Children with dyslexia, take heart
If more people knew that many of you have special gifts, they’d envy you. Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, John Lennon, Henry Winkler (The Fonz), and Whoopi Goldberg are among the many dyslexics who have succeeded as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, artists, web architects, and in a host of other fields.
I’ve been specializing in work with dyslexia for ten years. I attended Yale, where I majored in languages, and I’ve never lost my love and fascination with language and how we use it.
I also trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching literacy to dyslexic students; it is the gold standard for phonics and language. I use it for math skills as well as language because it is a multisensory approach where kids use the entire brain to learn. I have over 900 hours experience in helping students learn literacy skills.
Without exception the children I have taught have made remarkable gains in the mastery of literacy skills, including phonics, spelling, written expression, reading fluency–and grade-level.
What is dyslexia?
According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, dyslexia is sort of an invisible problem. It’s not an illness like chickenpox or a cold. In school your teachers can see you working hard, but they can’t see all the steps your brain has to take to make sense of the words on the worksheet she gave you to do.
Many kids with dyslexia worry that there is something wrong with their brain. That’s a pretty scary thought. Thanks to recent research, though, we have lots of scientific proof that a dyslexic person’s brain is normal and healthy.
Dyslexia isn’t rare. About 15-20 percent of people are born with it. You might know other kids in your school who have dyslexia. Sometimes several people in the same family have dyslexia. Older kids and adults can also have dyslexia.
Training the brain
When you have dyslexia, though, your brain takes longer to make some of these connections, and does it in more steps. It especially has trouble matching the letters you see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when you have trouble with that step, it makes all the other steps harder.
That’s where a skilled reading coach comes in; teaching the link between letters and sounds is part of what I do.
The sooner, the better
It’s actually lucky that you’ve already found out you have dyslexia. The younger you are when you figure out that reading is tough for you, the sooner you—with the help of your teachers, tutor, and parent—can find ways to learn that make it easier. Even though dyslexia isn’t something you’ll grow out of, there are lots of things your teachers and tutor can show you to help you to read better and even to enjoy reading.
In fact, you may have already figured out some strategies all by yourself that help you when you’re reading. Kids with dyslexia often learn to use other skills to help them make sense of what they’re reading or studying. You might already be especially good at:
- Observing — looking for clues in pictures or other kinds of illustrations
- Listening — paying attention to what your teacher is saying or what other kids are reading out loud
- Memorizing — remembering what you hear as someone reads or talks to you
Using creative skills like these is not cheating! They’re great tools that can help you as you learn to read better. Your parents, your teacher and maybe other people, like a reading specialist, can take other steps to make reading better for you. Some of these steps might include:
- Starting you on a reading program that helps you to figure out what sounds make up each word
- Letting you do your work in a quiet place
- Allowing you to listen to books on tape or CD as you read along in your own book
- Letting you do some of your written work on a keyboard
- Giving you extra time to do your work