There’s no medical test to diagnose dyslexia, yet it’s estimated that a staggering 43.5 million Americans have the learning disability, which hinders them from recognizing or sounding out words. Screening, however, can help identify children who are struggling and may be dyslexic.
For many parents, the suspicion their child may suffer from a learning disorder sounds ominous, and dyslexia is considered a leading cause of illiteracy. Yet, some of the country’s most successful people have struggled with dyslexia. In recent years researchers have re-evaluated the impact of the condition as they’ve uncovered surprising benefits – such as the ability to think visually and a superior imagination.
That’s encouraging news for about 3.5% of American students (some 2 million children), who are in special education programs to help them manage their dyslexia. But it’s not going to help them finish their homework.
The Mayo Clinic and other facilities have come up with innovative ways to teach dyslexics and improve their performance so they can advance through school without the frustration and shame that plagued many children before them. Reading programs can help kids parse out phonemes, the small sounds that make up parts of speech and that are represented by combinations of letters in the alphabet. Children without dyslexia can grasp the concept intuitively, but dyslexics need extra help recognizing letter combinations and sounds.
Companies, such as Talking Fingers Inc., have come up with computer programs that show children how sounds are linked to letters, as well as memory games that can help them recognize the words they stumble over most often. Educators too have devised word games and puzzles that keep children engaged and motivated. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a child draw a picture of a word and then associating the two – after all, their visual skills may be their strongest asset.
But almost all educators agree that early intervention is crucial. Reading out loud to a toddler can help them recognize sounds and words they will encounter when they start reading by themselves.
With some help, dyslexic children can learn to read as they head off to conquer the world.