Could Your Child Have Dyslexia? Dysgraphia? Dyscalculia?
Dyslexia and its related issues (Dysgraphia – trouble writing, Dyscalculia –trouble with basic math) are on the rise. In my group for homeschooled kids with special needs, I estimate AT LEAST 25% of the kids have Dyslexia. And the trouble is – we as homeschool parents and teachers are not always equipped to identify and help our kids in this area. This could really delay and prolong your child being at their “grade level” — or even graduating.
Many parents are familiar with the most classic sign of Dyslexia – kids who reverse certain letters when they write. (Technically also called Dysgraphia when it involves writing.) But – only 20% of kids actually reverse letters. As a parent with two kids who have Dyslexia / Dysgraphia / Dyscalculia myself – I can tell you the other 80% are so much harder to identify. This often results in kids getting further and further “behind” for literally years. Whether you unschool or not – eventually your child will need to graduate, and likely to be prepared for higher learning. Reading, writing, and math are basic skills to survive in life—not options. And if your child has Dyslexia – your child needs specialized teaching methods. Common Core will not do.
So, the first battle is even recognizing there may be a problem, if your child does not reverse some of their letters. But, I have also found nearly all (or perhaps all) kids with Dyslexia have an underlying “processing” issue. That is, they may hear or see just fine but the brain is not interpreting and translating the information accurately or quickly. These are kids who you may, for example, tell three things to do – and they barely remember one. (I have a whole list of symptoms to look for in my free Facebook group, link at the end.)
Worse – due to the processing issues, many of these kids do not learn well in an online environment which is all the rage especially in homeschooling. They need a “multisensory” approach to learning.
What do I look for?
Knowing the whole picture is necessary to identifying the curriculum methods that will actually work. I often see desperate parents who try diﬀerent kinds of curriculum, hoping it will work. But if it’s not designed for Dyslexia, it usually is so much of a struggle it just makes things worse. Then, depending on the underlying processing issues – only certain methods will work. So please – avoid “trying something” because your friend uses it. Until you know the whole picture, you can’t tell if it will work for your child.
Most kids with “processing” issues – which always seems to coexist with some kind of dyslexia – are highly intelligent. In recent years, this category of children has gotten the label “2E” or “Twice Exceptional”. Meaning they are very smart – often gifted, actually – something requiring more challenging work to begin with. Yet, they also are very often behind – and sometimes literally years behind their peers – in basic skills (reading, writing, math). Yet – they can excel at higher level math, which is confusing. And challenging–since most higher level math uses basic skills. Most of these kids are also very creative – often exceptionally talented at music, art, and/or other creative pursuits.
So – imagine their frustration at knowing they are smart, yet not being able to demonstrate it. This does a number on self-esteem. This can also impact behavior. I have seen kids with Dyslexia protest work, homework, reading, and/or explode at home or in class. And rarely does the school see this as a possible sign their learning needs are not being met. This makes it more vital to identify these issues as early as possible.
The easiest way to get a feel for what to look for is with a few case studies.
A’s story. A is a 12 year old female in 6th grade who is extremely creative. Her mom has “unschooled” her all her life. She struggles with reading, but it’s been OK as she was choosing other things she is interested in. When she is in any in person class, sometimes she just zones out. When her mom reads words to her she sometimes hears the wrong word. She has complained that when she reads the words they “wiggle”. Her reading is at a Kindergarten level.
When we did the right assessments, we discovered she has Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), and Visual Processing Disorder (VPD). She actually has a timing issue, where both sound and vision input are delayed – so she sees and hears things wrong. Since A is in a public charter for homeschool, I helped get her an IEP, where she is now receiving proper specialized reading instruction for Dyslexia, along with therapy for APD and VPD (called Vision Therapy.)
O’s story. O is an 11 year old male in 5th grade. His family has no TV, so they read instead. O can read and comprehend (it seems like) – but his writing is very hard to read. It takes him a long time to write anything, so he avoids it. He produces very little writing with great eﬀort. As a result – the family has focused on other ways to learn that exclude writing.
When we did the right assessments, we discovered O has Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, no APD (unusual)–but he does have Visual Processing Disorder (VPD). Since O is in a public charter for homeschool, I helped get him an IEP, where he is now receiving proper specialized reading instruction for Dyslexia, which also benefits his writing, along with therapy for VPD (Vision Therapy AKA VT), and Occupational Therapy (called OT). OT helps O hold the pencil properly, helps his body work properly for education, and also with organization.
When writing suﬀers, you should always suspect reading. Fluent reading is a key to fluent writing. And yes – you can have Dyslexia even if your reading is normal! Because O’s family does SO MUCH reading, this has helped some with these skills. It may surprise people that this child still needs to work on fluent reading and comprehension — but again, your child first needs to read fluently to write fluently.
M’s story. M is a 9 year old Autistic male in 2nd grade. He struggles with reading, writing, and math. In fact – basic math seems like a foreign language. He simply does not get the concept of a number. He had severe behavior issues when in his regular public school SDC (Special Day Class). Once he came home, his behavior mostly calmed down – until he started attending classes in a large room with other kids. This is yet another face of Dyslexia – math and behavior issues.
When we did the right assessments, we discovered M has Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, is hard of hearing, likely has severe APD (which cannot be determined until his hearing issues are addressed), and Visual Processing Disorder (VPD). He also needs OT, speech, social skills, ABA, and a BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan.)
So you can see – Dyslexia and its resulting cousins Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia shows up in many forms.
I think my child may have Dyslexia – now what?
As a homeschooler, you have options!! If your child needs help to close the gap between their abilities and present school performance – they need an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Service Plan (ISP – the private school version of an IEP.)
The easiest option is a homeschool charter (public school), where you can request an “evaluation” for special education services, in all areas of concern. If you are homeschooling privately, you can make the same request of your home public school. Except, you will tell them you are requesting an assessment under “child find” and ultimately want an ISP.
Request the areas you believe should be assessed, and you should also evaluate symptoms of auditory and visual processing (see FILES in my FB group…it’s free!)
An LEA is the entity responsible for special ed services for your charter or home school. This is usually the district, but in the case of charters they are often their own LEA. The district/LEA will do their evaluation, and then make a determination of whether or not your child “qualifies” for an IEP. This will be done via an “IEP determination meeting”. If you disagree with their determination, you are entitled to an assessment with providers of your own choosing, which your LEA pays for. This is called an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
The contents of these plans are a whole other beast. If you are oﬀered an IEP or ISP, important elements include the right methods to teach reading, which must be multi- sensory, and appropriate therapy for any processing issues. These methods are rarely a standard curriculum. But we could talk about plans all day long. We will save that topic for another day!!!
For now – be on the lookout for signs of Dyslexia and its cousins Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia. I hope this article has helped you know when to get help, and what kind of help to get.
You are welcome to join my free Facebook group, where we discuss these and other issues regarding homeschool IEP’s, 504’s and other questions around homeschooling special needs kids. You will have access to many files with free resources. This is a parents only (no school or vendor employee) group.
Feel free to join and tell your friends!! https://www.Facebook.com/groups/HomeschoolIEP
© 2019 – Pam Ragland, Aiming Higher, and AAAP (Association of Autistic, ADHD, and special needs Parents)
all rights reserved in all media forms. Used with permission.
Check out our post on developmentally appropriate kindergarten here.