Alistair Morck-Chadwick – dyslexia

DyslexiaDear Alistair,
My son is in Grade 2 and is doing very poorly when it comes to reading and spelling. We have been told he is a very bright young boy, yet he finds any excuse not to study for spelling tests and says that he feels nauseous when he has to read. He will do anything to get outside and play. His class teacher says she thinks he may be dyslexic. How will I know if my son is really struggling with dyslexia or not?

If a Grade 2 child appears to be struggling with spelling and reading, and/or other academic tasks, my advice would be to have the child assessed by a psychologist. Not only is it easier (and cheaper!) to correct a learning difficulty when a child is young but, more importantly, it prevents the child from becoming frustrated by the difficulties they are experiencing in school. If undiagnosed and untreated a learning difficulty may result in a range of ongoing problems, including low self-esteem, and behaviour problems. Also, and perhaps most significantly, a child may become unmotivated and develop a dislike for academic tasks, seriously jeopardising his/her future success at school.

Having said the above, it is interesting to note that your brief description of your son includes a number of features that are commonly associated with dyslexia; he struggles to spell and read; he has an average or above average IQ; and he feels sick every time he reads. (Bad headaches may also be experienced.)

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities in children and persists throughout life. It is caused by a brain “wiring problem” or, more specifically, by an impairment in a brain’s ability to translate images received from the eyes or ears into understandable language. It does not result from vision or hearing problems, and it is not due to mental retardation, brain damage, or a lack of intelligence.

In general, a person with dyslexia has trouble seeing letters or words in the intended organization, remembering the order of the words or letters, or processing the words or letters in their correct order, shape, and direction. A dyslexic child may also experience: seeing the letters fine, but being unable to sound out words; that is, unable to connect the letters to the sounds they make and understand them; being able to connect the letters and sound out words, but being unable to recognize words they have seen before, no matter how many times they see them; being able to read the word properly but being unable to make sense of or remember what they read, so that they find themselves coming back to read the same passage over and over again; seeing letters as it they are all jumbled up and out of order; and/or seeing the letters and words as if they are all bunched together.

And, importantly, although there is no actual cure for dyslexia, prompt treatment can reduce a child’s difficulties significantly, enabling him/her to actually enjoy school!