Is your child struggling with spelling, reading or writing? Is she falling behind the other students in her reading program? Your child may have dyslexia. Dyslexia is lifelong, but with the right support and learning tools, dyslexic individuals can become highly successful. Read our guide to understand more about dyslexia and how to help.
What is Dyslexia?
- Dyslexia is a hereditary, language-based learning disability that is neurological in origin.
- The International Dyslexia Association estimates about 15% to 20% of the population has some characteristics of dyslexia.
- Children with dyslexia have trouble learning to read, write and spell.
- It affects boys and girls in about equal numbers.
- Without specialized teaching, 74% of children who are struggling readers in third grade will remain poor readers in ninth grade and into adulthood.
- Dyslexia cannot be cured, but children can learn techniques to compensate and read on or above grade level.
Signs of Dyslexia
- Late or delayed speech
- Difficulty rhyming
- Mispronouncing familiar words
- Difficulty learning and remembering letters of the alphabet
- Difficulty sounding out simple words
- Complaining about reading being hard
- Avoiding reading out loud
- Family history of reading problems
If you’re trying to learn more about dyslexia and why your child struggles with reading, you may come across words you don’t understand. Here’s a glossary of terms sometimes associated with dyslexia.
- Learning Disability: A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects information processing. Unlike other learning disabilities, dyslexia does not impact thinking and reasoning.
- Prognosis and Remediation: The prognosis is good for individuals whose dyslexia is identified early, and who are involved in a remediation program. There is no cure for dyslexia, but remediation strategies can help individuals become highly successful.
- Orton-Gillingham Approach: One of the most effective dyslexia strategies for remediation is known as the Orton-Gillingham Approach. Named after Dr. Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham, it was developed in the 1930s to teach children with language-based learning difficulties. It’s characterized by personalized, multisensory, structured and systematic teaching that is based in language and direct instruction.
- Wilson Reading System: The Wilson Reading System is a highly-structured curriculum based on Orton-Gillingham principles. It is for students who have difficulty with phonemic awareness, decoding and encoding. Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about and work with the individual sounds in a spoken word. Decoding is the ability to translate a word from print to speech, and encoding refers to the ability to spell.
- Sight Words: Words a reader recognizes without having to sound them out, such as “you,” “are,” “have” and “said.” It’s common for dyslexic readers to struggle with these words.
- Mainstream: Mainstream refers to the ordinary classroom that almost all children attend. Accommodations may be made for children with dyslexia as part of the general educational program for those who have completed a psychoeducational evaluation.
- Dyscalculia: Dyscalculia is a severe difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.
- Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.
- Dysnomia: Dysnomia refers to difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language.
- Dyspraxia: Dyspraxia is a severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning and other tasks that require fine motor skills.
Sources: The Dyslexia Resource, Learning Disabilities Association of America, LD OnLine, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Saint Francis School
Schools that Serve Students with Dyslexia
Full immersion programs incorporate dyslexia instructional techniques in all subjects of teaching. Other schools offer learning support for dyslexic students within mainstream schools. The following schools are either full immersion or offer helpful programs to students:
- Atlanta Speech School’s Wardlaw School
- Brookwood Christian School
- GRACEPOINT School
- Mount Paran Christian School
- Sage School
- The Schenck School
- St. Francis School
- St. Martin’s Episcopal School
- The Swift School
- The Walker School
Famous People With Dyslexia
- Albert Einstein
- Pablo Picasso
- Jennifer Aniston
- Steven Spielberg
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Henry Winkler
- Mohammed Ali
- Tom Cruise
- Jay Leno
- Keira Knightley
- Magic Johnson
– Emily Webb, Mary Williams and Kristy MacKaben contributed to this guide.
The New Dyslexia Law: What does it means for Georgia’s Students? Resources for Dyslexia
When elementary school children struggle to read, parents can feel like they are trying to solve a complicated mystery.
A new dyslexia law may be one of the keys that helps unlock answers.
Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, Senate Bill 48, signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp in May, requires all local schools to screen kindergarten students for characteristics of dyslexia. At the beginning of that same school year, the law requires schools to screen students in grades one through three for characteristics of dyslexia who have been identified through the Response to Intervention (RTI) process.
“This is a great first step for Georgia,” says Karen Huppertz, President of the International Dyslexia Association Georgia Branch.
Brenda Fitzgerald, Executive Director for Georgia Educational Training Agency, agrees that the law, which is the first dyslexia legislation in Georgia, is a good start because it will identify young children who show characteristics of dyslexia.
“Evidence-based research shows us that the earlier we intervene the better for the child,” Fitzgerald says. “The curriculum gets faster, and the vocabulary gets harder. It gets harder to break the code.”
However, both Huppertz and Fitzgerald point out that the law only requires screenings.
“Parents need to understand that screening and testing are not the same thing,” Huppertz says. “Parents may get excited and say ‘my child is going to get tested for dyslexia.’ No — your child will be screened for showing tendencies for dyslexia. A child who is screened and has tendencies, will benefit from good structured literacy instruction. All students will benefit from good structured literacy instruction.”
Other parts of the law are aimed at providing this kind of instruction. In addition to the screenings that will start in 2024, other important components of the law require the state to provide a handbook about dyslexia to educators by the end of the this year, opportunities for teacher training in dyslexia and a three-year pilot program that will start in the 2020-2021 school year to demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of early reading programs for students with dyslexia characteristics.
Both Huppertz and Fitzgerald say this is a good first step, but there is still more work to be done.
“It’s important that everyone dances together,” Fitzgerald says of parents, administrators teachers and psychologists.
Huppertz hopes that one day additional legislation will require a full battery of testing for those students who show characteristics of dyslexia. One of the reasons she is so passionate about testing young students is that she is the parent of two children who have dyslexia. Both got the help they needed, learned to read and went on to become successful adults. But before their interventions, Huppertz was one of those parents baffled by the mystery of why her son Cameron wasn’t reading.
“I didn’t know anything about dyslexia,’ Huppertz said. “I didn’t understand the RTI process. I had a child who seemed to be smart but who couldn’t read.”
Screening her son in kindergarten would have made a difference.
“It would have caught it,” Huppertz said. “We would have hopefully been able to give him the instruction he needed right off the bat. It would have been tremendous.”
– Janeen Lewis