Dyslexia is a much used and very misunderstood word. I’ve had many people say, “Oh, so your kids see things backwards?” or “Is dyslexia when you write your letters backwards?”
Yes and no. Sometimes, especially with a severe case of dyslexia, there are problems with directionality. Which way is left? Which is right? Directionality is why some people with dyslexia have a problem knowing if its a b, d, q, p, or g. Issues with working memory also exist, which I will explore later.
Dyslexia is a language processing disorder. This means that a person with dyslexia has a different brain than people without dyslexia. The dyslexic brain is constructed differently than the non-dyslexic brain. Dyslexia is an unpredicted problem with learning how to read. This means, that when a child has been given every opportunity to learn how to read sometimes they don’t….and sometimes this is because the child has dyslexia. Because reading is so complex there are of course a variety of factors that could be causing problems, but dyslexia has nothing to do with eye sight, vision therapy or color coding words….and none of these are solutions for helping a child with dyslexia.
Most humans have the innate knowledge that a symbol goes with a sound. This is why so many different languages are constructed that way. However, the dyslexic brain does not innately put a sound with a symbol. In fact, the dyslexic brain doesn’t really understand individual sounds in a word. Most young children understand that the word cat is made up of 3 sounds…..K-AAAAAA-T. In the least, most preschoolers can tell you that cat starts with the sound /k/. If you ask a dyslexic child what sounds make up cat they will stare blankly at you….because cat is the word that means that slightly creepy animal that never likes me yet insists on sitting on my lap (editorial comment on my feelings towards cats!)….it is not a series of sounds. The concept of individual sounds going together to make up a word is enough to baffle and overwhelm young children with dyslexia.
Teaching phonics is the core of my homeschooling with child #2. I use the Wilson Reading System which was designed to help people with dyslexia learn to read, spell and write.
Essentially children learn over and over and OVER that words are made up of individual sounds. Letters represent these sounds. They learn how to put the sounds together to make words (reading) and take the words apart to make sounds (spelling).
In book 6 (there are 12 books), students learn about base words and suffixes. This week we are learning about -ed. #2 can read all the words on green cards quite fluently. However, categorizing them by ending sound….close to impossible. It is a painstaking process by asking him to first say the baseword then understand what the -ed suffix sounds like. The task was completed, some more phonemic awareness was achieved, and he was rewarded by taking the dog on a walk throughout the neighborhood and some free reading time (he is currently devouring the “I Survived” books).
On a recent ski weekend a friend suggested I bring the kids to China and have them learn Chinese so they don’t need to deal with individual letters and I wouldn’t have to go through all these flashcard exercises. She may be on to something….