Raising and educating kids with dyslexia

Archive for April, 2011

Dyslexia in Chinese

Does a person diagnosed with dyslexia in English experience dyslexia in another language, such as Mandarin?

Once my children had been diagnosed with dyslexia and placed on Individualized Education Plans by the school system, my experience has been that the schools remove foreign language from the schedule to free-up time for support services to be inserted. In addition, the presumption is that learning another language will be difficult as they already experience difficulties with the English language.

There does not seem to be much research into dyslexia and learning different languages. The most recent research I did find from 2010 contradicts previous research in 2008 that suggested if a person were dyslexic in one language they would not be dyslexic in another language such as Chinese. But, according to the 2010 research, reported by Dyslexia Research Today, that involved using fMRI to study the brain activity of dyslexic readers of both English and Chinese, there was common brain activity in both types of readers that indicates dyslexia would manifest itself if both languages were learned.

This is disappointing. With our trip to Hong Kong and China coming up this summer, my daughter is showing an interest in learning Mandarin. Perhaps her enthusiasm will overcome her dyslexia.

Something’s not quite right

Figuring out the symptoms of dyslexia in your child can be a challenge. I’d say it’s never clear-cut.

I read a mom’s desperate plea for help across the Internet through www.netmums.com –something’s not quite right, could it be dyslexia or could it be something else? I knew exactly how she felt, having been there myself. Actually, to be honest I wasn’t even at that place. I was just asking myself: “What on earth is going on?”

We see these little things that don’t seem quite right – when she reads “for” as “of” for the millionth time, but then correctly reads the word “fortunate.” When she writes “brithday” instead of “birthday” even though the two words “Happy Birthday” are printed in the card immediately above where she is writing. When he can’t seem to remember that 3×4=12 even though he has recited the 3 times table for weeks on end. When he does subtraction instead of addition even though the “+” symbol is right there next to the math problem. When you feel such a hopeless mother because he still can’t tie his shoelaces. When the teacher at school looks at you coldly and says you are not reading enough with your child at home. Perhaps all of these or some of these things sound familiar.

What makes it even more difficult to figure out is if your child’s teachers do not raise any red flags. After being told at school that my child did not read enough, I made the effort to do more reading with her at home, I got a teacher to tutor her and work with her on reading, and she had extra reading help at school during vacations. No one mentioned the word “dyslexia.”

After struggling through first grade, second grade and into third grade, at 8 years old my daughter’s poor reading was the subject of discussion again. This time I asked the teacher one simple question: “Why can’t she read?” I enquired. “I have no idea,” the teacher replied. That was the turning point. I decided to find out myself. Thus began the journey of discovery into the world of dyslexia. The diagnosis was the sweetest relief I have ever known.

Reading methods for dyslexia

My experience as a mother of children with dyslexia is that they can learn to read better, but with some intensive help. My advice, persevere with finding that help.

In my post “I forgot my husband’s name” I mentioned: “if my children read this… they will be blaming my gene pool.” Even as I wrote those words a mischievous thought entered my mind. “I will never get blamed,” I thought, “because my children, being dyslexic, don’t like to read! They will not read this!”

But I was proved wrong and I was caught! My daughter did read my blog post and she read it very well. She stumbled over a couple of words such as “exacerbates” and “Gabrieli” but I was reminded of the improvement in her ability to read. After reading the post, she added nonchalantly that she already knew that dyslexia was on my side of the family.

The four to five years of intensive remedial (I really dislike that word, it has such a stigma attached to it) teaching now shows its positive effect.

The breakdown of that intensive specialized teaching is like this: To begin with my daughter received forty hours of individual ninety-minute tutorials in the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) program four days each week during the months of July and August for one summer. The LiPS method teaches students to feel the sounds through the actions of their lips and tongues. It’s pretty cool! She also revisited this program five years later. Although, in her opinion, she did not need to do it again. Then followed, though not immediately, four years of individual tutorial during each school day using the Orton-Gillingham multisensory method to teach reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding). When my daughter reads out loud, I can hear her putting this method into practice as she breaks down the words into syllables or parts.

Over the years, I have had a fair amount of skepticism whether these programs were working and experienced frustration as progress has been slow. If dyslexia is a lifelong condition, I’ve thought, can it really be overcome? But, we’ve persevered and I think the intensity and continual application of these teaching methods has paid off. It is not only my daughter’s ability to read that has improved but also, her self-esteem and confidence.

When she finished reading the post, she rightly was proud of her achievement. We had a good laugh too; about the fact I forgot her Dad’s name!