A Look at Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
Although every single child brings unique qualities to the learning process, there are some who deserve all the patience and faith parents, grandparents, and teachers can provide. The passages below are limited but encourage you to understand and accept children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dysgraphia. It is critical to remember that special learners have tremendous potential. With loving guidance, they can achieve happy and fulfilled lives.
Can a Child with Learning Disabilities Also Be Gifted?
The mother of a child with learning disabilities requested a teacher conference when her child was placed in the gifted program. The mother hoped to explain the accommodations her daughter needed for her learning disabilities. The teacher in the gifted program informed the mother that no child could be identified with both labels. Sadly, many teachers and parents share this incorrect belief. A child with learning disabilities may struggle to read but grasp the functions of calculus with mathematical genius. An expert in science may be unable to write a logical paragraph. The goal of educating children with multiple labels must remain focused on meeting the needs of each area in the child’s path to learning.
A child with dual labels usually has high intelligence but faces challenges with academic requirements. Often, the child also has a lack of executive processing ability. Executive functioning includes skills such as working memory (the ability to work on learning without losing track of what is happening generally), flexible thinking (the ability to cope if the schedule changes), and self-control. Lack of executive functioning creates problems with focus, following directions, handling emotions, and many daily tasks.
As parents and grandparents, one of our many responsibilities is to accept each child unconditionally. That means enjoying the child’s strengths while also respecting her challenges.
The following definition of dyslexia is provided by the International Dyslexia Association: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Broken down, the definition above suggests the following:
· Specific disability refers to a problem in a particular area of the brain such as the section that handles language. The disabilities that fall into this term include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, language processing disorder, nonverbal learning disabilities, and visual perceptual disabilities.
· Neurobiological disorder has to do with a problem in the nervous system. The cause may be genetic, metabolic, or biological.
Children with dyslexia often find reading easier if the print is enlarged (Times New Roman size 24 point). Although larger letters help children visually decode words, older students often feel embarrassed by print that looks different from that used by their peers. It is critical to understand that children with dyslexia typically have higher IQs and greater creativity than average students. Although reading materials and instruction must be adjusted to promote literacy success, content areas such as math, social studies, and science must be taught at the child’s ability to think and master information. Even if a fourth-grade child can only decode words at a first-grade level, the child should be taught concepts at the level of the child’s cognitive proficiency. The importance of presenting instruction at the child’s level of mastery is to avoid dumbing the child down to her reading level.
A multisensory approach may also help children with learning disabilities. When a child realizes that her peers with less intelligence are passing her up in reading and writing, her frustration and pain become overwhelming. One child with dyslexia asked, “What’s happening? I’m smarter than _____ but he reads well, and I can’t read at all.” Bewildering and agonizing. And yet, these children are usually amazing thinkers and can achieve remarkable success. The key is to promote and safeguard the child’s self-esteem. Teachers and parents who seek to help will remain open-minded about a variety of strategies, such as:
● Making print larger
● Using all acceptable accommodations and modifications
● Individualizing instruction when needed
● Teaching concepts at the level of the child’s thinking ability
● Engaging the child in many more repetitions than are usually needed
● Using a minimum of three senses to teach
● Teaching the child to analyze word patterns
● Encouraging the child to create visual memory aids such as mental pictures
● Reminding a child of the importance of effort
 International DYSLEXIA Association, Definition of Dyslexia.