Identifying Dyslexia in the Classroom

What is dyslexia?
The website Reading from Scratch at Dyslexia.org defines dyslexia as “…a severe reading problem of neurological origin in a person with average or above average intelligence…” This learning disorder, which causes difficulties in reading and spelling, is present in individuals where no other condition (i.e. physical, medical, psychological) accounts for the learning disorder.

For consideration
In order to properly identify dyslexia in the classroom, it is important to rule out other factors that may inhibit a student’s ability to learn. Other conditions like poor eyesight, hearing impairments, etc. can contribute to a student having difficulties with reading and spelling.

Dyslexia in preschool
It is possible to recognize dyslexia in students as early as preschool. Dyslexia symptoms can appear in children as early as two, so it is important for teachers to be aware of the signs. Preschoolers who are dyslexic can often have a short attention span, and have difficulties with motor skills like catching and throwing a ball. Other identifiers include difficulty with putting objects in order, jumbling words and letters together, and confusing directional words like “up” and “down”.

Dyslexia in elementary school
In elementary school, much of a student’s time is focused on improving his/her reading, writing, and language skills, so teachers should be alert to certain identifiers. Students may have difficulty writing words in order, or may even write letters in a backward form. Also, dyslexic students might enjoy literature that is read to them, but when told to read and interpret passages, they may guess at meanings. Students may also have difficulties putting the alphabet and days of the week in order, or may need to use their fingers to compute math functions.

Dyslexia in high school
In some instances, students can reach high school without ever having been diagnosed with dyslexia. Students who are dyslexic may have difficulty following the teacher’s instructions, and may have difficulty taking notes. Many times, a dyslexic student may need instructions, lists, phone numbers, etc. repeated to them numerous times. Also, dyslexic students may have very poor handwriting, and may take a much longer time to complete assignments than their classmates.

Dyslexia in higher education
Adults can suffer from dyslexia, and never have been properly diagnosed. Adults with dyslexia may have difficulty following a detailed conversation, and therefore, may shy away from participating in classroom discussion. They may also have poor spelling skills, and find it very challenging to fill out forms or work out equations in their heads. Adult dyslexic students may also take a much longer time than their classmates to read a page from their textbook.

Students who have never been diagnosed as dyslexic are often frustrated and angry that they cannot perform as well as their peers in certain situations. They may feel ashamed at their need for extra assistance, so it is important for teachers to intervene and encourage their students seek help for their dyslexia. Learning to recognize dyslexia in the classroom is key for all educators, since students can advance through preschool, elementary school, high school, and even enter into higher education without ever knowing that they are dyslexic.


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