Recognizing Dyslexia

When it comes to learning letters, if a child just can’t seem to hang on to them, parents take notice. Children in a Montessori early childhood classroom, ages three to six, are introduced to the letter names and sounds. If by the end of a child’s second year, at around age four or five, a child has not mastered the letter names and sounds when all the other children have, then the parent needs to be proactive.

A specific language disability, also referred to as dyslexia, is a brain-based issue that makes it hard to learn to read accurately and fluently. It’s a life-long condition and it’s a common learning issue. It’s NOT a problem of intelligence. People with dyslexia are just as smart or smarter than their peers.

“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.”  
— Magda Gerber

People with dyslexia may have trouble with rhyming, decoding (sounding out words), recognizing common words (sight words), spelling, writing, reading smoothly, understanding what they read, solving word problems in math and learning a foreign language.

If you suspect a problem, you can help in several ways:

1. Get your child tested. The optimal time to start is kindergarten through first grade.

2. Once diagnosed, look for a Certified Academic Therapist. The program that will address the issue of dyslexia is a multisensory structured language program; one that is based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach. The tutoring sessions should be a minimum of three days a week.

3. Talk to your child’s teachers. Teachers in a classroom setting can offer accommodations that will help students with dyslexia. Accommodations in a classroom could include giving a student with dyslexia more time on a test or reading the test out loud to the student.

4. Utilize assistive technology tools. These tools are very beneficial to students with dyslexia. They can help facilitate decoding, reading fluency and comprehension.

A person never outgrows dyslexia, but they can overcome it. There are many successful people that are dyslexic: Charles Schwab, executive chairman of a successful Financial Company, Carol Greider, a Noble Prize winning scientist…and myself.

Enjoy discovering the pleasures of reading with your child, remember that there is a time and a pace to learn. And when that doesn’t happen, there is help.

Kathleen Lanfear is the founder and owner of Reston Montessori School. She is a certified academic therapist.

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