October Is Not Just for Trick-or-Treaters: It’s Dyslexia Awareness Month

by Margaret Patterson

We’ve heard the term ‘dyslexia’ repeatedly and are inclined to say, “I kinda, sorta know what it is.”  Well, here are the facts.

Margaret Patterson is the director of the CMDS Connections program.

What exactly is it?

Dyslexia is a learning condition that can affect basic language skills, reading (decoding), reading comprehension, spelling, writing, and math.

Let’s break that down.

You can see how dyslexia affects early language skills when children have difficulty picking out the different sounds in words. For example, ‘cat’ has 3 distinct sounds. These children can also have difficulty recognizing and making rhymes. They might show confusion saying words and phrases, such as ‘mawn lower’ for ‘lawn mower.’

When written symbols enter the picture, children can have difficulty associating individual letters with their correct sounds.

Then there’s actual reading, in which dyslexia causes a child to misread words, struggling slowly through single words in a list, passages of text, and sight words.  When reading aloud, the child has difficulty using the appropriate tone of voice and phrasing words together correctly and smoothly.

If children have to work so hard to just read the words, there’s not much brain power left for understanding what they have read. Dyslexia lowers reading comprehension because the word decoding is such a tough task.

Spelling takes a hit because recalling those pesky letter/sound associations is laborious.

It follows that proofreading is no easy job either. The problems posed with these skills can affect written expression.

Grammar and organization can be additional hurdles. When it comes to simple copying, there is no such thing.  Writing letters, words, and even numbers correctly, and in the right order, can be daunting.

You’ve had to work hard just reading this article, right?

You can understand why the International Dyslexia Association explains, “Dyslexic children . . . may have difficulty paying attention because reading is so demanding that it causes them to fatigue easily, limiting the ability to sustain concentration.”

Now for the good news!

Research shows that the differences in how dyslexic children process information may account for these strengths: strong memory for information they hear, thinking in pictures rather than words with skill at mentally manipulating 3-D objects, spatial reasoning and pattern recognition skills that assist in great puzzle solving, creative problem solving due to thinking holistically and to intuitive leaps of insight. Go easy on that kid staring out the window: He may be solving the great questions of the universe.

Dyslexia doesn’t go away, but early identification and treatment give children the gift of feeling good about their abilities as they hone new skill sets. World-renowned Dr. Beryl Benacerraf summed it up, “You can’t overcome it (dyslexia); you can work around it and make it work for you, but it never goes away. That’s probably a good thing, because if dyslexia went away, then the other gifts would go away too.”

Christ Methodist Day School opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. Come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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