It’s been almost two months since we received Ava’s various diagnoses. And what a month of stretching, learning, and growing it has been. I have learned so much about my child and about how her brain functions in the past couple of months.  Two of the most notable discoveries are how this was missed in her previous school is beyond me, just doing the online learning with her currently is blatantly obvious to me and I’m not a teacher and I’m learning so much about what dyslexia actually is and it has nothing to do with reading backward or switching letters the wrong way around.

What is Dyslexia?

Nikki, a Speech & Language therapist from Talking Talk says that people often believe that dyslexia is a visual difficulty which presents as reversing letters and numbers. Dyslexia is a problem understanding and working with the sound system of language.  This is why therapy with a Speech & Language Therapist is essential.
Speech-language therapists work with communication and language. This includes spoken and written language. Dyslexia occurs because of the way the brain processes written information. Children with dyslexia may present with the following difficulties:
• Problems learning the letter sounds for reading and spelling
• Difficulty reading single words, such as on flashcards and in lists.
• Reading slowly with many mistakes
• Poor spelling
• Difficulty matching the phoneme (letter sound) with grapheme (written letter).

In turn, this results in academic difficulties.

It would be really easy if there was a system that divides children up into those who may have difficulty learning to read. However, because learning to read is explicit (i.e if you don’t teach it, then children won’t learn to read), as opposed to speech which is innate (humans are programmed to learn oral language). Unfortunately, we cannot predict with sufficient accuracy which children will struggle to learn to read without explicit, systematic phonics instruction and which will not.

In an attempt to find a quick fix for the problem, parents often take children to optometrists where they are ‘diagnosed’ with visual difficulties and prescribed glasses to “stop the letters jumping all over the page.”

Dyslexia is NOT a visual problem.
Dyslexia is NOT related to intelligence.

Understanding Dyslexia

In order to understand dyslexia, it helps to understand what is required to read.
Reading involves the following steps – all at once! The goal of reading is comprehension.

• Understand the way speech sounds make up words.
• Focus on printed marks (letters and words)
• Connect speech sounds to letters.
• Blend letter sounds smoothly into words.
• Control eye movements across the page.
• Build images and ideas.
• Compare new ideas with what is already known.
• Store the ideas in memory.

Much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing. So it’s important to identify dyslexia as early as possible.

Something interesting that I was told recently, is that up to Grade 3, children learn to read, but from Grade 4, children read to learn. This explains perfectly & exactly what happened in our situation, and why the wheels came off to epically this year for Ava. It, however, does not explain how none of her teachers were able to pick this up! (YES I am still beyond furious with that poor excuse for a school and for the hell they put us through over the past year).

What Dyslexics See

I found this excerpt from Kelli Sandman-Hurley’s TED Talk so incredibly profound, it gives a perfect view into what is going on inside my child’s mind:

The Way Forward

I am eternally grateful to Ava’s new school who so graciously and professionally assisted us in further assessments and a frantic enrollment just 3 days before lockdown, as well as their incredible support and inclusive teachings that we have been going through during lockdown and online learning.

Ava has also been having teletherapy with Nikki and this has also been hugely beneficial during lockdown to start working on helping her develop coping skills for her dyslexia.

It’s been one hell of a journey so far, but we live and we learn each day with this child’s atypical yet brilliant mind.

Ron Davis believes that all dyslexics have certain talents, which are shared by many famous dyslexics who are considered to be geniuses. These are:

They can utilize the brain’s ability to alter and create perceptions (the primary ability).
They are highly aware of the environment.
They are more curious than average.
They think mainly in pictures instead of words.
They are highly intuitive and insightful.
They think and perceive multi-dimensionally (using all the senses).
They can experience thought as reality.
They have vivid imaginations.
Dr. Linda Silverman, of The Gifted Development Center, has found that it is common forvery highly gifted children to have a visual-spatial learning style, and that these children also often have learning problems commonly associated with dyslexia.