Parents have shared with us “facts” they have learned about dyslexia and reading difficulties either from the internet or their child’s school:
“You can’t test a child for dyslexia until they’re out of first grade.”
“The best thing to do is wait and see.”
“They’ll grow out of it.”
“They are so close to getting it that I’d hate to put them through all that testing.”
“They haven’t had enough exposure to the curriculum to really say it is dyslexia.”
Guess what, folks?
Multiple scientific studies conclude that markers for dyslexia may show up as early as pre-kindergarten and research suggests you can evaluate a student for dyslexia as early as kindergarten. So the myth of, “You can’t test a child until after first grade” is just that, FALSE!
Wait and See…hmmm. What does this mean, really? Yes, some students have difficulty with reading because they aren’t paying attention, or maybe they weren’t exposed to text prior to starting kindergarten. The wait and see method doesn’t really fly with us at Peak, though. Even if it’s not dyslexia, any type of intervention is beneficial for students that struggle to grasp the concept of reading.
If a child has dyslexia, they won’t “grow out of it”; reading difficulties can be remediated but they may always struggle with reading. Dyslexia a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It creates an unexpected difficulty with reading; people with dyslexia are often very bright, therefore the inability to read can be frustrating or even seen as a lack of effort, attention or motivation. Early, targeted reading intervention is the key to supporting students with dyslexia and reading weaknesses. We want to close that reading gap earlier, rather than later, and here’s why:
Educators often identify the years from kindergarten through second grade as the, “Learning to Read” years. Teachers focus on phonics, letter sounds, rhyming words, letter blends, etc. – all the aspects of reading that create fluent readers.
By third grade, the expectation is that your child is a fluent reader and the reading instruction changes focus. Your child is now entering the “Reading to Learn” stage and the instruction is on comprehension. Can your child independently read a passage and gain meaning from it? Majority of students get to third grade and are able to accomplish this task. They’ve become mostly fluent readers and have learned the strategies needed when they come to an unknown word.
In those early years, when your child is learning to read, a window of opportunity for reading intervention emerges. They are already immersed in phonics. Their brains are learning new information and making new connections with language and the written word every day. Once they start third grade, the expectations go up significantly; which can cause these struggling readers to lag behind. the divide between the struggling and the typical readers really opens up as expectations for independent reading increase. Studies show when older students are still struggling to read there is a strong likelihood the weakness will impact other educational performances, i.e. science, writing, social studies. These reading difficulties may also have an impact on their self-esteem.
Don’t get us wrong; targeted intervention at any age is great and can be helpful. However, the earlier this intervention starts, the better the outcome. If intervention starts later, it often takes longer to remediate the reading deficits. Add on top of that all the academic expectations children have in older grades and it can often become quite overwhelming.
Here are some things to keep an eye on to determine if your child may be struggling in the reading department.
- Difficulty recalling the right word (“what’s that word for the animal with long legs and spots?”)
- Gets words mixed up when speaking (ephalant for elephant)
- Trouble with letter sounds, letter recognition, or letter writing
- Difficulty with rhyming
- Understanding that each word can be isolated in a sentence, then that each sound in the word can be isolated.
- Distinguishing sounds, such as /d/ and /t/ or /b/ and /p/
- Trouble with following directions
If your child is in a Pre-K program, talk with their teacher to see if they see similar struggles. If they do, start working on phonics with your child at home. Even if it turns out that dyslexia is not the reason your child was having trouble reading, extra practice never hurt anyone
Let’s say your child made it through Pre-K. You and the teacher had some concerns but nothing major. Now they’ve started kindergarten and are still struggling to grasp reading.
Here are some things to look for in your grade schooler:
- Continues to have difficulty with letter recognition, letter sounds, and letter writing
- Isn’t interested in reading and/or reading is boring (It takes a long time to sound out all those words so why bother?)
- Has trouble sounding out new words
- Doesn’t remember details from what they read
- Mixes up the order of letters in a word
Schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher to see if they see similar things. Ask about the types of activities your child participates in to learn phonics. If they are struggling, find out if your child is getting targeted practice. Targeted is the key here – if they need to work on letter sounds, make sure they aren’t working on comprehension. This may sound harsh, but don’t take no for an answer if you are really concerned about your child’s reading abilities, especially if you have proof from school and home to show that they are struggling. As a parent, you have the right to request an evaluation. If the school doesn’t agree, ask why. The school is required to give you pretty specific reasons for why they aren’t going to move forward with an evaluation. Their reasons need to align with your concerns. Meaning, they are addressing the areas of concern with TARGETED interventions. Don’t let the myths be the reason for declining an assessment.
If you have questions about your child’s reading abilities and/or their school’s response to your concerns, please call us! We’d love to help you and answer any questions you have.