Dyslexia in children causes them to encounter difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling letters and words or making calculations. It is a learning disorder and may also be referred to as a reading disability. Dyslexia may even affect children who do not have disabilities in terms of intelligence, hearing, and vision.
Although this disorder has no specific cure, early diagnosis and special reading training could improve their academic performance and quality of life. In addition, children may require special educational and emotional support to overcome reading disabilities.
This post explains the signs, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of dyslexia in children.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dyslexia In Children
Although a few signs and symptoms of dyslexia are present before school age, most cases are recognized during schooling. In most cases, teachers notice the child’s learning difficulty before it comes to parental attention since many learn to read at school. The severity of dyslexia can vary in each child.
The following signs and symptoms in babies and preschoolers could indicate dyslexia.
- Begin to talk later than peers
- Slow to learn new words
- Difficulty learning letters, colors, and numbers
- Trouble remembering nursery rhymes or play rhyming games
- Difficulty calculating
More apparent signs and symptoms of dyslexia are noted in school-age children and may include the following (1).
- Difficulty in processing and understanding letters, words, or sentences
- Difficulty in understanding and following instructions
- Taking more time to complete reading or writing tasks
- Unable to form answers to simple questions
- Reading skills inferior to peers
- Fail to remember the sequence of things
- Unable to find the right word to communicate
- Trouble with spelling
- Pronunciation issues
- Unable to understand similarities and differences between words
- Unable to summarize
Causes And Risk Factors Of Dyslexia In Children
Dyslexia is believed to occur due to problems in genes involved in brain functions pertaining to reading and language development. Certain environmental factors may also increase the risk of dyslexia in some children. However, most cases tend to run in families, indicating a possible genetic origin.
The following factors may increase the risk of developing dyslexia in children (2).
- Family history of dyslexia
- Other types of learning difficulties in the family
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Maternal smoking or other forms of nicotine use, illicit drug use, and alcohol use during pregnancy
- Prenatal infections
The prenatal health and lifestyle of the mother play an essential role in fetal brain development. Toxic substances or infectious agents may cause brain damage in fetuses leading to neurological disabilities depending on the affected brain area.
Complications Of Dyslexia In Children
The following complications are seen in dyslexia (3).
- Low self-esteem
- Behavioral problems
- Social withdrawal
- Increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
In the long run, the social, educational, and economic consequences of dyslexia may interfere with the quality of life in adulthood.
When To See A Doctor?
Many children can learn reading from kindergarten or first grade. In contrast, children with dyslexia may not understand the basics of reading by this age. You may consult a doctor if your child’s reading skills are lower than the expected level for their age.
You may also pay attention to the other symptoms of dyslexia. Do not hesitate to consult a pediatrician if your child’s teachers are concerned about your child’s learning and reading issues.
Young children tend to enjoy the company of peers, teachers, and parents. If your child tends to spend time alone and hesitates to mingle with peers, you may discuss with the pediatrician. Undiagnosed and untreated dyslexia could be challenging to manage later in later life. Early training could help improve the child’s learning skills and reduce the impact of dyslexia on their academic performance.
Diagnosis Of Dyslexia In Children
The following tests and factors are included in the diagnosis of dyslexia in children (4).
- Medical and family history
- Developmental issues and delays
- Educational issues
- Social problems
- Questionnaires for parents, child, teachers, and family members are given to assess various dyslexia problems
- Vision and hearing test to exclude blindness or hearing impairment causing language issues
- Neurological tests to identify or exclude other brain disorders
- Psychological testing is conducted by asking specific questions to analyze the mental health
- Academic and reading skills tested by experts to identify the extent of reading and learning issues
These assessments are essential to identify the problem area and plan effective interventions.
Treatment For Dyslexia In Children
There is no known cure for dyslexia, but early detection and specific training could improve outcomes. Children with dyslexia may require special educational approaches to tackle their learning difficulties (5).
They may need techniques that use senses, such as touching, hearing, and seeing, to achieve reading skills. For example, children with dyslexia may learn better by watching recorded video lessons rather than listening to them live. The use of flashcards and specialized computer software could also help the child.
The dyslexia treatment mainly focuses on the following areas.
- Learning phonemes (a unit of sound) to differentiate one word from another in a language
- Learning phonics to understand the sounds and words (phonics) represented by a letter or string of letters
- Increase vocabulary of common words
- Reading aloud to increase the accuracy and fluency
- Ability to understand what they are reading
A reading specialist often trains these skills, and more frequent training sessions are required for severe dyslexia cases. The progress takes time, and you should be patient for a while to notice outcomes. Children with learning difficulties can easily follow the curriculum in schools practicing Individualized Education Plan (IEP), especially in lower classes.
Prevention of dyslexia is not possible in most cases since it’s usually genetic. However, good prenatal care may reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications that may result in brain damages. Providing early treatment can improve your child’s quality of life, so never hesitate to seek medical care if your child has learning issues.
Of late, some studies have shown the role of DHA in treatment and prevention of dyslexia. However, results are not very conclusive as of now.
What Can Parents Do For Children With Dyslexia?
Encouragement and parental support are essential for the child to succeed. You may do the following to help your child.
- Seek early diagnosis and interventions for any developmental delay in your child.
- Read aloud to your child from preschool age. You may start reading stories or poems to your child as early as six months of age. You could also play recorded books for younger children and when they are old enough to read, try to read with them.
- Keep in touch with your child’s teachers to know their academic progress.
- Encourage them to read more books. You may also set an example by reading books.
- Limit the screen time to increase the reading
- Join a support group to stay encouraged.
Academic issues do not mean that a child with dyslexia can’t succeed in life. Many people with dyslexia are talented artists, gifted in math, science, and creativity.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I test my child for dyslexia at home?
Although plenty of online tests can assess your child for dyslexia to some extent, clinical assessment is the only way to make an accurate diagnosis. Dyslexia tests look at various reading skills, including decoding, phonological awareness, and comprehension.
2. What are the four types of dyslexia?
Surface dyslexia, visual dyslexia, phonological dyslexia, and double deficit dyslexia are the four types of dyslexia that are quite common.
You need not worry about dyslexia in children as it can be solved and managed with appropriate measures. Even though children with dyslexia may suffer when it comes to reading and writing, their levels of intelligence happen to be expected and at par with other children. Moreover, they do not require daily routine assistance and exercise ordinary social skills. Timely diagnosis can make it easier to decide on the appropriate treatment to help them lead a comfortable everyday life.
- Dyslexia is a learning disorder in children, most of the time with otherwise no effect on intelligence.
- Delay in speech development, difficulty learning words, spelling, and calculations are signs of dyslexia in young children.
- Factors such as a family history of dyslexia, premature birth, or maternal substance abuse may increase the risk of developing dyslexia.
- Children with this disorder may be affected by low self-esteem, anxiety, or other behavioral problems.
- Professional training sessions to help children with dyslexia include focusing on phonics, vocabulary, and reading aloud.
2. Dyslexia; Harvard Medical School
3. Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia; LD Online; WETA
4. Dyslexia; Raisingchildren; The Australian Parenting Website
5. The Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Dyslexia; The US National Library of Medicine
6. Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders; CDC