What is dyslexia?

The word ‘Dyslexia’ means ‘difficulty with words’. Dyslexia is considered to be a neurological disorder where a person may have difficulty with all or some of the following:

  • spelling
  • reading
  • writing
  • comprehension

What are typical signs that a child might display if they have dyslexia?

Kindergarten Years

Kindergarten children with dyslexia typically have difficulty with:

  • Syllabification (e.g. How many syllables in the word ‘butterfly’ – ‘butt’ ‘er’  ‘fly’? Answer: 3).
  • Compound words (e.g. Say ‘basketball’; now say it without ‘basket’. Answer: ‘ball’).
  • Manipulation of sounds in words (e.g. Say ‘sat’; now say it with a ‘b’ instead of ‘s’. Answer: ‘bat’).

Pre-Primary Years

Pre-Primary children with dyslexia typically have difficulty with:

  • All of the above (in Kindergarten).
  • Hearing the initial sounds in words.
  • Hearing the final sounds in words.
  • Hearing the middle sounds in words.
  • Hearing a sound and identifying the written representation of the sound spoken (which letter says the sound ‘s’?).
  • Remembering the sounds that each letter makes.
  • Saying the sounds in simple words and blending them together to make a word (e.g. r-a-t à rat).
  • Quickly learning the order of sounds in words.
  • Accurate reading and sounding out quickly.
  • Retaining visual representation of sounds.

Primary to High School Years

Children with dyslexia continue to have difficulty understanding how sounds work together moving through the primary school and high school years. Adding to this, as they enter primary school they commence to learn the extended code. The extended code refers to learning vowel and consonant combinations that cannot be separated (e.g. ‘read’ consists of three sounds ’r’ ‘ea’ and ‘d’. The letters ‘ea’ represent the sound “E”).

Children in these years may also have difficulty with:

  • Spelling with accuracy, as they often cannot ‘hear’ what letters are represented by the sound they are hearing.
  • Difficulty segmenting and blending longer words.
  • Slow, inaccurate and laboured reading, which can severely impact their ability to comprehend text and stories that are read.
  • Acquiring and using new vocabulary.
  • Working memory (retaining spellings and order of letters to represent the word).
  • Focussing on tasks (easily distracted).
  • Rapidly naming colours, objects and letters in a set sequence.

If a child is showing these signs in Kindergarten, and continuing to struggle in Pre-primary, it is better to act sooner rather than later. The longer children are left to struggle, the harder it is for them to catch up to their year level. On top of this, these children begin to become frustrated, lose self-esteem and have less motivation to learn.

How Does a Speech Pathologist Help Students with Dyslexia?

A Speech Pathologist has extensive knowledge about phonological skills. A Speech Pathologist can deliver phonological awareness tasks to develop the skills listed above. They also know how to effectively teach children to name and say the different sounds and apply this knowledge to spelling and reading. They can teach a child to learn the spelling-sound rule relationship so they become fluent in their recall, in turn will make them efficient readers, spellers and writers.

For some time, jenny has been working intensively with children who are experiencing difficulties with spelling and reading. Jenny and her staff use the well evidenced phonics program ‘Sounds Write’ and have had great success with this program.

Perth Speech Therapy has a clinic at Alfred Cove.

The practice also provides a mobile service to schools and day-care centres.

If you are concerned about your child’s development in the area of literacy, please phone Perth Speech Therapy. We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s situation and what are the best steps forward.