Sunday, April 6, 2008

When Kids Have Trouble Reading

As a psychologist who evaluates children with learning difficulties, I often encounter parents who are worried about their child's reading. Sometimes this is due to the presence of a reading disorder, also known as dyslexia.

I find that many parents have the mistaken belief that dyslexia means reversing letters and numbers when reading and writing. The truth is that letter and number reversals are not unusual for any child learning to read and write.

While some children with reading disorders may demonstrate reversals, there is much more going on than that. Some early signs of dyslexia include difficulties with learning letters and numbers as well as recognizing the individual sounds and letter combinations that make up words. Kids with dyslexia may have trouble sounding out words and remembering familiar words by sight. Reading may be slow and labored and the child will often have difficulty comprehending what was read. Spelling and grammar are frequently poor. Children with reading difficulties typically struggle with math and writing as well.

Dyslexia is not curable, but many people are able to overcome the unique challenges associated with it. Some examples of successful individuals with dyslexia are actors Tom Cruise and Henry Winkler. When parents are involved with their child's learning through talking to teachers, asking about school work, and listening to their child read, they are more aware of problems that develop and can act on them quickly. Experts say that children whose reading disabilities are recognized and addressed before the 3rd grade have the best outcomes; however, many helpful interventions are available for older children as well.

Having worked with college students for many years, I have seen that an undiagnosed, untreated or poorly understood reading disorder can lead to a variety of problems including poor academic achievement, reduced self-esteem, and underemployment. When an older child or adult with dyslexia understands their own unique strengths and challenges, how to communicate these effectively to school officials and employers, and how to advocate for themselves at school or on the job, they are more likely to reach their full potential and attain their goals.

Additional information about learning disorders and other mental health concerns is available at my website