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Could Your Kid Have Dyslexia?

How to identify the warning signs and figure out the next steps.



"Our brains are wired to speak. No matter what country a child is born in, the brain automatically learns that language; it’s a natural occurrence,” explains Ben Shifrin, vice president of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and a diagnosed dyslexic. “Reading and writing, those are things that human beings created. And a majority of brains need instruction to learn to read—they don’t just learn it automatically…there are children and people who struggle with that.” 

The IDA reports that one in 10 adults have some form of dyslexia, a learning disability that results in difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. This number includes notable celebrities, such as Henry Winkler, who, motivated by his own dyslexia struggles as a boy, penned the Hank Zipzer series about a fourth grader with dyslexia. 

As a child the “comprehension is intact,” says Shifrin, and “the ability to understand is intact... [dyslexia] has nothing to do with intelligence.”

Identifying dyslexia early will help you and your child get support and create the appropriate learning plan. But what are the signs? According to Shifrin, parents should watch out for these indicators:

Early Signs:

  • Speech delay until 3 years old
  • Multiple ear infections before starting school
  • Difficulty memorizing 

School-age Signs: 

  • Difficulty memorizing the alphabet
  • Struggling to tie shoes
  • Inability to rhyme and to comprehend rhymes (ex. understanding cat rhymes with hat)
  • Difficulty remembering spoken directions

“If your child is displaying two or three of these, the IDA would recommend you have an assessment,” says Shifrin. “The earlier the intervention, the better.”

Your kid’s school can help: The Dyslexia Screening Law—effective as of the 2014–2015 school year—states that if a child exhibits early indicators the school must screen them for dyslexia by the end of the first semester of second grade. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the assessment includes a review of developmental, medical, behavioral, academic and family history; an evaluation of general intellectual functioning (if appropriate) and tests of specific language, reading, writing, spelling and math skills. Certainly, if you notice any signs before teachers do, you’ll want to document them and push for an early screening.

If you or your school suspects dyslexia, make sure your child understands what the condition is and what it’s not. Students with dyslexia often feel “dumb” and can experience a great deal of stress at school, according to the IDA. Kids should understand that dyslexia is about processing information differently, not about inferior intelligence. 

Get More Help

  • The International Dyslexia Association is an excellent resource for parents beginning the process of determining whether their child is dyslexic. For more information, visit interdys.org.
  • On October 19 from 8 am–4 pm, the Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey will offer a fall conference at Rutgers University that is open to parents and educators. Learn more about the conference at idanj.org or by calling 732-645-2738.
  • Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey works with families to support students with dyslexia in the school system. They offer regular conferences and events. Find out more at decodingdyslexianj.org.
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