Diagnosing Dyslexia at an Early Age

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Diagnosing Dyslexia at an Early Age

Abstract

It has been established recently that dyslexia is not revealed in children until they enter higher educational establishments. This means that dyslexic students have a range of problems related to their disease, which complicates the process of learning considerably. Though, if diagnosed at an early age, dyslexia might be treated effectively. Early intervention prevents frustration, low self-esteem, feeling of failure and other negative emotions that dyslexic students might experience. At the same time, it is the responsibility of a teacher to reveal dyslexic students and to report about them. Blaming, humiliating, and punishing such students for low performance is inappropriate. However, this problem is currently not addressed by governmental, public, and professional institutions. The situation with dyslexic children should be changed in the nearest future; this will give them a chance to feel connected to the community and overcome the difficulties created by their disease.

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Diagnosing Dyslexia at an Early Age Allows Students to Thrive during Their Year of Formal Education because It Causes Them to Have Higher Esteem

General audience has only a vague idea about what dyslexia is. This medical condition is often based on myths rather than facts. Therefore, it is important to have a common understanding of dyslexia, which should allow discussing this disease from the point of view of its diagnosis and social adaptation of children who suffer from this disease. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the influence of dyslexia on children’s self-esteem and highlight the importance of its early diagnosis in order to help such children find their way in learning.

Background

In particular, my position is that dyslexic does not mean stupid; this approach helps build self-esteem and realize that one’s otherness should not be treated as disability or degraded functioning. Dyslexia is a complex problem that has its roots in brain functioning. Dyslexic people are not able to perceive and reproduce sounds that make up words; they are not able to break words into sounds and read or write them either. Such people have different perception, interpretation, and translation of language into brain than others. Therefore, it is reasonable to call dyslexia a common medical condition that takes place in 80 percent of cases of people with learning disabilities. Early diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia are important because children might lag far behind the school curriculum as a result of this disease. If dyslexia progresses, children become upset with their poor performance and might engage in problematic behaviors, have low self-esteem, and suffer from other psychological conditions. There are certain signs of dyslexia that allow parents or caregivers to reveal the problem. Thus, if a child cannot recognize his/her name, has only a limited vocabulary at a preschool level; if he/she has difficulties in naming sounds and letters, is not able to enumerate familiar objects quickly and confidently after finishing kindergarten, is reluctant to read, cannot pronounce and remember words in primary school, it might signal that such a child might have dyslexia (Boyse, 2008). It is important that parents or caregivers who suspect dyslexia in a child addressed for professional help that should aim at eliminating barriers to learning for a particular child and teach him/her how to live with this disease.

Myths about Dyslexia Debunked

There are obstacles that prevent dyslexic people from effective learning. These are myths related to dyslexia. Suspicion about dyslexia should be based on facts rather than on myths. That is why, it is important to debunk the most common myths about dyslexia and replace them with facts.

Despite a common belief, dyslexia is not related to intelligence, so even dyslexic people might become brilliant scientists. Dyslexia is not a rare disease any more: around 20 percent of individuals are affected by it only in the USA. Dyslexia cannot be outgrown, and it is not innate and incurable because people suffering from it might learn to read normally, though often slowly. This disease can and should be diagnosed at an early age, and this should be done only by speech-language pathologists, but not by specially trained teachers, who might be incompetent to make the correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, intense phonic instruction cannot help solve the problem with dyslexia, and children who suffer from this disease do not have any outstanding artistic gift. At the same time, mirror writing and seeing things backwards are not symptoms of dyslexia (Dyslexia Help, n.d.). Anyway, teachers and parents might only attempt to suspect dyslexia in a child. However, only a qualified medical professional can establish the diagnosis of dyslexia after a series of appropriate testing.

Experience of Working with Dyslexic Children

Research of self-esteem in dyslexic children uncovers the need for drawing attention to this problem in order to help students instead of bullying and humiliating them. A recent research conducted in 2010 highlights the neurobiological origin of dyslexia and stresses the role of a teacher in suspecting dyslexia. It is claimed that dyslexic students often demonstrate such traits of character as stubbornness, presumption, and insecurity (Carvalhais & da Silva, 2010). There has been a growing need for training teachers to deal with dyslexic students and to develop specially-designed programs that should meet the needs of such people. However, these two aspects still remain quite challengeable. Thus, in Carvalhais and da Silva’s study (2010), 50 teachers were selected with the help of purposeful sampling method. These people completed a questionnaire providing their personal information and experience of working with dyslexic children. The results of this research indicated that 46 percent of teachers have already worked with dyslexic children, but 74 percent of them did not get any support and guidance. At the same time, 66 percent of teachers did not have any specialized training for dealing with dyslexia. Astonished with this statistics, the author of this article organized workshops and seminars for teachers on how to deal with dyslexic children. During these classes low self-esteem of students with dyslexia was highlighted and attention was drawn to the role of a teacher in its improvement (Carvalhais & da Silva, 2010). However, this effort is not enough to improve the situation. Nation-wide attention and intervention is required in order to organize specialized training programs for teachers, control their performance, and monitor the feedback of students with dyslexia. These steps are vital for ensuring that interests of this special group of students are met.

Valuable insights have been obtained from interviews with dyslexic children. 75 people with dyslexia were asked questions about their well-being, educational performance, self-esteem, relationships with others, and their future prospects. Importantly, all the respondents agreed that first 6 grades of their education were extremely stressful for them; many of them experienced bullying; the majority of respondents had very low self-esteem and because of this decided not to go to college. All of the participants had reading and spelling problems and none of them attended special courses for dyslexic people. There is no doubt that at the background of learning failures, participants had very low self-esteem, which affected their lives to a great extent. Ingesson (2007) suggests raising dyslexic students’ self-esteem by encouraging their participation in various social activities, sports, etc., where they can feel strong and confident while doing things that they are good at. This might, to some extent, compensate failures in education (Ingesson, 2007). The results of this research allow to conclude that children experienced major difficulties with learning at the age of 7-13. If dyslexia was diagnosed earlier, learning would be facilitated for such children. It is equally important that after an early diagnosis, people with dyslexia passed a specialized training or even attended appropriate schools or courses. Again, in order to ensure this condition, governmental and community efforts at a national level are required.

Gibson and Kendall (2010) also highlight the importance of developing the inclusive guidelines that will regulate the needs of disabled people and students with special needs. Like Carvalhais and da Silva (2010) and Ingesson (2007), Gibson and Kendall (2010) give special significance to self-esteem as an important motivator of success in learning. Evidently, low self-esteem acts as a negative motivation factor and prevents dyslexic students from effective learning. Unfortunately, the authors state that, in view of scarcity of literature in the field of dyslexic experiences, it is currently not possible to generalize information and develop comprehensive guidelines that would regulate this category of learners. Gibson and Kendall’s research is based on interview results obtained from only 5 participants. However, the interviews were semi-structured, which gave the respondents more freedom in answering. Interviewees had the right to refuse from any question if they wanted so, and all the questions corresponded to the Code of Ethics requirements. Interview results indicated that students with dyslexia were not listened to because teachers oriented at school curricula and at the majority of learners. The participants also reported about low expectations that teachers expressed in their attitude to them and verbal abuse from the side of their peers that was, fortunately, not accompanied by physical violence. Low self-esteem and the feeling of failure were also indicated by the respondents. Therefore, this research emphasizes that early identification of dyslexia and its treatment allow achieving better results because children are more responsive to such treatment than adults. At the same time, a teacher does not have to be an expert in education of dyslexic children, but he/she has to be able to identify and report about those children who perform at much lower level than the rest of the group. This matter has become an urging one because in the research conducted by Gibson and Kendall (2010) it was indicated that children did not receive diagnosis of dyslexia until they entered higher educational establishment, which means that there was not early identification or intervention. For successful outcome, it is necessary to account for personal, social, and emotional requirements of a dyslexic person (Gibson & Kendall, 2010).

A recent study conducted by Glazzard (2010) draws attention to the problems with self-esteem in learners with dyslexia. The key research method used in the article was the interview of nine students who uncovered their lives, relationships with peers, teachers, and their level of self-esteem. It was established that teachers have a significant influence on dyslexic students because they shape their self-esteem by comparing them to others, helping or ignoring them, treating fairly or unfairly. For example, humiliation of a student hurts his/her feelings, creates favorable atmosphere for bullying in a classroom, and lowers student’s self-esteem (Glazzard, 2010). In the study under consideration, the participants reported about such inconveniences of being dyslexic and attending a mainstream school as feeling stupid because of performing worse than others; feeling disappointed because of not being able to participate with others at the level required by teachers; feeling isolated because classroom tasks appear difficult and nobody wants to be in a group with a dyslexic student who is, obviously, less smart than others. In addition, students reported that they had to apply more effort in order to complete the same amount of work as their peers while teachers rarely allowed them to use alternative means of information recording such as, for example, video presentation of the results of a scientific experiment. Similar to the previous articles analyzed in this paper, the interviewed dyslexic students reported about physical or verbal abuse in around a half of cases (Glazzard, 2010). Nevertheless, in view of the small size of the research group, this information cannot be considered representative. Importantly, the participants confirmed that after the diagnosis of dyslexia was confirmed, they felt that their self-esteem increased, though attitude of peers to dyslexic students has not changed much. Finally, Glazzard (2010) indicates that making the right diagnosis is important for a dyslexic student since it adds confidence to their self-esteem and outlines the need for differentiating and meeting their specific requirements.

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Conclusion

Overall, dyslexia is a serious condition that deserves attention from teachers, parents, and medical staff. Numerous articles highlight the importance of early diagnosis and intervention of dyslexic children. Understanding that dyslexic children are not defective, but rather those who have special needs, suggests that there are more chances for effective treatment. At a younger age, children are more responsive to therapy aimed at compensating learning difficulties of dyslexic children. In addition, a child’s self-esteem is affected by this disorder. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain an appropriate level of confidence in a child so that he/she does not feel frustration, disappointment, and isolation. This task should be performed by instructors, parents, and dyslexic students themselves.

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