What is Dyslexia? Understanding a Specific Learning Disability in the Area of Reading

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New teachers face numerous hurdles, including issues of special education and disabilities. Dr. Lori Perez, Learning RX Executive Director in Severna Park, Maryland, helps teachers understand Dyslexia in order to better serve their students.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is simply “specific learning disability in the area of reading”.

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Normal vs Dyslexia – image by huffingtonpost.com

This is a result of both visual and auditory processing deficits, but according to Dr. Perez, the majority of dyslexia actually stems from the auditory processing deficit. A lack of phonic skills (i.e., not having been taught how to read) does not mean that a child or adult has dyslexia.

Is There a Connection Between ADHD and Dyslexia?

Dr. Perez explains that there is a “high co-morbidity between ADHD and reading disabilities”. This means that if a child has ADHD, it is quite possible that the child has a reading disability as well. It is important to note that if a child has dyslexia, he or she should be labeled as having a specific learning disability. Only if this disability effects learning should the child receive services.

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If a child has ADHD, it is quite possible that the child has dyslexia – image by wordpress.com

New teachers may struggle to find ways to distinguish between ADHD and another specific learning disability when in fact they may be linked. Understanding this fact will help teachers better understand how to work with students. A student with ADHD may need additional help with reading simply because there may be an additional disability present.

What Can the Schools Do for Students With ADHD or Dyslexia?

ADHD or dyslexia children need help – image by thestar.com

Many students have dyslexia or another specific learning disability and do not qualify to receive services simply because the disability does not impact the child’s learning in a large enough way. The processing deficit “has to be in one or more area and impact learning in order to qualify for IDEA.” The difficulty with this happens when the child is performing at an average pace.

Dr. Perez explains what happens: “If you were average 25-65% then you’re average. Schools provide a car, not a Porsche. If we get you from A to B, we did good enough. But does average mean there is no problem? Not at all.” In fact, “many students can have a disability and not qualify for services.”

Many students can have a disability and not qualify for services – image by parenting.firstcry.com

She went on to explain that “the school system is designed to make the kids get bad enough before offering services. With IDEA they have to be failing before they get help [because] IDEA is not a diagnostic tool, it is an educational law.” This is why teachers are left with modifying assignments and the learning environment to meet the needs of each student. These modifications are listed on an IEP if the child is receiving services.

What Else Can be Done to Help Children With ADHD or Dyslexia?

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Training focusing might improve it – image by huffingtonpost.com

The skills necessary to process the written language properly and enable a student to focus are trainable, according to Dr. Perez. Her job is to train students to focus; to improve their reading and math skill through focused training instead of through homework and worksheet tutoring. She explains that while the training does help students, “it is hard for schools to train, that’s not what they’re there for.”

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Some facts about dyslexia – image by readinghorizons.com

Dr. Perez wants all parents to know that there is hope. If a child is struggling, even while receiving average grades, there is hope for an improved educational experience. In fact, Dr. Perez said that all dyslexic problems can be fixed. “Will they be perfect? No, but [their reading] can be better.”


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