Dr Sapna Zarwal tells you how to navigate the challenges dyslexic children face during school years
What is DyslexiaIJ How is it treatedIJ When challenges are present, it is important for a child’s parents and teachers to work together to see what is causing the problem.
If a child is performing poorly, boredom, stress or a lack of motivation could be one of the causes. But it’s also possible that a learning disability is interfering with the study process. It is critical to see what is causing a child’s academic struggles so that the right course of action can be taken to address them.
Dyslexia is a common learning disorder — so common that it’s believed to occur in one out of every 10 people. Often thought of as a “hidden disability,” it affects the brain’s ability to process written and spoken language.
Dyslexia is typically thought of as a reading disorder, but writing, spelling and speaking can also be affected by it. It’s a condition that lasts a lifetime, but a wide range of teaching methods and strategies have been developed to help those affected by dyslexia to overcome it and lead successful, productive lives.
It is crucial to not view Dyslexia as a sign of low intelligence. In fact, people with dyslexia are often found to be highly intelligent and creative. Abhishek Bachchan, film director Steven Spielberg and boxer Mohammed Ali — all hugely successful in their respective fields – were challenged by Dyslexia.
A better way to view Dyslexia is to think of it as a condition in which the brain is wired differently. Those who have Dyslexia simply learn in a different way. For those with Dyslexia, letters may appear to be rotated. For example, a dyslexic reader may see a “b” as a “p” or a “d” as a “q”. Words may look like they’re reversed (“top” may look like “pot”) or letters may look as if they are moving when they’re not.
Overcoming Dyslexia requires a different approach to learning, and finding this approach not only helps an affected person learn but boosts their self-esteem.
According to The Yale Centre for Dyslexia & Creativity, a person with Dyslexia may display one or more of the following traits:
- Reads slowly and with much effort.
- Is often a good problem solver.
- Can’t spell.
- Has messy handwriting.
- Writing shows terrific imagination.
- Has trouble remembering dates and names.
- Thinks out-of-the-box.
- Can grasp the big picture.
- Has difficulty retrieving and pronouncing spoken words.
- Has excellent vocabulary and ideas.
Note that some of the traits are highly positive. The ability to think out-of-the-box, comprehend the bigger picture or apply a great imagination, vocabulary or ideas would be considered assets at school or at work.
In India, a widespread awareness and understanding of Dyslexia should be promoted. At the same time, it’s important to identify strategies that can help those with Dyslexia work around their challenges so they can tap their strengths and fulfill their potential.
In October 2015, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan, introduced the first indigenously developed and standardised tool for screening and assessing Dyslexia.
Dyslexia Assessment in languages of India (DAlI) contains screening tools for teachers and assessment tools for psychologists. The introduction of the tool is welcome news for India’s Dyslexic community, which is believed to include nearly 35 million children.
Children with Dyslexia can get support at school if their school provides instructional intervention for Dyslexia. Outside of school, there are also programmes and reading specialists that can help a child with Dyslexia.
One type of treatment that has shown good results is multisensory instruction. This method involves different senses to help a child with reading.
Texturised letters might be used to help a child with spelling. A child might learn syllables by tapping them out with his or her fingers. Multisensory techniques help with spoken and written language and can be used at home as well.
There are many ways to help a child with Dyslexia overcome its challenges. If a child is struggling with reading, parents should seek professional help to determine if Dyslexia is the cause. Start with a visit to the family doctor, who may also make a referral to other professionals who can diagnose a learning disability. Seek professional opinion as soon as possible so the help that’s needed can be provided without delay.
The writer is Clinical Head, Mom’s Belief