Dyslexia is a learning disability where a child has difficulty to read, write and spell in his native language. Children with dyscalculia have difficulty with learning mathematical concepts and computations.
Recent research conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in America suggests that dyslexia is identifiable with 92% accuracy at ages five and a half to six and a half. This implies that dyslexia can be identified in the late pre-school years.
If appropriate steps are taken, the severity of dyslexia and the impact of it on the child can be minimized. In an interview, Bridget Wren, educational therapist and the coordinator of the National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD) in Africa listed the following early warning signs that a child might have dyslexia and/or dyscalculia:
Speech, Language and Hearing Problems as Warning Signs for Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia
As dyslexia is, by definition, a language problem, pre-school children with speech, language and hearing disorders (like delayed language development or poor listening skills) are at greater risk to have problems with reading, writing and maths.
Poor Gross Motor Development as Warning Sign for Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia
The visual-spatial skills that develop during climbing, running and playing as a toddler and pre-schooler are crucial for maths skills in later years. Children learn to understand spaces in their world by relating sizes of objects to their own most basic measuring stick, their own bodies. Spatial relations help them to grasp position, order and sequencing. These are vital for learning reading, writing and maths. Lack of gross motor skills can result in visual-spatial problems.
Poor Use of Prepositions in Language as Warning Sign for Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia
A child’s use of directional prepositions (such us under, over, up, down etc.) can indicate their knowledge about relations of objects to each other. These words are very important in learning to do mathematics and if a child has not been able use them correctly it may hamper learning.
Dislike of Word Games as Warning Sign for Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia
By playing well-known word games like “I spy with my little eye” children are improving their phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the process through which children learn that different letters represent different sounds. The level of phonemic awareness is considered to be the best predictor of success of early reading acquisition. Children who don’t do well in games like “I spy” or “Simon Says..” are at-risk to have problems in learning to read and write.
Impact of Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia on a Child
Dyslexia and dyscalculia can have a devastating effect on a child and family. Most children enter grade school eager to learn and do what their friends do. Gradually, a child with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia realises that he is different from the rest. That no matter how hard he tries, reading, writing and maths seem to be an insurmountable task.
If the child does not receive the right help, he might just give up and be labeled lazy or an underachiever. Some children might even develop maths anxiety, causing them to fear any math-related task and further hindering the learning process.
Parents of children with dyslexia and dyscalculia often find themselves teaching and doing homework until late into the night. Having dyslexia and/or dyscalculia imply that a child has a slower processing speed. The child does not finish the work in class and has to do the class work and homework at home, usually with the parent’s help. This may disrupt normal family life and play time.
What Can be Done to Help a Child with Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia?
A lot can be done to help children with dyslexia and related dyscalculia. A wellknown example of perseverance and the ability of a person to overcome personal limitations is Einstein. In spite of having dyslexia and dyscalculia as a result very poor memorisation skills he became one of the greatest scientists of our time. He had the basic multiplication tables written out on a black board in his lab because he could never quite memorise it well enough!
Special care need to be taken to foster a positive attitude towards learning in children with learning disabilities. A good self-esteem will also go great lengths to help a child with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia to overcome difficulties.
Most children with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia will need extra help over and above that which the classroom teacher can provide. Depending on the unique symptom profile of the child professionals like remedial teachers, educational therapists, speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists and even dieticians can be involved in the intervention process.
Briget said that for most children with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia the therapy process is a long-term commitment. “There are no quick fixes or a ‘one-program-fits-all’ that meets everyone’s needs. Know each student’s strengths and weaknesses and start from there,” says Bridget.
Dyslexia and dyscalculia can be identified early in life. Various early warning signs can indicate that a child might be at-risk to have dyslexia and/or dyscalculia. Parents and educators can use these indicators to identify children at-risk for dyslexia and/or dyscalculia during the pre-school years. If care is taken to provide the right support to a child with these disorders, the impact of dyslexia and dyscalculia can be minimized.
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