If your child is having trouble reading, or is falling behind in school, dyslexia may be a concern. The good news is, various, proven therapy options have helped both kids and adults suffering from dyslexia achieve great success.
Tipping Point: Learning to Read, Reading to Learn
The brain of an individual living with dyslexia processes information in a different way than someone who does not have the affliction. This results in difficulty with accurate and automatic word recognition, spelling, and decoding or breaking down words—which is what makes learning so difficult.
“There’s this unique point as we progress through school, where we go from learning to read to reading to learn. That typically happens in between second and fourth grade and is often where we see the most difficulty for kids with dyslexia,” explains Jennifer Griffin, Speech Language Pathologist at Pullman Regional Hospital. “Then, when they are asked to use reading as their main way of learning, you see significant breakdowns in that process. Unfortunately, that can lead to low self-esteem and decreased confidence, further complicating the issue.”
Characteristics of Dyslexia
It’s estimated that 15-20% of the population presents some symptoms of dyslexia. The challenge in getting a more accurate assessment of occurrence involves two variables: the large range of severity of dyslexia, and the fact that many individuals have never been diagnosed. “They have it, they may or may not be aware of it, they’ve just never formally received that diagnosis,” notes Griffin.
Common characteristics of dyslexia include difficulty with phonological awareness (ability to manipulate sounds), short-term memory problems, and lack of ability to accurately and automatically retrieve information on letter-sound correspondence from one’s long-term memory. Additional characteristics may be frustrations with math or reading comprehension, poor attention and concentration, and struggling to get a handle on time management. “The combination of all of these factors leads to that decreased confidence and self-esteem, not liking school or reading. That’s not where we want our students to be,” cautions Griffin. “We want them to be in an optimal mindset to learn.”
Focusing on Strengths, Not Weaknesses
Instead of focusing on individuals’ weaknesses surrounding dyslexia, Griffin and the team at Pullman Regional hone in on their strengths. “They can be very artistic people. They tend to be mechanically inclined. They are very intuitive, and very aware of their environment, which lends them to possess great people skills,” shares Griffin.
Individuals living with dyslexia typically have stellar visualization skills. For example, Griffin says their ability to manipulate 3D objects or to transfer a two-dimensional figure into a three-dimensional figure is “off the charts” in comparison to other individuals. They also tend to be global thinkers and think outside the box. “It’s important to consider both the difficulties and the strengths of these individuals, and to capitalize on those strengths,” adds Griffin.
Successful Treatment Options for People with Dyslexia
Griffin advises parents who suspect their child might be struggling with dyslexia to voice those concerns to the child’s primary care provider, as well as the child’s teacher. Parents can also request a referral to the Summit Dyslexia Clinic, where professional evaluation will determine if dyslexia is a likely culprit or if another factor is standing as a barrier.
At the Summit Dyslexia Clinic, therapy is designed to optimize the way a dyslexic brain processes information. The program is structured and progressive, meaning mastery of one set of skills must occur before moving on to the next.
“Each set of skills builds on the previous set. With each step, we continue to grow that learning,” says Griffin. The integration of multiple sensory systems all at once—auditory, motor, visual—makes it a whole-body learning experience. Instead of isolating the systems, the goal is to get all the systems working together. With this approach, Griffin has witnessed high rates of success. “With appropriate intervention, anyone can succeed. A diagnosis of dyslexia does not have to be a barrier to someone reaching their fullest potential,” she assures. “There are amazing success stories, and in fact, some of the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs have dyslexia. Dyslexia is not only about the limitations. The way the brain of an individual with dyslexia sees the world needs to be celebrated and encouraged and nurtured. That’s what we aim to do.”