By Jodi Knight, Speech-Language Pathologist
Often parents are excited when their child begins reading. We love to sit and listen to them practice reading their favorite stories. The child is so proud of themselves and wants to read everything from their favorite book to signs at the grocery store. It seems a rite of passage. But what happens when reading does not come easy?
It seems we are teaching our children letters, sounds, and “sight words” earlier than ever before. But why do so many children struggle to read even when given adequate instruction? Statistics show 25 million kids cannot read proficiently in the U.S.
Literacy skills start long before letter, sound, or word recognition. In fact, our brain is not “pre-wired” for reading, writing, or spelling. Our brain is wired for language, but not necessarily reading. Reading, writing, and spelling are how society has preserved spoken language.
Difficulty reading, writing, or spelling could be the result of an underlying issue called dyslexia, which is the most common learning disability in the world. Approximately 15% of adults and children in the United States have dyslexia, which is about 43.5 million people, and many do not know they have it. Furthermore, dyslexia and ADHD are strongly correlated disorders, meaning if someone has one, there is an increased chance they have the other. Somewhere between 25-40% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD, making multiple school subjects and social skills challenging.
For many years, people have thought of learning disabilities, like dyslexia, as a child being “lazy,” “not paying attention” or caused by “bad parenting,” but none of these are true. Dyslexia has been around for centuries and essentially means, “difficulty with words or language.” Dyslexia is a brain based hereditary disorder that affects reading, writing, and spelling. Dyslexia is mainly an issue with how we perceive sound and what our brain does with that sound, but it does have some visual components, too. No matter how motivated or how much effort the child puts in to learning, they will always have these difficulties.
There are countless people with dyslexia who have become successful despite their reading challenges, including Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Henry Ford to name a few.
Reliable, early predictors of developing dyslexia include family history, speech delay, early childhood ear infections, difficulty following directions, inability to tie shoes, and word finding difficulties.
However, just because your child has dyslexia or difficulty reading does not mean there is no hope. On the contrary, there are resources to help them develop improved reading skills with consistent practice with sounds, vocabulary building, and a multi-sensory approach to learning.
Speech-language pathology services could help your child to become a better reader. Speech-language pathologists (SLP) have a strong background in the study and production of sounds, vocabulary instruction, and auditory training. Jodi Knight, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Southwest Health has training in reading disorders and may be able to help your child overcome dyslexia and become a better reader and student. If you have concerns that your child may have a reading disorder, please contact your doctor for a referral to a Speech-Language Pathologist. You can learn more about making an appointment with Jodi by calling Southwest Health at 608.342.4748.