What’s behind your Dyslexic or LD child Functioning Successfully in School?

As a Dyslexia Therapist in the public school system, I have attended many meetings with parents to discuss their child’s dyslexia testing results. As with any diagnostic or identification testing, results can confirm suspicion about why a child is struggling academically, but results can also confirm what is not impeding their learning. In my case, I test specifically for an identification of dyslexia characteristics and placement in our 2 1/2 year, 45 minutes, 5 days a week intensive dyslexia program. In my school district, Dyslexia Identification testing is not a diagnosis, but using the scores from various testing protocols, a committee of district Dyslexia Therapists come together to make a decision of whether the child shows a deficit in the characteristics & causes of dyslexia. If there aren’t any deficits in these areas, we look to see if there are clues to characteristics of something else being the major impeding factor in their learning. A profile may show dyslexia characteristics, such as a spelling deficit, but with above average scores in phonological processing, which is a cause of dyslexia, would not qualify them for dyslexia intervention. However; there are alternative interventions more suitable for this case scenario. The Scientific Spelling program, by Neuhaus is a great intervention for those students with a spelling deficit only, like the above mentioned profile. In Texas, Dyslexia Intervention is under regular education criteria. There are many important and valued reasons for this, but that is for another post. When a child qualifies with an educational identification of dyslexia in our district, they qualify for Dyslexia Therapy and a 504 accommodations plan. If a child does not qualify, there are several things to consider:

  • Does the profile lead to another deficit?
  • What interventions does the school offer in this area of deficit?
  • What is your school willing to offer as a next step?
  • One important step to consider is diagnostic testing– this is a more in-depth look into your child’s Executive Functions, specifically memory.

What are Executive Functions?

  • The capacities of the mind that gives directives.
  • It is multiple in nature, it I not a single capacity.
  • EF’s cues usage of other mental abilities
  • It directs and controls perceptions thoughts, actions & emotions.
  • EF’s are part of neural circuits which are routed through the frontal lobes.
  • EF’s are not synonymous with the concept of intelligence or “IQ”.





The struggles that are caused by a Learning Difference, for example: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD or Language-Processing can impede EF’s.

Let’s look at how Dysgraphia affects a student in three major areas: visual spatial, fine motor, and language processing.  Imagine a bright student who has great ideas for his writing assignment at school, but he struggles with the physical act of writing.  Remembering which letter faces which direction and trying to form sentences, takes up most of his thought process. So, his finished product is only half of what was required and it does not reflect his ideas the way originally planned.  The extra effort it takes to write for a student with Dysgraphia, impedes the Executive Function from working as it should in order for this student to successfully express his ideas within his writing assignment.

Now imagine this student is recognized with Dysgraphia and is given an assistive technology accommodation allowing him to type his writing assignments.  Now, the struggle of writing – forming the letters and sentences correctly – has been taken away, opening up his Executive Functioning to cue the right usage of thoughts & directives in order to express his ideas for his writing assignment.   He will produce more content and express his ideas more clearly because he will be able to hold more information in working memory as he types his assignment.


Working Memory is a learning facilitator for Executive Functions.  When reading it holds information in conscious awareness. Working Memory allows for strategic manipulation and storage for later recall.

Most ADHD and Learning Different children have Working Memory deficits.

A successfully functioning Working Memory temporarily suspends previously read information in the mind, while, at the same time linking new information being read.  This is necessary for successful comprehension while reading. In Lynn Meltzer’s book, “Promoting Executive Function in the Classroom“, she explains why memory is so important for the process of learning:

The foundational information that young students learn in the early grades becomes the basis for their higher-level thinking and their increasingly sophisticated analysis and problem solving.  Thus memory, in particular, are essential for students to function successfully in school.

Finding the appropriate intervention for children who are struggling in the early grades is of most importance. Take time to listen to the professionals who are testing and working with your child. Come to meetings for your child prepared with knowledge about possible diagnosis’ & interventions  that may be discussed.  Be willing to try other avenues of intervention or testing to gain more information about your child’s struggles.  Sometimes finding the source of their struggles is not obvious right away.  The earlier professionals have parent permission to begin testing, start interventions, or suggest more intense testing, the chances of earlier success for the child are greater.

…And the child’s success is what is most important, right?


1 Comment

  1. Great article Sherri. Well thought out and it covers so many important issues we face as dyslexic therapists. Thanks.

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