With hindsight I can see that my children had some early indicators that all was not as it should be. They easily passed their early milestone or health checks, but they did things that I did not realise were associated with dyslexia. Dyslexia seems to involve some sort of developmental delay and can include a child being late or difficult to toilet train. They can be difficult to settle to sleep and seems to require little sleep at night, although perversely they can be cranky without enough sleep! Later this can really adversely affect their schooling. They have no concept of time and now they are older this extends to dawdling home, being too long on the phone, playstation or computer and limits have to be set
Pre-school Speech & Language –
Late to start talking
Temper tantrums because they cannot make themselves understood
Cannot pronounce some letters i.e. dit-dit for biscuit
Has a lisp or mixes up words i.e. or-de-ment for ornament
Has difficulty with naming things
Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
Other Pre-school indicators: .
- Bottom shuffled instead of crawling, or walked early.
- Left./right difficultes show as shoes on the wrong feet.
- Enjoys being read to but does not try to read along.
- Cannot switch attention from one thing to another and back quicky.
Some indicators of dypraxia overlap, such as:
- Excessive tripping, bumping into things and falling over.
- Travel sickness
- Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball; with hopping and/or skipping.
- Difficulty with clapping a simple rhythm.
There are different reasons for clusters of any of these items, including dyslexia, so if in doubt get it checked out. Some children have a lot of these problems, others just a few. For some children the problem area is mild and for others the problems might be severe. However when they are put together there is a cluster of learning difficulties that need to be identified accurately so they can be addressed.
Primary school age. There are lots of things that are difficult for young learners before the age of 7, such as tying shoelaces, but after this age they should be settling down to learning without stress and fear. In children with dyslexia you begin to see:
- Letters and figures the wrong way round i.e. b/d/p or 9/P.
- Can pronounce single letter sounds, but not blends i.e. sl /br
- Difficulty reading simple words that have just been taught i.e if there are two sentences – Here is a dog & Here is a cat – they cannot join in
- When reading, reads slowly and uses a finger to keep track of the words.
- Can break up longer words, but misses out short words.
- Reverses words – was/saw or on/no
- May read something but then cannot explain what they read.
- Has difficulty remembering tables, alphabet, formulae etc.
- Takes longer than they should to complete homework
- Responds slowly to instructions or doesn’t remember all the things requested.
- Easily distracted and cannot easily settle back to the task set.
Other areas of difficulty:
- Left /right confusion and a poor sense of direction
- Problems with direction and language – up/down when applied to a keyboard or know the difference between ‘sit up’ and ‘shut up’.
- No sense of time i.e. takes too long to do things, not sure about months and seasons or when events take place.
- Problems in learning sequences – alphabet, days of the week, months of the year.
- Good verbal skills, but poor written work
- Confident many things except literacy.
- Still cannot decide on being left or right handed.
- Laughs at a joke 5 minutes late (auditory processing issue) or cannot follow and join in a conversation.
- Misinterprets what other people mean so falls out with friends a lot.
- Poor at estimating – particularly how good or bad they are at things.
Children who prefer kineasthetic or movement learning also are terrible ones for moving, jiggling, humming, doodling on paper (and themselves!) and seemly quite unaware they are doing this. Consequently, as well as being quiet annoying at home and intensely irritating at school they often require extra calories. And no kids this is not an excuse for more crisps and snacks! Healthy sandwich, beans on toast, fruit and milk after schooland before homework can be the answer to this one. Generally a balanced diet full of those now advertised wholegrains are essential for some long lasting energy. At school some teachers are now accepting that these children need to fiddle and will provide a stress ball or bit of blutak as long they don’t distract others.
Secondary age (may still have all of the above plus):
- Is not reading age or spelling age appropriate
- Is in low sets at school despite being perceived as bright.
- Says there is no set homework (!)
- Still misspells basic words occasionally
- Struggles to spell new or subject specific words
- Cannot take phone messages accurately
- Forgets stuff for school
- Cannot repeat long words – ‘polysyllabic’ or ‘discombobulate’
- Confuses places, times, dates – can be late for school, miss important events despite being eager to get to them, can forget to eat lunch!
- Cannot see the difference between the essay style for English and the more factual style for History or even the set layout for chemistry experiments.
- Problems with copying from the blackboard or writing down written homework instructions.
Some factors in dyslexia are life long and include:
- Obvious ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days, for no apparent reason
- Poor organisational skills – this affects every aspect of life.
- Stresses which make learning (or daily life) harder.
This last one is a tough one as the stress factors need to be addressed and while some are standard i.e. stress from literacy hour or a spelling test, other are different for every child. For some it is arriving at school late that sets the day off on the wrong foot. Not having the right equipment or something that might seem minor, or fixable to a parent seems the end of the world to the child. As adults we know what we find stressful and we find ways round it or ways to cope. Children don’t know why they don’t feel right – they just don’t.
Resiliency is a term for ‘those that cope despite stress’. There are lots of factor that make a child more resilent and some of these can’t be changed such as bveing a girl or having a high IQ! However many factors can be added in.
For example, having a supportive family, doing things with your family, getting the right support at school, belonging to an organisation with discipline and a community service element such as scouts, belonging to a church or having a belief system, belonging to a club with people of all ages, taking part in team games, being encouraged in areas you are good in or outside of school and the biggest thing of all is learning to take responsibilty for our own actions and not blame everything on others. This is not something taught in school. These are all factors to help a child (or adult) to be ‘resilient’.
Children with dyslexia who are resilient are the ones who have the best outcomes.
There are other aspects of dyslexia that can persist such as poor spelling and poor organisational skills, but in time different strategies can be learned to overcome or mask the problem areas. The important thing is finding out the root cause in the first place.
The above checklists were adapted from those available at the British Dyslexia Association www.bdadyslexia.org.uk