Dyslexia is a treatable learning disability, but the key is to recognize the signs and seek help for your child.

Dyslexia is a treatable learning disability, but the key is to recognize the signs and seek help for your child. (Getty Images )

8 things to know about dyslexia

My parents instilled in me the value of education in providing opportunities in life.  As a doctor, preventing and solving medical problems that can disrupt education at an early age is something I believe we both as individuals and as members of the Latino community must address.  Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders that can lead to problems with education, but if identified early, academic concerns can be potentially averted.  Here are 8 things you need to know about this condition. 

1. Dyslexia is typically considered to be difficulty reading, yet it occurs in children with normal vision and most importantly, normal intelligence.

2. Dyslexia is common.  According to the CDC, dyslexia is estimated to occur in 6 percent of all U.S. children.  What is important to note is that this number has increased by 17 percent; that’s almost 1.8 million more children affected compared to a decade earlier. Some of this increase is due to other conditions that often occur with dyslexia, such as hearing loss, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other conditions. 

3. All children can be at risk for dyslexia.  However, a 2011 study from the National Center on Birth defects and developmental disabilities published in the journal Pediatrics found that boys have twice the rate of any developmental/learning disability than girls.  Moreover, kids whose families are below the federal poverty line or have a low birth weight are often at a higher risk for the development of learning disorders.

4.   Dyslexia’s symptoms vary by the age at which it is detected. Before schooling begins, children may talk late, learn slowly, and have difficulty rhyming.  In school, children may be reading a level below their expected level, have problems processing and understanding what they hear, difficulty understanding rapid instructions, problems remembering sequences or following more than one command at a time; not see and hear the similarities and differences in words; problems with spelling, trouble learning a new language; or seeing letters or words in reverse.  When diagnosed in teens and adults, dyslexia presents with difficulty reading to oneself or others, inability to summarize a story, or difficulty memorizing.

5.   Although the exact cause of dyslexia is not known, according to both Mayo Clinic and Boston Children’s hospital, it is likely an inherited condition that runs in families, involving a specific gene that controls how your brain develops and processes language.  The good news for Latinos is that Latino children have lower rates of dyslexia compared to non-Latinos.

6. The complications from dyslexia include difficulty learning because reading is a fundamental skill used to master all subjects, thus putting these kids at a disadvantage in keeping up with peers.  This in turn leads to social problems such as low self esteem, anxiety, aggression and withdrawal from friends, parents and teachers.  Preventing attainment of academic and social abilities into adulthood can have long term educational, social, and economic consequences.  Children who are dyslexic also are at an increased risk of having ADHD and vice versa.  ADHD can cause difficulty with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior making dyslexia difficult to treat.

7. Dyslexia has no cure but there are effective approaches in your child’s educational process.  Teachers can use special techniques, such as hearing, vision, and touch to improve reading skills.  Helping a child use several senses to learn, for instance using audio books or tracing a finger the shape of the letters used and the words spoken, can help the person process the information.  A reading specialist can focus on helping your child learn and recognize small sounds, understand letters, comprehend, read aloud, and build a vocabulary. For severe reading disability tutoring may be needed.

8. Keep the following tips in mind if your child has dyslexia:

  •  Address the problem early.  If your child has dyslexia, talk to your doctor and get your child evaluated.
  •  Read aloud to your child, preferably before the age of six months.
  • Work with your child’s school.  According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA) passed by the U. S. Congress in 1990, all schools have a legal obligation to take steps to help your child diagnosed with dyslexia learn.  Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) are constructed in consultation with you the parents, your child’s educational team, and healthcare team to outline your child’s particular needs and how the school will help him or her succeed.
  • Family involvement is central to the child’s success.  Talk to your child and be supportive.  Take steps to help your child learn at home, which should include a designated place to study and a routine study time.  Stay in close contact with your child’s teachers.  Join a support group if you feel isolated.

Children with severe dyslexia may not be able to read well; however, this does not mean that they cannot achieve their goals.  I have friends and relatives who have dyslexia and are highly successful. Know that many individuals with dyslexia may have other talents making them more creative and gifted in other arenas.

8 things to know about dyslexia doctor servin nbc final parenting family NBC Latino News

Dr. Joseph Sirven is a first-generation Cuban-American. He is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurology and was past Director of Education for Mayo Clinic Arizona. He is editor-in-chief of epilepsy.com and has served U.S. and global governmental agencies including the Institute of Medicine, NASA, FAA, NIH and CDC.

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