One of the most common questions I hear from parents whose children are struggling at school is “does my child have dyslexia?” It is a sometimes misunderstood learning difficulty but one of the possible diagnoses that may come to light when a child has an educational assessment.
Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder in the area of reading. A child may have average or above average intelligence but have specific difficulties in learning to read, understanding what they have read and/or remembering information in a written format. They may also have difficulties putting their ideas into writing.
Dyslexia is not usually diagnosed until around the age of seven or eight years old. This is because we want to ensure that the child has had enough exposure to literacy teaching and a structured learning environment to have had adequate opportunity to develop their reading skills.
There are early signs that can alert teachers and parents to the possibility of reading difficulties such as dyslexia in children younger than 7 years of age. These might include:
- Finds it difficult to identify rhyming words
- Has trouble blending sounds together to make a word, such as c-a-t
- Struggling to grasp phonics, or sound-letter correspondence
- Seems to learn sight words but can’t remember them in other contexts, or even from page to page in the same book
- Dislikes or avoids books
Early intervention is important in the treatment of reading difficulties because these children find it harder to keep up with learning at a grade appropriate level. If children are left without support, the curriculum places ever-increasing demands on students, and the gap between them and their peers can continue to widen.
The state of Victoria has just announced a program to screen all children for reading difficulties for this very reason.
This is a fantastic initiative that could help countless children whose difficulties may possibly not be detected until later year levels and without support would continue to struggle at school. Even without a diagnostic label such as ‘dyslexia’, targeted literacy intervention can help all struggling readers to improve their literacy and avoid missing out on important learning.
There is no similar structured screening program for school children in South Australia. If you see signs of literacy difficulties in your child, don’t delay investigating the issue. Speak to your child’s teacher, see if the school can provide targeted support, and consider an educational assessment by a psychologist.
There is no single test for dyslexia; a comprehensive psychoeducational assessment by a psychologist will examine a child’s cognitive abilities (IQ), specific academic skills and other skills, along with their developmental history, in order to determine the nature of their difficulties.
Effective early intervention can significantly improve a child’s reading and reduce the negative impact of dyslexia on their educational achievement. With the right support, children with dyslexia can go on to be successful in education and in life.
Rebecca Rossi, Psychologist
To book an appointment or find out more information about assessments please get in touch with our reception staff on 8361 7008.
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