Diagnosing Reading Disabilities in Children
As a parent, there are not too many things more disheartening than watching your child struggle and fall behind his or her peers, especially in academics. We want our children to thrive and assume that they will require the same kind of education as the majority of children. When they begin falling behind their peers, we may not immediately consider that they have a reading disability. In fact, many parents and teachers alike may initially think that children who are struggling may not be applying themselves or that they are just late bloomers. While we know that children will all achieve milestones at different rates and have different capacities for learning, understanding reading struggles and being aware of the symptoms of reading disabilities will prove valuable.
Understanding the Science of Reading
Learning to read well is one of the most difficult milestones a child can achieve. Reading requires a person to do three things: decode, comprehend, and retain. Decoding involves identifying and interpreting the sounds that individual letters make as well as the sounds that letters make together. Once a child has successfully identified and assembled the word by decoding the letters, he or she will then move on to comprehending the word and then, retaining the meaning of the word. Much of reading difficulty occurs during these first two stages as a child will have trouble sounding out the sounds and will have confusion between the letters and what they represent, among other struggles. This initial struggle is quite exhausting and leaves little resources for comprehension, let alone retention.
Reading Difficulties Versus Reading Disabilities
Having reading difficulties is different than having a reading disability. Approximately 85% of children are diagnosed with having reading difficulties. Those children with this diagnosis may have had inadequate reading instruction, simply need a little extra help or require a bit more time than others.
Reading disabilities are formally diagnosed through a series of comprehensive assessments. These assessments will indicate whether the child just needs that extra help or whether he or she suffers from a brain-based condition that causes a child to process language differently.
Common Symptoms of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is the common term used for language-based learning and reading disabilities and requires assessment. This condition affects approximately 15% of our population.
Dyslexia manifests itself with different symptoms and in different degree.
- May experience delay in speech
- Has trouble working mathematics word problems
- Struggles with spelling
- Has poor penmanship
- Confuses opposites
- Becomes frustrated with school
- Finds reading comprehension difficult
- Delay in learning letters of the alphabet
- Does not like to read
- May transpose letters in words
- Has trouble with rhyming words or phrases
- Cannot understand word sounds
- Confuses directions
- Had problems with identifying single words
While reading difficulties and disabilities create barriers for children that may require them to work harder and in a different way, these conditions are not effort, intelligence or attention related. Children with reading disabilities are just as smart as their peers. This specific detail in a child's overall capacity is usually a strong indicator that the child is dyslexic.
Diagnosing Reading Disabilities
If you think your child has a reading disability, start monitoring his or her behavior and talk with your child's educator, a school counselor or other trained professional as soon as possible. Studies show that elementary aged children who struggle with reading will rarely catch up with their counterparts after experiencing a significant lag. Early detection, a tailored curriculum, and the right reading tools can help children succeed in a traditional classroom environment.