By Joanne Tan
If your kid is struggling to read and spell, there’s a chance that your little one may be suffering from dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects one’s ability to decipher sounds in words and associate sounds to letters.
As a result, dyslexics experience difficulties in reading, spelling and comprehension. It may be hard to detect these signs in children who are under six though, as they do not engage in much reading or writing at this age. That said, there are still some warning signs that you should watch out for as follows in the various areas:
– Unusually clumsy
– Suffers from poor eye-hand co-ordination such as having difficulty catching a ball
– Weak palm grip
– Holds the pencil or pen awkwardly
– Struggles to colour within lines
– Difficulty in cutting along lines
– Starts speaking later than peers
– Pronounces words wrongly (e.g. “bebby bear” instead of “teddy bear”)
– Unable to recall labels for known objects
– Has difficulty in expressing thoughts
– Communicates using gestures rather than words
– Brings up irrelevant topics during conversation
– Problem in making other people understand what he or she is saying
– Has difficulty in learning the alphabet song or nursery rhymes
– Unable to recall sounds of letters despite repeated teaching
– Unable to isolate sounds in words (e.g. understand that “sun” begins with /s/ sound)
– Likes listening to stories but not keen to read
– Has difficulty in recognising familiar words
– Confuses similar looking words such as on and no, and was and saw
– Struggles to learn sight words (e.g. “a”, “the”, “and”)
– Finds it hard to blend sounds to read words
– Unable to recall how to write letters of the alphabet
– Struggles to write own name
– Has poor handwriting
– Mirror-writes letters and numbers
– Has difficulty following two or more instructions at a time
– Forgets names of friends, teachers or places
– Appears intelligent but surprisingly poor in learning
– Performs well on some days and poorly on other days for no apparent reason
– Has difficulty in keeping rhythm or clapping to a simple rhythm
What to do if you suspect your child may have dyslexia?
If your child is showing most of these signs, you may want to discuss with your child’s teacher about his or her learning in school. Check if your child is falling behind his or her peers in learning, struggling with written work, displaying disruptive behaviours or showing disinterest in learning.
Parents can also visit a General Practitioner (GP) to rule out vision, hearing or other developmental issues such as poor fine motor skills that can affect your child’s learning ability. Your GP may then refer you to a specialist for more in-depth evaluation. As dyslexia is diagnosed by comparing the gap between your child’s intelligence (IQ) and literacy achievement, a more accurate diagnosis can be made in Primary One or Two, after the child has started formal schooling.
At preschool age, the screening would be done for literacy abilities and if the results are concerning a more formal diagnosis will be done. DAS conducts free screening for pre-schoolers to help parents and teachers gain more insights on their children’s literacy abilities, and has a preschool programme to support preschoolers who struggle with reading and writing. Parents can also approach the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital for informal screening and short-term early intervention programme to improve their children’s literacy abilities.
Overcoming dyslexia as a child
Though dyslexia is a life-long condition, there are ways to teach a child to work around this difficulty so that he or she can be successful in learning and in life. Children with dyslexia tend to have visual or auditory processing issues and adopting a multi-sensory teaching approach will benefit these children as it activates more than one sense (sight, hearing, touch and movement) when they are learning. Particularly for languages, the instructions during teaching need to be explicit and structured to help children gain a better grasp of the language.
At home, parents should create a literacy-friendly environment where books or other print materials are easily available to their children. Read books with interesting plots to your child and ask questions to build your child’s comprehension skills. As books are rich in content and language, they are useful in introducing vocabulary and general knowledge.
You should also practice celebrating every small step of literacy achievement such as writing a letter or reading a familiar word correctly, as this helps your child gain confidence in his or her learning. As children gain more confidence in their ability to learn, they are more likely to enjoy reading and written tasks.
Joanne Tan is a Senior Educational Therapist at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. She holds a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College. Her interest in literacy development and early intervention sprouted work in research, curriculum planning, teacher’s training and awareness talks.
DAS conducts free preschool screenings for children in kindergarten. The next free round of screenings will be conducted at the DAS Chua Chu Kang Learning Centre on 31 May 2017 and Bishan Learning Centre on 22 November 2017. DAS also conducts free computerised screening for primary school students. DAS also has a preschool programme that adopts a multi-sensory approach to improving students’ handwriting, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills, as well as teaching self-correction techniques to help them overcome letter reversals. For more information, call +65 6444 5700 or visit das.org.sg.