Signs of Dyslexia as early as Kindergarten & First Grade? Why, yes…

IMG_1438For many years there has been an absence of true, phonics-based instruction in public school classrooms. Early Intervention is a term that has been thrown around in the education arena, but is rapidly gaining understanding of its importance.
I make it a point to visit the kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms in my school weekly. It is apparent even at this early age which students are responding to letter-sound correspondence. It is also apparent those students that are showing characteristics of a language-based difference. Here are some things I notice and are important for parent & teachers to be aware of when observing their child/students:

  • Great difficulty with learning to connect letters with sounds consistently.  E.g., rapidly understanding that “d” does not sound like “dee.”, but /d/.
  • Great difficulty with reading or sounding out (decoding) simple one-syllable words like “cat”, “hat”, “nap.”
  • Reading errors that reflect a disconnection between sounds and letters.  The child’s decoding bears little resemblance to the actual phonetics.  For example, “dog” becomes “big.”
  • Inability to understand how to words can be broken apart into parts.  ”Catnap” could be pulled apart as “cat” and “nap” and even further into the individual sounds of the letters.

If you notice this in your child or student, what is the next step?
Every district, state and country has different laws in place, so I will share what my school district’s protocol is in referring a student. Hopefully this will give understanding to the path to follow at your perspective district or school:

>notify your Campus Intervention Specialist that you have a student of concern. If your district does not have CIS’s, I suggest contacting the Reading Specialist on your campus. If you are a parent, contact your child’s teacher first with your concerns. If nothing is done further, then it is appropriate to contact the CIS or RS at your campus to get things moving.

>bring writing samples, assessments, journal, math work, and a list of “good teaching practices” or modifications you have made for this student in order for him to be successful or somewhat successful in the classroom environment.

>be sure that you have met with the parents where you have shared your concerns about lack of progress, struggles and what you are doing to help their child.

>the CIS will begin the process of contacting parents for a meeting to let parent know of their rights, the rights of their child, and the opportunities available to begin finding out how best to help them receive the interventions they need to be successful.

*Dyslexia testing is one of the opportunities available in our district. Allen ISD in Allen, Texas has a Dyslexia Therapist on every elementary campus.
Texas Dyslexia Law states that every district needs to provide services to their dyslexic students. It does not; however, state that the service has to be provided by a Dyslexia Therapist. This, in my opinion, is a disservice to those dyslexic students in districts that have not stepped up to the plate to do things in the best interest of the child.
I realize, coming from a Dyslexia Therapist, this can sound self-serving. Let me explain. Dyslexia therapy is a scientifically proven therapy & uses a curriculum that is Orton-Gillingham based. It is designed to retrain the dyslexic brain in order for a dyslexic to develop strategies to read and spell with more success. Therapists are trained and earn what is equivalent to a Masters degree. It is more that a specialty in reading. We are taught and trained to cater to the needs of each child individually, developing a plan for them to be more successful in reading, spelling and writing using Orton Gillingham based curriculum.
Dyslexia Therapists will be your child’s advocate along with you. With this in mind, a school districts that invests in training/hiring Dyslexia Therapists to work with their dyslexic students, is a school district with a student’s best interest as a part of their philosophy.

The earlier a student showing the characteristics listed above, begins phonic-rich intervention, either one-on-one or in small group setting, the greater success of them not developing a low self-esteem or beginning to hate going to school.

Knowledge is power. Having the right information about how to help your LD child is empowering.