Keison's teachers said he was too young to be tested for learning disabilities, but his mother had him checked out by a private company. He was ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia, a disorder that affects 17 percent of children nationwide.
What is dyslexia?It doesn't make people read letters backward, as many think. This learning disability affects a circuit in the brain responsible for the most basic elements of reading: the ability to connect letters with the sounds they make, then put those sounds together to form a word. This "decoding" is usually simple for normal readers, but those who are dyslexic have to work especially hard. Once they do decode words, they can think as clearly and as deeply as the next child.
How to assess your childDyslexia is not usually identified until third grade, yet new understanding of the disability has made it possible to recognize it in children who are vulnerable while they're still in kindergarten, says Sally Shaywitz, M.D., a pediatrician and neuroscientist at Yale University and a leading researcher on dyslexia. It tends to run in families, so if a parent or grandparent was diagnosed with it or had reading difficulties, keep a close eye on your child's verbal development. Warning signs around kindergarten age include:
Tests can be conducted in school or by an outside expert, and treatment that emphasizes a multisensory approach to phonics and lots of reading is generally effective. (Therapies that haven't proven valid, however, include eye training, antinausea medications, chiropractic manipulation, and dietary supplements.) Parents can work with a child's teachers to make special arrangements for work that takes extra time, such as in-class reading or exams.