What do Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Roald Dahl all have in common? They all suffered with dyslexia and all went on to become hugely successful
Dyslexic children can harbour feelings of worthlessness and frustration, working at a much slower pace than their classmates. But there is no reason why, with support and guidance at school, they can’t excel in their studies.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia comes from the Greek for ‘difficulty with words’. It is a learning difficulty that is a symptom of information processing disorders in the brain. It can affect children in a number of different ways, but the main issues lie in difficulty learning to read, spell and write.
It is a disorder likely to be present at birth and its effects can last a life-time. Dyslexia is often hereditary but the actual causes are yet to be fully understood.
Some people associate dyslexia with poor intellect but this is not the case. Children with dyslexia actually show a normal level of intelligence, but process information differently to those without it.
What are the main signs?
You may first notice problems with dyslexia in early childhood. Children may have trouble putting together words and phrases and struggle with forgetfulness and speech development.
There may be problems with rhyming and clapping rhythms, and performing tasks such as getting dressed and putting their shoes on the right feet.
When they start school, you may notice a lack of interest and concentration in reading and writing, and that they regularly put letters and figures the wrong way round.
How can it be treated?
There is no cure for dyslexia, but if you think your child is showing signs of the disorder you should seek help from a psychologist or a specialist dyslexia teacher.
It is vital that it is diagnosed as appropriate teaching and learning techniques can help a great deal.
The use of phonics and sounding out the word is commonly used in teaching spelling to dyslexic children, but Cambridge based dyslexia teacher and specialist, Helen Watson, believes that a visual approach is hugely beneficial: “Without a visual image of what the word looks like, sounds are meaningless. For example the word banana, it doesn’t sound like it is spelt, so it would be more effective for the child to have a picture in their mind of what the word and letters look like. That is how good spellers work.”
Helen, who offers help and advice to children and adults struggling with reading, spelling and writing, has seen the positive effect of her methods first hand: “I think it is a really effective approach, and by the end of four weeks, they will have learnt how to spell any word.”
The multi-sensory teaching method is also an effective approach, it involves helping a child to learn through more than just one of their senses. Using methods that involve touch and movement will aid them in processing information and give them a tactile memory as well as a visual one.
For example, play-dough can be used to make different letters of the alphabet as confusing letters is a common problem amongst dyslexic children.
When it comes to reading, confidence is key: “A supportive environment is important,” says Helen. “Reading aloud can be stressful for any child, particularly those who struggle. Take the stress out of it by reading a page to your child first or alternating paragraphs. Encourage them to read slowly with silly voices and expressions.”
Dyslexic children may lack confidence and this can have an effect their school work. “The more confident they are, the quicker the results,” says Helen. “Success will further improve their confidence, it just builds on itself.”
It is important to continue reminding your child that they are just as intelligent as their friends, and although they struggle in some subjects, they more than make up for it with the other things they are good at.
Where can I find help?
The best way to get help is through your child’s school. Children can often be referred to their local educational psychologist for assessment and diagnosis. Every school should have a special educational needs coordinator so if you think your child is not getting the right support at school, it may be beneficial to speak to the person responsible for this.
Why not look at www.dudeswithdyslexia.co.uk a website created by Harry, a ten year old with dyslexia.
Sir Richard Branson Virgin founder left school at 15. Now has a fortune of something in excess of £3 billion and a couple of Caribbean islands to his name