Diagnosing Dyslexia

The earlier a child with dyslexia is diagnosed, the more effective his/her treatment could be.

Identifying dyslexia

In practice, identifying dyslexia in younger children can be very difficult for both parents and teachers because the signs and symptoms are often subtle. However, early continuing difficulties with differentiating sounds, particularly at the beginning or end of a word, can be a sign of possible difficulties in the future.

Many children, including younger children, also develop ways to compensate for their dyslexia, such as relying on their long-term memory more than usual or by ‘picturing’ the whole word.

Signs and symptoms of dyslexia you need to be looking for:

  1. Directional confusion- for example, writing 69 instead of 96
  2. Sequencing difficulties- for example, reading the letters in a word in a wrong sequence
  3. Difficulties with small words- for example, replacing “a” for “and”
  4. Late talking
  5. Difficulties with handwriting

This is a partial list of dyslexia signs. In any case you think there is a problem with your child,  take him/her to a professional diagnostics.

Famous Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Nelson Rockefeller – at the age of 9 he did not know the letters of the alphabet.

He was thought of as dull and backward.  He entered Davidson College, but he had to withdraw because of illness.  Later he went to Princeton, but his grades were mediocre.

Thomas Edison – His head was large at birth.  His mother did not agree with those who felt that the child was abnormal. He was sent to school, but the teacher thought him to be mentally ill.

The mother withdrew the child from school and taught him herself.

As it turned out, he might have done well in vocational education.

Frank W. Woolworth – was labeled slow as a child.  He clerked in a village grocery store.

He suggested putting slow-merchandise on a counter and selling it at a reduced rate.  It turned out to be an excellent idea.

Greg Luganis – had extreme difficulty in reading; some people used to say that he was clumsy.

He has been high up in his field for many years.  Because of his background, he might be labeled both learning disabled and disadvantaged.

George Patton – When he was twelve years old, he could not read, and he remained deficient in reading all his life.  However, he could memorize entire lectures, which was how he got through school.  That never stopped him from marching ahead.

Walt Disney – as a child he was slow in school work.  About the only thing this apparently right-brained individual had gone for him was his vivid imagination, which used to bother his teachers, especially when he doodled.

Winston Churchill – failed grade eight, did terrible in math, and generally hated school.  Still, he was upset by people who were “inebriated by the exuberance of their own verbosity”.

Woodrow Wilson –  had great difficulty in reading; in fact, throughout his life, he was unable to read well.  Despite this, he was extremely successful in politics.

Albert Einstein – did not learn to read until he was nine.  His teachers considered him mentally slow, unsociable and a dreamer.  He failed the entrance examinations to college but finally passed them after an additional year of preparation.  He lost three teaching positions and then became a patent clerk.

Hans Christian Anderson – had difficulty in reading and writing, but for years people have cherished his wonderful stories, all of which had to be dictated to a scribe.

Tom Cruise – despite being a success in his chosen field, this entertainer can learn lines only by listening to a tape.  He is formally diagnosed dyslexic.

Agatha Christie – had a learning disability called dysgraphia, which prevented any understood or legible written work.  As a result, all material had to be dictated to a typist/transcriptionist.
 

Dysgraphia Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms to dysgraphia are often overlooked or attributed to the student being lazy, unmotivated, not caring, or having delayed visual-motor processing.

To diagnose Dysgraphia, one must have more than one of the following symptoms:

  1. Cramping of fingers while writing short entries
  2. Odd wrist, arm, body, or paper orientations such as creating an L-shape with your arm
  3. Excessive erasures
  4. Mixed upper case and lower case letters
  5. Inconsistent form and size of letters, or unfinished letters
  6. Misuse of lines and margins
  7. Inefficient speed of copying
  8. Inattentiveness over details when writing
  9. Frequent need of verbal cues
  10. Referring heavily on vision to write
  11. Poor legibility
  12. Handwriting abilities that may interfere with spelling and written composition
  13. Having a hard time translating ideas to writing, sometimes using the wrong words altogether
  14. May feel pain while writing

It’s very difficult to Diagnose Dysgraphia; therefore, parents and educators need to be aware of Dysgraphia signs and symptoms and ask for professional diagnostics. Different types of dysgraphia require different approaches to their treatment; please, look at our blog devoted to Dysgraphia Types and Treatments.
 

Are Certain Jobs Particularly Suited to Dyslexics?

My dyslexic librarian – are certain jobs particularly suited to dyslexics or is their jobs for dyslexics?

Despite being a dyslexia specialist, even I was surprised when my local librarian told me she was dyslexic. As my mother said “I bet she left that off her application form”.  Being dyslexic definitely makes me a better tutor; I imagine it makes her a more knowledgeable and sensitive librarian.  I was just a little shocked, which made me realise that deep down I’m still a bit insecure about my own dyslexia.  I personally know lots of teachers who are closet dyslexics, but dare we tell anyone?

Society seems to be content with the notion that the creativity of many dyslexics leads them to become successful artists, musicians, actors, designers and filmmakers.  We also find it understandable that many seek fulfilment far from the world of books, a few becoming elite athletes, famous sports people or military heroes.   With bullying rife, maybe we can all identify with fellow dyslexic Mohammed Ali sometimes.   However, not all children are destined for physical or artistic excellence.

Lots of people talk about dyslexia as a gift, but do many people honestly believe this?  I think that one of the biggest difficulties facing dyslexics is nothing to do with reading, writing or memory, but instead low expectations.  If the 2003 Tulip Financial Research findings are accurate that 40% of self-made millionaires are dyslexic, then low expectations may be ill-founded.  The ability to see the big picture and come up with innovative solutions to problems has produced billionaires like Richard Branson and a string of powerful U.S. presidents.

If you have this dyslexic mind, do particular doors open and others clang shut?  Maybe.  Because of their lateral thinking and spatial awareness, one famous practice of architects actually prefers to employ dyslexics.  Should we all be architects?  My drawing skills aren’t going to feed my cat, let alone me.

Whilst most dyslexics find school challenging and often are happier later in life when they can pursue the things they are good at, there are always exceptions.  Counter-intuitively, it’s possible to find famous dyslexic role models in heavily paper-based careers like the law or that require many years of arduous study, such as doctors.

If you imagine one of the few careers you’d never get dyslexics in would be writing, guess again!  Whether you’re more interested in the critical acclaim of WB Yeats, or the wealth of Agatha Christie, I guess the lesson is not to write people off.  With the right help in the right ways, dyslexia doesn’t have to stop you achieving your dreams, whatever they are, and it might even be a benefit!

Some food for thought: if the rumours of a possible cure for dyslexia become a reality, should we want it?  Would the world be a better place without the achievements  of Leonardo da Vinci, the films of Walt Disney, the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, the music of Lennon or Mozart, the art of Picasso, the buildings of Lord Rogers, the discoveries of Thomas Edison, the victory of Winston Churchill, or the genius of Albert Einstein?

Dyslexia Help @ Work

Ghotit host from time to time guest blog posts about dyslexia.

The writers of these posts may be dyslexics, dyslexic family members, dyslexic tutors, teachers, assistive technology specialists or any other writer as long as the post provides quality information about dyslexia.

This hosted post by The Tutor Pages.

Originally this blog was posted in 2012 since then potentially employers started to look how a candidate look in the social network and that can be a real problem to many people with dyslexia.

A personal note: always try to be creative, think out of the box and look at Ghotit’s Software and Apps designed to help dyslexics.

Mom – My Personal Spell Checker

When I started to learn to write (in the mid 70s) there were no personal computers and no available computer word processors. As a terrible dyslexic speller, I had only one spell checker available – my mother. She was my personal spell checker.

On the one hand her processing time was quite slow, as she had great difficulty understanding my handwriting and spelling; but on the other hand her correction accuracy was quite high, as she always knew the context of what I had written, and therefore could make very educated guesses to what I intended to write.

Once my mother finished correcting my text, the paper sheet was so full of crossed out words and corrections, that I always needed to copy the text to a clean sheet of paper… which usually meant copying the text with mistakes again and going through an additional iteration with my mother… and then being requested by my mother to read out loud what was written… the process was tedious and tiring, many  times resulting in one of us losing our patience.

Years passed by, and the personal computers overtook the world. By the end of the 80’s I owned my own personal computer, and was using the word processing software WordPerfect and its spell checker. When Microsoft Word 95 added its underlining spell checker, I adopted the Microsoft’s squiggly-red spelling errors markings.

But though Microsoft’s word spell checker processing was extremely faster than my mother… the correction accuracy was quite low… Microsoft often gave me wrong suggestions… or no suggestions at all, as it simply could not decipher my spelling… as Microsoft had no understanding to the context of what I was writing about.

Microsoft Word spell checker failed to provide me the value that Mom my personal spell checker provided.  That’s why years later I founded Ghotit – the only spell checker designed for dyslexia spelling.  And Ghotit has adopted some of the same spell checking characteristics displayed by Mom my personal spell checker:

  • Ghotit boasts of context-based algorithms, understanding the intended word from the context of the written text itself
  • Ghotit is patient – supporting correction re-iterations based on additional corrections and inputs provided by the user
  • Ghotit  can be asked to read out the text out loud

PS After so many years… I believe Mom my personal spell checker has finally met her match

When a Mother Realizes That Her Son Has Dyslexia

I was sitting at the hairdresser’s shop, reading an article in a women’s magazine. Suddenly I realized: This is my child! The article is talking about my child. Each sentence re-enforced this realization. They are talking about my son.

The article was about dyslexia, describing the characteristics of dyslexic children. I don’t remember the exact details of the article, as 25 years have passed since.  However, this was the first time I ever heard of dyslexia. This was the first time I learned that Reading and Writing, these learned skills, skills that almost everyone succeeds in mastering, may be very difficult to very intelligent people diagnosed with dyslexia.

Unbelievable. This piece of information was the most important piece of information I have ever received in my life. Now I understood, that my son was not lazy, my son needed help. Till then I tried to teach my son by forcing him to sit down and repeat again and again words and letters. That was not easy and in some way looked cruel. But what was the alternative? Can a person succeed in our world without the knowledge of reading and writing?

25 years ago my son, Kevin, was 10 years old. At that time, awareness about dyslexia was quite low. I remember talking to my son’s teachers and educational counselors and being amazed about their ignorance on this topic. How can it be that a women’s magazine publishes information about learning disabilities that professional educators are not familiar with. The best were those teachers, principals and psychologists who admitted their ignorance but were eager to learn more about dyslexia. The worse were those educators who pretended to know everything or were simply indifferent to the condition. Against these people you have to decide to fight.

I hate arguments and conflicts but sometimes you have no choice. After all, Kevin is my son, and my son must know that his parents fully support him and will fight for him.

My husband and I embarked on a battle to educate my son’s school about dyslexia. It was no easy tasks, and sometimes I wondered what happens to all those children whose parents do not know how to persistently argue a case until it is won…

After a long battle we were able to adjust the learning conditions of my son in his school. At certain points we realized that our son understood his parent’s defense incorrectly. He began to behave as if he was granted permission to do in school whatever he wanted, avoiding assignments and tasks that he did not wish to perform. I was informed that he was coming in late to school almost every morning. Coming late to school is not one of the privileges a dyslexic child is entitled to. It is important that you fight for privileges that are required to compensate for your child being dyslexic, but at the same time make sure that your child is not abusing these privileges to avoid his responsibilities.

My son’s son (my grandson) has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia. When looking back, I feel that some conclusions may be drawn from my experience of raising a dyslexic child:

1.       Look at the truth straight in the face. If you suspect a problem, consult a good and reliable therapist. Consulting does not tag any child in a negative manner.

2.       Although your child may be treated by the best professionals, keep being involved with his progress.

3.       If your child experiences misunderstandings at school and you are expected to intervene, examine all facts and sides carefully, before forming an opinion.

4.       And last: although dyslexic children may reach high achievements, they usually cannot overcome all spelling errors from appearing in their writings. Here is where assistive technology (like Ghotit Writing Assistive Technology) offers its value.

Ghotit hosts from time to time guest blog posts about dyslexia.

The writers of these posts may be dyslexics, dyslexic family members, dyslexic tutors, teachers, assistive technology specialists or any other writer as long as the post provides quality information about dyslexia.

This is the second hosted post by Mary, a parent of a dyslexic.

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Seeing Your Dyslexic Child’s Writing For The First Time

Millions of kids have recently started going to school worldwide, about 10% of them suffering from dyslexia.

As the year unfolds, some parents of first and second graders will see for the first time the written text that their son or daughter has just written, and will ask themselves “ What is this? What gibberish has my son or daughter produced?”

For some of these parents this will be the first indication of their child’s writing disability, and their initiation as dyslexic parents…

As a lifelong dyslexic and a dyslexia advocate, I would like to provide these parents my non-scientific definition of  “dyslexia spelling” – spelling produced by dyslexics…

Dyslexia Spelling = Phonetic Spelling + Creative Spelling

What is Phonetic Spelling?

When you’re dictating a word and tell your son or daughter that he should write what he hears, a child, including a dyslexic, will attempt to map the sounds in the words to the sounds of the letters.

However, English is not a phonetic language. There are a very large number of English words where there is a gap between how the word sounds and how the word is actually spelled. Not to mention, there are many times multiple correct phonetic options to a sound (for example: k , c, ck, and qu all sound about the same)…

What is Creative Spelling?

Given that English spelling is not phonetic, and per each sound may have several spelling options, a lot of correct English spelling is dependent on the visual memory of a written word. If you have good visual memory of words, you will be able to spell a word correctly simply by writing it down, and from memory deciding if this is the correct spelling.

But people with dyslexia, have very poor and consistent visual memory of spelled words, and therefore can hardly rely on their visual memory of words.  (see my example of how I spell the word “unfortunately” in a previous Ghotit Post – My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing.)

Not to mention that dyslexics sometimes simply confuse the direction of letters, and though they meant to write the letter “b” actually end up writing the letter “d”…

I term all the above spelling challenges as “creative spelling”. It is “creative” in the sense, that given that a person simply has no idea of how to spell correctly certain syllables of a word, he creatively makes them up as he writes. And each time he “creates” a word’s spelling, it usually ends up as a different spelling creation.

Can a regular spell checker correct dyslexia spelling?

If English was a phonetic language, then regular spell checkers who have implemented phonetic spelling rules would probably provide some value for dyslexics with poor visual spelling memory…

However, English is not a phonetic language, and therefore the “creative spelling” of a person with dyslexia must be taken into account in a spell checker. However the “creative” spelling of a dyslexic is basically “noise” and therefore any computerized program, such as a regular spell checker, that tries to correct a single word at a time (and not based on the context of the sentence) is doomed to fail… That is why Microsoft spell checker many times simply fails to correct a heavily misspelled word written by a dyslexic.

Context-based spell-checkers for dyslexia spelling

Here is where benefits of a context spell checker such as Ghotit’s Contextual Spell Checker come to play. Context-based spell checkers not analyze directly the “creative spelling” of each word written by a dyslexic, but rather based on the context of what was written, intelligently offers corrections, predicting what was actually intended to be written.

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A Great “Speaker on Dyslexia”

This is one of my favorite youtube videos about dyslexia.

Listening to Mr. Nelson Lauver’s story of how his life changed by being told that he had dyslexia makes you understand the importance of having kids diagnosed early with dyslexia. Kids who are diagnosed early are taught how to live with dyslexia both from an academic, and from a confidence building standpoint. If you have a child demonstrating hardships in either reading or writing, get your child diagnosed. This early diagnosis can be a critical factor in the well-being of your child.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFg3RX9ThtQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

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Teaching Disabilities of a Parent with Dyslexia

“If you don’t want your teacher to think you are an idiot, you better ask your mother to help you in this homework writing assignment”.

This is what I spurted out to my daughter who recently started 1st grade. My daughter asked for my assistance in one of her first writing homework assignments.  Just to clarify I am a heavy dyslexic and a terrible speller.  A second after I said this sentence I regretted it. My 6 year old daughter did not really catch the meaning of what I said, except of course to understand that to get homework assistance she better go to my wife.

The homework assignment of my daughter who has just started first grade was simple enough. She had to write a certain letter in a row of squares drawn on a sheet of paper.  My daughter asked me to see if she had written the letters properly inside each one of the squares. Sounds simple enough. But my “dyslexic eyes” couldn’t for the life of me figure out if the letter was written inside or outside the square. To my eyes, the letters just floated around on the paper…

When I started to think about it, it occurred to me that helping my daughter in language assignments was very problematic:

  1. Most of the homework assignments of kids in first grades are technical writing and spelling assignments – directly focusing on my main dyslexic spelling weaknesses
  2. I realized that since my daughter has no previous “spelling knowledge”, so if I teach her a wrong spelling of a word, she will automatically learn and adopt the misspelling

A few days later, we were driving in the car. My daughter had learned her first 8 alphabet letters, and my wife was saying out words that included only these letters and asking my daughter to spell them. I stayed quiet during this session, and was quite happy when my second daughter who is in kindergarten asked to also participate by asking her simple arithmetic questions. Thank God  I don’t have dyscalculia and could participate in this educational family game.

All of these minor incidents made me start thinking: Which role can I play in my daughters’ studies? Do I suffer not only from learning disabilities but also from teaching disabilities?

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