By Emsie Martin
Dyslexia is something often talked about, but a lot of uncertainty about this condition also exists.
The term ‘dyslexia’ is a combination of two Greek words, dys and lexis, that mean bad reading. The old-time view is that dyslexia is a physical disturbance in the brain which causes information to be incorrectly processed and interpreted, thereby leading to reading, spelling and writing problems.
Dr. ST Potgieter, psychologist in Belville, points out a few aspects regarding dyslexia and how they can affect a child in school.
- Dyslexia is a learning disability, usually of neurological or biological origin. It is classified as a learning problem due to it usually manifesting in the academic or learning environment.
- Dyslexia is a life-long dysfunction, but help and treatment are available that make it possible to overcome the effect thereof to a great degree.
- Dyslexia does not indicate ‘stupid’ children or a poor intelligence. People with a high intelligence can also be dyslexic. This is why it is important that parents know their child with dyslexia is not naughty or lazy, but has a learning problem.
- Dyslexia is also not the result of bad teaching in the school or poor parenting.
It is important to know that there are different levels of dyslexia, which is why children are affected differently. The one school might for example not understand the problem and punish the child over his schoolwork. Another school, that shows understanding, will instead try to help the child. The attitude of the parents and the teacher and their understanding of the problem are therefore important to help the child to accept his condition and build his self-image. This, therefore, is an enormous task for any educator! Children can be broken down or built up – it depends on the parental home and school’s approach to and knowledge of dyslexia.
Children with dyslexia often feel stupid and can also suffer social and emotional damage. The older a child gets, the more he becomes aware of his dyslexia. These children consequently might often be unwilling to continue school, find it difficult to communicate and feel isolated and alone. They can also sometimes become aggressive.
A child with dyslexia who has a good intellectual ability, can become extremely frustrated. He wants to perform and meet his own expectations as well as those of his parents and his school, but due to dyslexia he is not capable of doing so. When parents don’t understand this problem, it could also lead to conflict.
There are different treatments that can be applied. These children learn the best through practical experience, demonstrations, experiments, observation and visual aids. Children with dyslexia experience confusion with two-dimensional written text, while they rather think three-dimensionally or in pictures. They also perform better in oral than in written exams or tests.
Extra time in the exam can also be requested for the dyslexic child. Often these children cannot work and write as fast as other children. It is important to understand that the dyslexic child needs a different approach in terms of instruction. The focus on language should take place at a slower tempo and also be more structured.
It is important that these children’s parents talk to one another and share their knowledge and experience. In the assistance programme understanding and empathy are extremely important. Children with learning problems and dyslexia can experience loneliness, stress, anxiety and failure. When a child understands that his parents, teacher and therapist genuinely want to help, his cooperation is so much better.
Signs of dyslexia include the following:
- Spelling, reading or writing problems, e.g. cat for act or dog for god.
- Read with poor comprehension.
- Sometimes fixated on a word but cannot read it.
- Can try to sound letters aloud, but cannot pronounce the word correctly.
- Slow speech development.
- Struggles with the sequence of words in a sentence.
- Ignores punctuation marks and leaves out full-stops and commas.
- Writes letters in a word in the wrong sequence.
- Writes letters or numbers in the wrong direction, for example b instead of d.
- There is a family history of dyslexia.
- Problems with left and right dominance.
- Struggle to organise themselves. Have difficulty learning the sequence of things.
- There is a difference between a child’s intellectual capability and academic performance.
It is important that a learning problem in a child be diagnosed correctly. With the right help and guidance, a child with dyslexia can be helped. These children ask for understanding of their problem, support and help, acceptance and love.
Dr. ST Potgieter, psychologist in Bellville, email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also read: https://dyslexiasa.org/tag/dyslexia/