POSTED ON: November 29, 2021
I have to wait until my child starts learning to read before seeing potential signs of dyslexia.
Myths and misconceptions constantly surround dyslexia ranging from misunderstanding to mistruths and are commonly held by those unfamiliar with dyslexia, including educators and parents of children with dyslexia.
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability which is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” ¹
Dyslexia is a language based learning disorder that manifests in reading and writing. Most importantly, the core deficit of dyslexia lies in the phonological component of language, which is part of our oral language system and serves as the foundation on which we build all of our other language skills like vocabulary, grammar, etc. To make this more meaningful, difficulties with the phonological component of language can be similar to receiving information through a fuzzy telephone line. The individual is able to get the general idea of the message, but it requires a lot of cognitive energy to do so and they may miss details. These difficulties as they relate to dyslexia are not the result of a hearing issue. The development of phonological skills is essential to decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) words. Though a child needs to be demonstrating difficulty with reading and spelling to accurately diagnose dyslexia, they can still show potential signs of dyslexia at a younger age.
Where do these potential signs come from?
Difficulties with pre-reading skills such as phonological awareness and phonemic awareness abilities. To learn more about phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, check out our post Dyslexia for Beginners. Other risk factors for dyslexia include a history of familial dyslexia, other learning difficulties, and middle ear infections.
Why would we want to catch a student who is at risk for dyslexia before they start learning how to read and write? Early intervention is critical to building strong foundational skills for students to have as they progress through their education. Dyslexics commonly fall into the dyslexia paradox where they become identified after the ideal time for effective intervention has already passed. Being identified when they are learning how to read and write already sets them back and widens the gap between them and their peers as they are having to learn phonological and phonemic awareness skills that should have already been mastered at this point.
Although your child cannot be officially diagnosed with dyslexia until they start showing difficulties with reading and spelling, identifying potential predispositions for dyslexia at an earlier age can lessen the difficulties and challenges they face in school.
¹ International Dyslexia Association https://dyslexiaida.org/
Ozernov-Palchik, O., & Gaab, N. (2016). Tackling the ‘dyslexia paradox’: reading brain and behavior for early markers of developmental dyslexia. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Cognitive science, 7(2), 156–176. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.1383