17 Nov

Is it really true that three of five children in any classroom have dyslexia? I read it somewhere the other day, so I’m reviewing recent research, to confirm this, and would like your input. Do you have a child labeled as dyslexic? If so, consider this a gift, a perceptual talent. Your child’s brain works in the same way as great geniuses, thinking mainly in pictures, altering and creating perceptions,  being highly aware of surroundings, and possessing enormous curiosity. Famous dyslexics include Albert Einstein (physics), Walt Disney (art) , etc.

For many years this label was discredited, and its researchers,  slammed.  Experience tells me these kids are often gifted, athletic (such as baseball), highly verbal, artistic and social. Dyslexics can rotate objects in their head, and often see things in 3D, —architects and designers in the making. However, there are significant difficulties in learning to make sense of print when letters don’t stand still. New readers make reversals, a normal part of discriminating letters as symbols. Dyslexics continue reversals of certain letters and words, lacking orientation, and ability to read English from left to right. Some languages are written right to left, and some vertically.

A few children mirror image and write, as Da Vinci once did.

I believe I only taught one truly dyslexic child in my career, and wrote a book about the joy of teaching him. Steffen’s mom added a letter in Reading Champs, which takes you from a struggling non-reader to a student at a top-ranked university. When I met him, this gifted child had been retained, was in Title I and failing second grade. This is strictly anecdotal commentary, based on my experience, but it may be of interest.

  1. When doing close work with print, copying or writing, your child/student may be nauseous, complain of head and/or stomachaches and loss of equilibrium. Too much reading, writing, copy work causes “disorientation” and “distortion,” with the physical symptoms following.
  2. Sight words that are not concrete, or “actual,” may trigger disorientation. For example, what is a “the”?
  3. Some dyslexic children make a picture of every word in their head, and have trouble reconstructing meaning from a few distinguishing features.  They may need tactile-kinesthetic reinforcements.
  4. Notice difficulty tracking (following a line of print). Kids may also substitute, insert, guess and make a lot of regressions, re-reading a word or line of print. (They do this to keep letters and words in serial position).
  5. Letters may move on the page, squiggle, and your child may struggle to find a point of reference. This means that a letter is the same letter even in different orientation (positions), and upper or lower case. I teach upper and lower cases together. Recognizing printed words demands that children notice a variety of changes in form, or position.  For example, the letter ‘p’ when turned around looks like a ‘d’ or ‘b’.  An ‘e’ without the crossbar becomes a ‘c’. If the serial position of the word, as was is reversed, it is saw.
  6. Eames (’59) originated the term binocular vision, or eye teaming. A dyslexic child may have problems with binocular vision, adding to the perceptual confusion. Check with an optometrist.

The pendulum continues to swing regarding best ways to teach reading. Children who are not mastering reading curriculum are often labeled incorrectly. Children have been labeled ADD, autistic, special needs, Title I, learning challenged, and now, back to dyslexia. Your child may indeed have dyslexia. But one or two “symptoms” do not make this diagnosis accurate.

You may notice shapes and sequences of letters or numbers changed or reversed. Spelling is often incorrect, or inconsistent. Letters may appear to move, shrink or grow. Balance and movement may be affected, with the converse, great athletic ability. What dyslexic children have in common, starting in infancy, is the ability to alter their perceptions. Dyslexics often see the letters in 3D, seeing letters like they are floating in space. When we reconsider the extensive and commonplace use of labels, this one in particular deserves another look.

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