Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and other learning difficulties
Parenting so-called ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ children is fun, but still demanding, as all parents know.¬† Parenting any child with special needs can be significantly tougher.¬† For the material that follows, I drew on my 40+ teaching years plus consultations with other parents, and many fine reference books.
About Dyslexia: Unraveling the Myth, by Priscilla Vail.
This book is recommended because one of our adult Flybabies teaches dyslexic children, and highly recommended this title.
I have now read this book. It is succinct, accurate, and immensely helpful. Maybe I like it because Priscilla Vail has noted the same characteristics of dyslexic people that I have always observed. Because each person with dyslexia has a different mix of "characteristics" or "markers," each one is unique. Also, according to Professor T. R. Miles, author of Understanding Dyslexia , at least 30 or more dyslexic markers have been exhibited. That is one reason that education has been so slow in dealing with the 10 to 20% of students in our classrooms who are dyslexic. Clearly, some of them are "more dyslexic" than others, as well.
Talking About Dyslexia
Literally true to its Greek roots, dys and lex, the learning problem known as dyslexia denotes trouble with words.¬†In general, the dyslexic child or adult will have difficulty with any one, or all, or a few of the following traits:
- Some form of difficulty with words, whether it is an inability to recognize the small words, such as "the," "an," "with," "was," "saw," "than," etc. Or trouble with spelling. Trouble with longer words or words used rarely. Difficulty reading out loud. Any persistent difficulty with words.
- Difficulty in ranking material or organizing material. Difficulty in organizing tasks. Sometimes, even with a few items to rank, the dyslexic person has trouble prioritizing.
- Lack of awareness of time or space. A dyslexic child is apt to suggest an outing or task at a clearly inappropriate time. It is as though this child is in his own world. (My young friend Ben left the joys of the creek only when his parents cranked up a metal siren that lived on their front porch.)
- Lack of awareness of facial and/or verbal cues. The dyslexic student is apt to raise her hand at totally inappropriate times in class. Likewise, dyslexic kids speak out at inappropriate times. It is as though they have no self discipline, but I don't believe that's it. Again, we go back to the dyslexic person's tendency to inhabit a semi-private world. Dyslexics often don't recognize even powerful emotions on another person's face. They may not hear these emotions in tone of voice, either.
More Specific Dyslexic Markers: (from Understanding Dyslexia , by T.R. Miles)
- Discrepancy between intellectual level and spelling performance/ability
- Weird or ‚Äúbizarre‚ÄĚ spelling‚ÄĒe.g., hackyturctor for helicopter
- After age 8, confusion with b and d in writing or reading, or both
- Trouble distinguishing left from right
- Difficulty repeating long words with many syllables, such as precipitation
- Problems when trying to repeat digits in reverse order, and any other problems with short-term memory
- Difficulty repeating the months of the year in order -- greater difficulty when asked to say the months in reverse order
- Trouble with subtraction ‚Äúexcept with ‚Äėconcrete‚Äô aids‚ÄĚ
- Trouble memorizing arithmetic tables
- Losing the place when saying these tables
- History of clumsiness, or late walking, or late talking
Most students learn to spell saw, and typically spell it correctly from then on.¬†These people tend to be consistent with learned skills.
In contrast, the child with dyslexia may spell a word correctly only now and then.¬†Spelling is a sometime thing for the dyslexic.¬†More than any other trait, inconsistency (with words or concepts of time and space) marks the dyslexic person.¬†When you know a child is quite intelligent yet also is quite inconsistent in academic work, your antennae should be quivering.
Be wary of ascribing a number to any student, especially those who might have dyslexia or a learning disability such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).¬†People with average IQ scores have achieved amazing feats.
e.g., Any test which calls for memory of digits typically causes trouble for dyslexic kids.¬†These students may be very bright, but remembering digits, in particular saying them in reverse order, can pose great difficulty.¬† If a student performs well at difficult reasoning tasks, yet cannot spell or read fluently, pay attention.¬†Inconsistency is a red flag.
When To Intervene
If you suspect your child may be dyslexic, the sooner you obtain a diagnosis, the sooner targeted help can begin, and the fewer troubles your child will have in school.¬†Dyslexics can be helped at any age, but early intervention is best.¬†Kids who are diagnosed in K, 1, or 2, and get concentrated help with phonics typically have far few problems with learning as they grow older.
How many dyslexics do we have?¬†The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) says that between 15 and 20% of us have language-based learning disabilities.¬†They also have determined that 74% of the poor readers in 3rd grade are still poor readers in 9th grade.¬†Thus, early help is critical.
Based on my 46 years of working with students, I believe that the percentage of people with language-based learning disabilities is closer to 10%.¬†If I had 100 students in 4 classes, I‚Äôd expect to have 2 or 3 in each class with a moderate to serious disability, but no more than that.
Nearly all school systems offer help.¬†Check with the guidance counselors to obtain a professional evaluation.¬† Remember, dyslexia and its mate dyscalculia (difficulty processing math symbols), plus ADD, are neurological disorders, which may or may not affect a person‚Äôs behavior.In contrast, ADHD is a behavioral disorder.
What Do Doctors Say?
For parents or teachers of dyslexic children‚ÄĒor children with ADD or ADHD‚ÄĒthe first resource is a good pediatrician.¬†Since I have one in my family, I asked for her recommendations for parents and teachers.
- ‚ÄúConsistent discipline is essential.‚ÄĚ¬†Not punishment, but discipline, such as regular bedtimes, being polite to everyone, etc.
- ‚ÄúNo video games.‚ÄĚ¬†They train the brain to expect zap, zap, zap‚ÄĒthe opposite of careful, considerate, rational behavior and decision-making.
- ‚ÄúReduce TV time drastically.‚ÄĚ¬†(See above.)¬†Consider this:¬†In a dark room, the regular and often drastic changes between bright light and much less light on a TV screen have an effect on the brain‚ÄĒsort of like going to a laser light show, for hours on end.¬†These rapid light/movement changes in a computerized game, for example, can trigger an epileptic seizure in a susceptible person. (This happened in our house, in 1985.)
Best advice is to save TV for weekend treats.¬†Cartoons, nature programs, educational programs, and good movies make TV a real reward.¬†Used all the time, TV is destructive.
- ‚ÄúTeach your kids to make lists.‚ÄĚ¬†A good list is a must for efficient shopping or daily work.¬†Kids with ADD or ADHD benefit from list-making, allotting time for tasks AND fun. List what needs to be done in the morning, before school.
- What happens after school, before dinner?¬†Be sure to list times to play.¬†--On the weekend, list time for cartoons or a movie or a nature show taped during the week.
- How about a leisurely walk after dinner, before the bedtime ritual? This gives kids time to unwind, talk with a parent, plan the next day.
- Evening/bedtime rituals are important.¬†List what needs to happen: Teeth, shower, toilet, tidy the bathroom, jump in bed so Mom or Dad can read.¬†You can have everybody showered and in bed reading in half an hour, with half an hour for reading!
- ‚ÄúSet a timer to focus attention on a task.‚ÄĚ¬†For example, set a timer for 15 minutes for third-grader Sally to do her math homework.¬†(People can do almost anything for 15 minutes, even math.)¬†When the timer rings, Sally can play for a while, then do another timed segment of math if the homework is not finished.¬†Very young children can work in five-minute increments.¬† Some kids can‚Äôt seem to sit still.¬†Let them work standing up.¬†They can set the timer, too, so that they take charge of the process.¬†Even kids who have trouble focusing on written work do well with this method.
- ‚ÄúMake sure that your LD kids get serious exercise every day.¬†Children with ADD and ADHD have tons of energy that they need to burn off.¬†Regular, strenuous exercise helps them to focus better.‚ÄĚ¬†Of course, this doctor and others‚ÄĒplus this mom and gramma‚ÄĒwould be the first to say that ALL kids need real exercise every day!
Reading at Bedtime
Reading at bedtime is more valuable than I can say.¬†I‚Äôd need an entire book to describe the dozens of ways you and your children will benefit.
References on Dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD:
- Basic facts about dyslexia: What everyone ought to know , 1998, from The International Dyslexia Association (formerly the Orton Dyslexia Assoc.)
- Understanding Dyslexia , T.R. Miles, from Hodder and Stoughton, 1974-78. (My favorite book-now OP. Online with used book dealers, e.g., abebooks.com
- About Dyslexia: Unraveling the Myth , by Priscilla L. Vail. 1990, Modern Learning Press. (see review below)
www.interdys.org /¬†- The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Tons of information and free downloads.
www.nichd.nih.gov/ - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
www.chadd.org - Children and Adults with Attention Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder Based in Landover, MD, CHADD offers lots of help, including local support groups. Newsletter, questions answered on-site, plus tips for managing ADD and ADHD students in the classroom. Telephone 1-800-233-4070.
www.LDANATL.org - Learning Disabilities Association of America
www.add.org - Attention Deficit Disorder Association ---help, information, links to other sites, and book reviews
www.ncld.org - National Center for Learning Disabilities: Resources on Learning