Early intervention key to treating dyslexia

By DR. MARY BLAIR Health Columnist The Greenwood Commonwealth

A 6-year-old child brings his progress report home. Parents notice the teacher’s comments about his difficulty with spelling, hesitancy with reading in class and issues with handwriting. His parents had noted that he had difficulty with basic spelling words when he would review them at home. He would often mix up the letters or write letters backwards. They also noticed that instead of wanting to read out loud, he would either not be interested in reading or prefer that someone read to him. This began the question on whether their child had a common reading disability called dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a common learning and reading disability that is seen when a child has difficulty with reading words.

The root cause is not being able to recognize how letters sound, which causes problems with reading. It is a disability that is seen in families, and children with dyslexia may also have difficulty with writing called dysgraphia.

It is common for early readers and writers to mix up letters or write letters backwards; however, a common myth is that all who do so are dyslexic.

Many children with dyslexia are smart and creative.  They often do well with math and science as well as with the arts.

Diagnosis is made by an evaluation performed by the school system that involves child observation, questionnaires and activities that evaluate learning ability. The process can take up to 60 days to complete, which makes it important to voice concerns early.

Diagnosis can also be made by a medical team if there is difficulty with getting testing in the school system. The key is to seek help early.

Treatment of dyslexia involves a team approach.  Parents, teachers and medical providers must work together to find a plan that works for the child. After a child is diagnosed with this reading disability, an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is made.  This plan encourages teachers to change methods of teaching, such as reading out loud to a child, allowing a child to take notes with a tape recorder or making exams multiple choice. Accommodations are also made by giving a child more time on a test or sending work home for it to be completed.

One of the most important interventions is for parents to read to their children daily. There is no medicine that treats dyslexia. It is also a disability that can carry over into adulthood.

The absolute best treatment for dyslexia is prevention and early intervention. It is important for doctors to screen children for developmental delays.  It is also important for parents to track and watch for signs of delays and discuss them at scheduled wellness visits.

Teachers need to be instrumental in recognizing children in the classroom that are struggling and keep parents informed of their progress as well as suggest testing if there is a concern.

There is help for that quiet child struggling with dyslexia.  If you are concerned that your child has a learning disability or has any of the signs described, please consult your child’s pediatrician.

• Dr. Mary Blair is a pediatrician with the Greenwood Children’s Clinic. Email your questions to mblair@glh.org.