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Possible Signs of Dyslexia
Q: Does my four-year-old have a learning disability? He's been in preschool for one-and-a-half years. During this time they have taught the ABCs and numbers, but my son doesn't seem to recognize any. Occasionally, if I catch him off guard and ask in a random, unpredictable fashion then he can identify a number or letter. His teacher says it's hard to get him to focus without one-on-one attention. She said he's really great with all the learning centers, but has no interest in numbers and letters.
He's an explorer, a creative-play type of child rather than a sit-and-do board games kid, although he used to have computer games like Freddie Fish and PuttPutt where he was able to pay attention and solve the mysteries by himself. He also has the ability to come up with deeper meanings and correlations in life and events that seem beyond his age.
I'm worried because in a couple of weeks the class will move on to phonics and he won't be ready. The teacher said he might be able to learn the ABCs through manipulative hands-on learning, but she doesn't have a lot of that scheduled. Should he be tested for dyslexia?
A: Children who have difficulty learning their letters despite repeated exposures to them may in fact be showing early signs of dyslexia. The website for the International Dyslexia Association also lists these other warning signs for preschoolers:
May talk later than most children
May have difficulty pronouncing words, i.e., busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower
May be slow to add new vocabulary words
May be unable to recall the right word
May have difficulty with rhyming
May have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name
May have trouble interacting with peers
May be unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
Fine motor skills may develop more slowly than in other children
May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence
Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words
Children rarely exhibit all these signs, but children who have more than one or two of them should be evaluated for possible dyslexia. The good news is that children who are evaluated and given appropriate instruction early have the best chance of becoming successful readers and writers.
You have a right as a parent to request a free evaluation for your son by your local school district to determine if a possible learning disability exists. Not all evaluators, however, are skilled at identifying dyslexia in young children. If you call the International Dyslexia Association at 1-800-ABCD123, they will help you to walk yourself through this process.
In the meantime, you might want to read Susan Hall and Louisa Moats' book for parents: Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.