Kids learn and grow rapidly, acquiring new skills almost daily. And because each child develops at their own pace, it can be tricky to determine if your child has a developmental issue or is merely a late bloomer.
That said, there are certain signs that indicate developmental and learning conditions, such as autism, speech disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Here, our board-certified pediatrician Dr. Eiman ElSayed at Pediatric Care of Four Corners in Davenport, Florida, takes a deep dive into one of the most common learning disorders — dyslexia. Here’s what you need to know.
Most people who have trouble reading (up to 80%) or learning (up to 90%) can blame it on dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes it hard to relate written letters and words to their relevant speech sounds. It also affects the way their brain processes language.
These challenges may also be the result of mental health issues or vision problems, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
Dyslexia doesn't indicate low intelligence or slow development; rather, it’s the result of a different brain connectivity, so there’s a neurological basis for the condition. While there’s no cure for dyslexia, there are many ways to support a child or adult with dyslexia to ensure proper academic and social development.
The earlier intervention begins, the greater chance for success, so if you notice the early signs of dyslexia in your child, act now to get them the appropriate support.
Early signs of dyslexia
Dyslexia is a language-based disorder, so the first signs appear when the child begins to speak. You may notice that your child is:
- Doesn’t talk as early as other children
- Takes a long time to learn new words
- Has trouble enunciating words correctly
- Reverses the sounds in words
- Has trouble learning the alphabet
- Can’t rhyme simple words, like cat, hat, and mat
- Struggles to learn nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
- Uses “baby talk” longer than other children
Because dyslexia can be mild, moderate, or severe, it’s possible to miss these signs at home if your child’s case is mild. Dr. ElSayed, however, is trained to notice these developmental milestones and can help you spot them.
She can also run some tests to rule out other causes, including vision issues and other learning or developmental disorders.
Dyslexia in school
If your child enters school with undiagnosed dyslexia, they will likely struggle with some basic skills. Many dyslexic students have high levels of intelligence, imagination, creativity, and maturity, but they:
- Can’t sound out words
- Can’t break words into parts
- Claim that reading is hard
- Avoid reading
- Don’t associate letters with sounds
It’s easy for teachers and parents to overlook dyslexia, especially if the child is otherwise engaged and learns new concepts easily. Dr. ElSayed knows that her patients with dyslexia are often high achievers and have excellent problem-solving skills that can mislead some adults in their lives.
How dyslexia affects academic and social development
Human learning starts with a foundation of language, so if that foundation is missing or weak, all subsequent learning suffers. As a dyslexic child progresses through school:
- Reading continues to be a source of angst
- Speaking and vocabulary suffer
- They make spelling errors
- They often don’t finish tests on time
- Penmanship is sloppy
- They may have low self-esteem
- They have to study harder, and may miss out on social activities
- They may exhibit anxiety, aggression, or withdrawal
Some older dyslexic students tend to master their environment and learn how to survive and even succeed in school, while others struggle throughout and end up despising their academic experience.
How to help someone with dyslexia
No one knows for sure why some people have dyslexia and others don’t, but it often runs in families, and there seems to be a correlation between kids who were born prematurely or had a low-birth weight and the presence of dyslexia.
Further, there may be a connection between the use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco during pregnancy and the baby’s propensity for dyslexia.
Regardless of the underlying cause, the most important step is diagnosing dyslexia and getting your child the help they need. Dr. ElSayed is well-versed in all the resources available for your child and can recommend the appropriate material and techniques. These may include phonological processing skills to help your child relate letters to sounds, or multisensory approaches that combine vision, hearing, and kinesthetic touch in the learning process.
Dr. ElSayed can equip you with practical strategies to work on at home and help you understand how to involve your child’s teachers in the journey.
If you’ve noticed signs of dyslexia in your child, don’t wait to get treatment — if you start supporting them early, you can help them succeed throughout their life. To schedule an appointment, book it online or call us today.