RECOGNIZING DYSLEXIA SYMPTOMS IN A DYSLEXIC PUPIL OR STUDENTA short list of possible symptoms would include some, but not all, of these in a dyslexic child:
• a noticeable difference between the pupil’s ability and their actual achievement;
• a family history of learning difficulties;
• difficulties with spelling;
• confusion over left and right;
• writing letters or numbers backwards;
• difficulties with math/s;
• difficulties with organizing themselves;
• difficulty following 2- or 3-step instructions.
POSSIBLE DYSLEXIA SYMPTOMS IN MORE DETAIL
A discrepancy between the pupil’s ability and their actual achievement
If you notice that a child who appears to be average or bright when they are talking to you is struggling to read, spell or cope with math/s, this may be the strongest indicator that they may be dyslexic. It is very common for dyslexic children to be quite able, especially in the areas of creativity (art, drama, drawing, etc) and physical co-ordination (physical education, swimming, sports, model-making, etc.). However, there are differences in the neural links in their brain that makes it hard for them to deal with text (and often with numbers) without extra support. A reading age or grade level of two years below what you would expect from them is a sign of possible dyslexia. Obviously, this could also be caused by other factors such as lengthy absences from school due to illness.
A family history of learning difficulties
Dyslexia is most often inherited through the genes. It can also be caused by early ear infections. In both cases it is harder for a young child to distinguish the difference between similar sounding words. The numbers of boys and girls who are dyslexic are roughly the same.
Difficulties with spelling
Spelling is the activity which causes most difficulty for dyslexic children. Noticing spelling errors in short, simple words is the way in which most dyslexic children first come our attention. Examples of words which cause particular difficulty are: any, many, island, said, they, because, enough, and friend.
Other words will sometimes be spelt in the way that you would expect them to be spelt if our spelling system were rational, for example does/dus, please/pleeze, knock/nock, search/serch, journey/jerney, etc.
Dyslexic children also experience difficulties with ‘jumbled spellings’. These are spelling attempts in which all the correct letters are present, but are written in the wrong order. Examples include dose/does, freind/friend, siad/said, bule/blue, becuase/because, and wores/worse. ‘Jumbled spellings’ show that the child is experiencing difficulty with visual memory. Non-dyslexic children and adults often use their visual memory when trying to remember a difficult spelling: they write down two or three possible versions of the word on a spare piece of paper and see which spelling ‘looks right’. They are relying on their visual memory to help them, but the visual memory of a dyslexic child may not be adequate for this task.
Confusion over left and right
A fairly quick way to establish this type of confusion is to ask a child to point to your left foot with his or her right hand. If you try similar instructions – in a non-threatening environment – you will soon be able to see if this causes difficulties or not. (Try it on a colleague – who is not dyslexic – and you can see how a non-dyslexic person is able to sort out the left and right elements quite readily.) You may also notice difficulties with east and west, or in following directions like ‘Go to the end of the road and turn left, then right, etc’.
Writing letters or numbers backwards
You will have noticed some children who mix up ‘b’ and ‘d’, or even ‘p’ and the number 9. These letters are the same in their mirror image, and cause regular confusion for a dyslexic person. Some pupils make a point of always writing the letter ‘b’ as au upper-case or capital ‘B’, as they find this much easier to remember in terms of the direction it faces.
Difficulties with math/s
One feature of dyslexia is difficulties with sequencing – getting things in the right order. Math/s depends on sequences of numbers – 2. 4. 6. 8. etc. Whilst many people are aware that dyslexic children and students have problems with reading and spelling, they do not know that math/s can also be a real challenge. This is mentioned quite often in Dot’s Diary.
Difficulties organizing themselves
Whilst you may quite reasonably think that all children live their lives in a mess, this is particularly so for dyslexic children and students, who may have genuine difficulties with planning and thinking ahead to when a book or pen might be needed next. They can really benefit from help with organizing papers and folders under a simple color-coded system. (See Finding My Own Solutions.)
Difficulty following 2- or 3-step instructions
‘Go to Mrs. Brown and ask her if Peter Smith is in school today. Oh, yes, and ask if I can borrow her dictionary’ – such an instruction is just too much! It involves both sequencing and memory skills, and you would be very surprised to see a dyslexic child return with the dictionary and information about Peter Smith! Dyslexic children love to take messages as much as any other child, but it has to be a less complicated instruction, e.g. ‘Ask Mrs. Brown if I can borrow her stapler’.
RECOGNIZING DYSLEXIA – DYSLEXIA SYMPTOMS
WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?
When Andy’s mother first brought him to me to consult regarding tutoring to help him improve his skills in reading and math, he was reading at kindergarten level despite being a Grade 3 student. When I asked him to read for me, he picked up a beginning reader and read it even though the book was upside down.
When I tested his letter knowledge, he reversed b and d, p and q and c and f. The numbers 3 and 7 were also reversed. His formation of the letters r, n, and z was reversed, starting from the right to the left but the finished letter was correctly formed.
Upon checking his ability to sequence letters, he could not say the alphabet but resorted to singing it and returning to”A” each time he lost his place. He inserted an “N” after “Y” and before”Z” in his alphabet song.
When reading, he experienced most difficulty with two and three letter words such as on, in, at, and saw. He experienced difficulties sequencing letters when spelling even though all the letters ! were there. When trying to decode words and when speaking, Andy often reverses syllables even though he knows what he wants to read or say.
He prefers to print with his notebook sideways on the desk and actually has difficulty with the transition to cursive writing.
In math, he tends to add and subtract from the left column and from the bottom to the top. He needs constant repetition to retain his multiplication tables and sight vocabulary.
His general knowledge is excellent and he can speak at length about a variety of topics. He is athletic, bright looking, and very artistic.
Trouble with spelling
Andy has obvious difficulties with spelling. He is unaware that the spelling of certain words is not correct. The spellings of words he has not studied are not even close approximations and would be unable to be corrected using a spell check on his word processor, even though I have taught him the correct vowel sounds.
Examples of misspelled words are:
snow – snoue
with – wach
friends – frens
do – dow
live – lave
when – win
favorite – fret
place – plice
because – backes
why – way
peaceful – pacefeal
soft – sotf
pitch – phitch
Difficulty copying from the board
Andy finds copying from the teacher’s board very frustrating.
He said that he looks at a word on the board and then looks down to write it. When he looks up again to write the next word, he can’t find where he was in the note and spends time searching the whole board for it.
He said it’s easy to copy when there are just a few words on the board and when the teacher prints.
It is easier for him when he is in a class with a black board and not a white board on which the teacher uses markers. A chalky, dusty board makes it hard to read because, “My eyes go different and I have to focus again.”
Andy said that it is really hard to copy when there are distractions in the classroom or when he has to copy while the teacher is explaining the lesson at the same time.
Once in a while, he gets everything copied. Usually, he doesn’t and the teacher makes him stay in at recess and noon until it’s done. If it’s still not finished, he has to work at it all day everytime there is free time.
Flora E. Gillis
Flora Gillis is a student on the Dyslexia Certificate course.
LOWERED SELF-CONFIDENCE IN ONE GIRL
Every morning, Alice will think of all means to avoid going to school by feigning sickness. This battle has been going on ever since she started school two years ago. Her mother has to walk her to school everyday to ensure she goes into the classroom.
Alice always sits at the back of the class, slouches on her chair and daydreams. Her book will be placed on the desk, unopened, as she felt confused looking at the letters “jumping around”.
She is convinced that she is beyond hope as her teacher and classmates have subtly labeled her as “stupid”. She dreads English and will lower her head and slide further down her chair, hoping the teacher will not notice her.
A couple of times, she was asked to read aloud. She froze in her seat, perspired profusely and stammered as she tried to make out the words. The whole class burst into laughter.
The only activity she looks forward to is the music lesson as she feels good every time she gets to perform playing on the piano in front of the whole class.
In the Semester report to parents, Alice’s teacher commented: “Alice doesn’t seem interested in the class. She yawns and always looks tired. She draws aimlessly on her textbook during the lesson and copies her classmates’ work instead of trying out the homework herself.
The teachers spent extra time coaching her during recess and after school but there’s hardly any improvement.”
“Her work appeared slip-shod and many teachers can hardly make out what she wrote despite giving her many writing exercises. She was indifferent to correction from the teachers and we couldn’t tell whether or not she understood the concepts. For her own good, we recommend the parents send her to some special school because we feel she is not ready for the pace of our school curriculum.”
Melanie Chong is a student on the Dyslexia Certificate course.
David used to be a very social child and this was the part of school he enjoyed but he has started to notice that he learns a different way to the other children in his class, and his peers have started telling him that he cannot read, that his writing is too big and wobbly and that he reverses some of his letters.
They also call out to the teacher “David is copying me again”.
Because of this David has lost all his self confidence and has become shy and withdrawn and his teacher also approached me about this as she is becoming quite concerned.
David has started fighting at school with children who were previously his friends and has been made to stand on the yellow line in the yard/playground as punishment.
He told me he hurts them because they laugh at him. Just before the summer holidays began David cried for two hours before going to bed two nights in a row and begged me to teach him at home or send him to a new school.
Posture and pencil grip
David is right handed and he has always had trouble holding his pencil correctly. He holds his pencil with his thumb and three fingers.
David sometimes sits with his head on his arm when he is losing concentration or if he finds the work he is doing too difficult.
Both his teacher and I have showed David many times the correct way to hold his pencil but he always reverts back to the old way unless he has someone constantly watching and reminding him.
I tried a ‘pencil grip’ (a triangular rubber grip which makes it easier for a child to hold a pencil) but this did not seem to be of any use to David, as he still found a way to hold it incorrectly.
After many weeks of reminding him he now seems to remember to hold the paper with one hand and write with the other. I think a lot of it is not being able to remember as he has a very bad memory.
Confidence building exercise
I made two lists with David – one of things that he is good at, and the other of things he has trouble with.
Things I am good at:
Building with Lego and K-Nex
Riding my bike
Making people laugh
Using my imagination
Helping Mummy tidy up
Making things with clay
Things I am not so good at:
I showed David how the list of things he was good at was much greater than the list of things he was not so good at.
You could see that he felt much better about himself straight away and even told his Nanny, when he saw her, all about it.
David also finds comfort in the fact that his dad, uncle and cousin all have dyslexia. He realises that he is not the only one and chats with his cousin who being five years older, tells him how best to handle the children at school when they are nasty to him.
I think it would be a good idea if children with dyslexia could meet at a group a couple of times a year so they can see there are others the same.