I’m so excited to be chatting with you today about Dyslexia, because this learning disability is what began my journey toward creating Yellow Wood. It was my first experience with a learning disability that directly affected me. I have 3 younger siblings who are a good bit younger than me. When I was in college, my two youngest sibs were in elementary school and were diagnosed with Dyslexia. Since I had been homeschooled through high school and had my heart set on being a teacher, I was so excited and determined to help my mom navigate the waters of teaching kids with Dyslexia. It soon became my passion, though at the time I really was just stabbing in the dark trying now things that may help. Through this process eventually I found cognitive therapy and received training.
The first summer after my training, I worked with my sister, who was 12 years old at the time, intensively. When she was younger, she struggled to learn the alphabet, did not read fluently, and had a very strong tendency to switch letters when writing and reading. When we began working on cognitive skills at age 12, her working memory was extremely weak. She had low confidence in her ability to read and was struggling to keep up with her school work despite a desire to do well and learn! She hated to read. It stressed her out, and rightfully so! When cognitive skills are weak, tasks like reading and math are extra daunting because the brain has to work 5x as hard!
The first thing we noticed was she stopped switching her letters as much. Her confidence grew and her retention of reading skills skyrocketed. Fast forward a few years and she is an avid reader who LOVES reading for fun. She is much more confident in her academic skills and works hard to be a great student. The difference is phenomenal.
So, if you’re reading this and have a struggling learner at home, you may be wondering, “How do I help my OWN child overcoming challenges like Dyslexia?” I’ll tell you! First, you’ve GOT to find the underlying causes! Every child is different. There are a variety of factors that affect the ability to learn to read. Some include working memory, visual processing and tracking, visualization, and developmental aspects like crossing the midline and primitive reflex integration. Today we’ll walk through what Dyslexia is, and then talk about a few of these factors and how they can cause symptoms of Dyslexia!
What is Dyslexia?
First, I think it’s important to mention that Dyslexia is an umbrella term that simply means the student struggles with reading. There are many symptoms and reasons for this learning disability, and no two students are alike. Some symptoms include:
Difficulty with phonemic awareness. Decoding words, or matching the sounds with written letter combinations can be extremely difficult.
Struggles with sight words.
Trouble sequencing or memorizing the alphabet
Difficulty learning to read or put sounds together to make words
Tendency to switch letters like b and d, n and u, while reading and/or writing
Difficulty with left and right
Ok, so now let’s chat about the underlying issues for the symptoms listed above. Like I said, it can be a variety of things that cause the difficulty. But, we’ll mention a few main weaknesses!
Working Memory is the post is for your brain. In order to learn new sounds, new sight words, and hold onto the story line in your head, you HAVE to have a good working memory. Kids at kindergarten age should be able to hold onto 2-3 items in their working memory. As they age, this number should increase to 7 or so by age 18! So, if working memory is weak, students will struggle with learning more complex words, sequencing words or decoding words, all because they cannot hold onto all the steps and pieces in their working memory! You can learn more about working memory and grab a free activity at the button below!
Visualization is the ability to see images and symbols in your mind. It is crucial to learning the alphabet and also for spelling skills!!
There is a specific primitive reflex, the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, that is connected with Dyslexia. Symptoms of this retained reflex include switching letters, trouble copying from the board, difficulty with visual tracking, and more! You can learn more at this blog post all about it!
The best news about all this is that the skills listed above can be STRENGTHENED! At Yellow Wood we are passionate about helping kids OVERCOME learning challenges. Reach out to us. We'd love to help!