition.

- Mispronunciation of common words frequently.

- Rhyming games and rhyming patterns are hard for children with dyslexia. Since processing sounds and identifying them is difficult.

- Speech problems due to difficulties in sequencing ideas, this means that it becomes hard to express ideas in a logical order.

How can dyslexia be treated?

Even though that children don’t outgrow dyslexia, they can definitely learn how to live with it, become skilled readers, great students and aim for success. If you suspect that your child has dyslexia it’s highly recommended to go to a specialist. The doctor will be able to give you the correct diagnose through several exams, questionnaires, and different neurological, psychological, vision and hearing tests, and will advise you on the best ways to help your little one.

After the evaluation, and depending on the type of dyslexia your child has, there are several educational approaches and techniques that can help you improve your little one’s life. Make sure to work closely with your child’s teachers to find the ones that fit best. These techniques can involve using other senses to improve reading, working on phonemes and phonics more closely, reading aloud to build fluency slowly, among others. The sooner a child is diagnosed, the faster will get better.

As a parent, you can also help your little one with dyslexia by following these steps:

- Take your child to the doctor if you have any suspicions that he or she might have dyslexia.

- Encourage reading at home. Make a habit out of reading to your little one aloud, even if your child is six months old or younger. You can also use audiobooks to listen together, and practice reading simple books together when your child is older, and make sure your little one practices reading even if he or she finds it a bit difficult.

- Use nursery rhymes to help your little one develop listening skills.

- Incorporate activities and exercises that involved the senses to practice the alphabet, like working with clay or painting. This can also work to practice the numbers.

- Transform learning into a playful activity, this will help your little one feel relaxed and less preoccupied with making mistakes.

- Focus on your child’s strengths and skills, and praise his or her achievements. Celebrate the good results without giving too much importance to your child’s struggles.

- Incorporate technology into your child’s learning routine. Through online games and learning apps, your little can practice coordination, learn how to write, and reinforce their listening and reading skills.

- Remind your child that you will support him or her no matter what. It’s really important that your child knows that you will be there unconditionally.

- Practice activities to increase phonemic awareness, like reading apps, singing songs, nursery rhymes or rhyming games.

Even though dyslexia can’t be cured, it can improve a lot. Make sure your little one knows he or she is not alone and that lots of other people in the world experience this condition as well, even very successful people. Finally, remember that with practice and hard work, your child’s condition can get better.

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