Dyslexia is very common and according to the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) it affects one out of five people. Unfortunately, less than 30% of dyslexics are identified. Sadly, when they are identified, they are past the optimal age for remediation. It is not uncommon for dyslexics to go unrecognized until adolescence or adulthood. According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, it is unacceptable to have children and adults struggling to read when they could benefit from what modern neuroscience has taught us about reading and dyslexia. It is actually possible to catch these children and intervene before they ever have the chance to fail or to fall behind their peers. In her book, Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz states, “new discoveries now make it possible to (1) identify with a high degree of precision those children who are at the highest risk for dyslexia - even before they develop reading problems, (2) diagnose dyslexia accurately in children, young adults, and adults, and (3) manage the disorder with highly effective and proven treatment programs.”
So how can we recognize the signs of dyslexia in a young child before they get behind? There are many signs that parents often identify early on and question. Although it is possible to see the signs in preschool children, it is important to note that dyslexic children are not all alike and they may have some of the signs but not all of the signs. One of the first warning signs that parents recognize is not so much what their child is doing, but what they aren’t doing. Delayed speech is common among dyslexic children. In the early years, they may have difficulty rhyming. They find it hard to memorize simple nursery rhymes such as “Humpty Dumpty” and “Jack and Jill”. Learning the letters of the alphabet can also be difficult. For me, the letters of the alphabet were basically the alphabet song. To identify a letter, I had to recite the song to find its name. Dyslexic children often mispronounce words for an extended period of time. It can sound like baby talk and it may persist beyond when it seems appropriate. They also often don’t recognize the letters in their own name. These difficulties are unexpected in these children because they are very bright and have an average to above-average IQ. They appear curious and have great imaginations. They often have large vocabularies for their age and enjoy building models. The key to success for these children is to identify them as early as possible, even before they are expected to begin to read. Based on the scientific data generated to date on dyslexia, it is possible to identify dyslexic children before they experience failure or fall behind their peers and to provide them with evidence-based instruction.