When people find out that I teach kids with dyslexia, out comes the confessionals about their smart child who just won’t read. “Kevin”, she says, “it’s like he’s guessing the words and not reading them.”
As the daughter of a dyslexic parent, I’ll tell you that it does no good to deny your child the help he or she needs to realize the reader within. A professional reading specialist, not your basic tutor, is who you need to turn to RIGHT NOW! Back in the day, a kid with dyslexia got swept under the “special needs” carpet, many never to receive the consistent rigorous training they required to build reading decoding skills. These kids, especially if they were black, were embarrassedly tucked away and shorted the quality education they deserved simply because their school wasn’t resourced with a trained professional or, most likely, without the scheduling room to meet the instructional demands of a scientific evidence-based reading remediation program. If these kids had above average smarts when compared to their non-dyslexic peers, they might’ve made it through grade school. (Oh, “smarts” has nothing to do with dyslexia. There are plenty of highly intelligent dyslexics out there in the world. Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, and Mohammed Ali to name a few.) Even still, dyslexia (mild to severe) untreated leads down a slipper slope of shame, frustration, and learned helplessness for many youngsters who then grow up to become closeted and defensive adults. Recognize any adults in your life who are frustrated by sloppy print, always seem to forget their glasses, never want to look at a map, can’t spell, mix up numbers and names, and is quick to say what they “can’t” do? Uh huh.
But, the times have changed. We know more about the dyslexic mind than ever before. Without reading remediation, the dyslexic brain fires without uniformity when reading. It struggles to make sense of the symbols the eyes see, and forgets the sounds of the letters. That’s it. The brain forgets. Many of us were misled to believe that a person with dyslexia sees words upside down and backwards, perhaps because many smart dyslexics memorize the shapes of words rather than actually decoding them. Think about it—every time we come across a word we don’t recognize, we stop and apply decoding skills to help us sound out the word, which skilled readers can do within a second. For the reader with dyslexia, every third word may present a decoding challenge and, depending on the severity of his or her dyslexia, is still misread. Yet, with effective and consistent training, the brain remembers, and starts to fire with uniformity, matching sounds to symbols with less and less effort. Ka-boooooooom!
The joys of working with a dyslexic student, frustrated by reading failure before, and finally making solid progress under my instruction now is professional opium for me, and probably for most other trained reading specialists. It’s cra-cra-cra-crack! To see eyes light up with pride because suddenly my already brilliant student can relax and read for information alas is divine. Do your kid a favor and treat dyslexia with the attention it deserves by finding professional services in your area or in your school today.
Also, be aggressive sooner than later. By age 8, kids start to develop self-awareness that makes remediation trickier. Past this age, the kid and the service provider have to overcome bad habits and/or cultivated confidence issues. Check out the International Dyslexia Association website here for more information. https://dyslexiaida.org/ . Or contact me if you want my help finding services.
In case your kid isn’t dyslexic, but has some mild reading problems, there are so many other things you can do. See my post Want Your Black Child to be a Better Reader? for other ideas.