We have found the young children around six years of age we assess for Dyslexia have a common issue. They generally have tremendous difficulty recognizing letters, numbers, words, the alphabet, counting in a correct order, printing and following instructions. No surprise.
They generally squirm, roll their eyes, sigh and lean their heads on their hands when we pull out worksheets or manipulatives for the dreaded alphabet or numeracy exercises. They will ask us if they could do something else, anything else. We listen to them struggle to identify letters, guess randomly at what a word might be, and attempt to print their letters legibly. The whole experience is excruciating and frustrating for them.
Recently I was visiting my daughter and her family in California and spent some time helping my six year old granddaughter, Isabell with her spelling and reading homework. I don’t get many opportunities to work with kids who are successful learning to read by grade one so it was a bit of a shock. She had been able to recite the alphabet accurately since she was about four. Isabell could also count to one hundred and was doing well with basic arithmetic functions. She was sounding out words, blending easily and reading out loud with fluency. Her printing was fairly neat and she was able to stay on the lines. Spelling tests were not an issue for her and she enjoyed school. Obviously Isabell has no issues with Dyslexia.
Wow, what a difference comparing her school experience with many of the Dyslexic children we work with. We notice they don’t start to really identify and remember letters, words and numbers until about grade three. By this time they are starting to fall seriously behind in school, becoming stressed and developing low self-esteem. These bad feelings and their fears make it even more difficult to open up to learning because they are starting to believe they are stupid and beginning to shut down. Compound that with “left-brained” teaching methods in their classroom they don’t understand which makes their school experience even more confusing and maddening.
Teaching Dyslexic children to read in the first grade is like trying to teach quantum physics to elementary school students. They are not ready yet. The ability to understand abstract symbols like letters, numbers and what they represent comes at a later age for Dyslexics than other children. Also, Dyslexic children decode words, letters and numbers with the right side of the brain instead of like the majority of the world’s population who use the language center of the left hemisphere to decode. The right hemisphere thinks in whole images not words or the parts of words so trying to decode letters, phonemes, etc. can often be useless when they are younger.
But for most Dyslexics they can learn to spell, read and work with numeracy when they are ready and with appropriate teaching methods. Maybe it would be better to focus on other skills for the first two grades and slowly introduce letters, numbers and words and in ways that make sense to them. They could be allowed to have extensive practice printing.
Dyslexics tend to be exceptionally bright and although they may not be ready for reading they can think about complex concepts on many levels with a maturity beyond their years. If learning to read can be adapted to their needs and delayed a little they can then apply their incredible intelligence and become successful in school and often top of their class. Dyslexic children wouldn’t have to experience low self-esteem due to their reading and spelling skills and they would be ready to realize their full potential. Wow, wouldn’t that be great?
Co-founder of DyslexiaVictoria Online