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Test for dyslexia
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How do they test for dyslexia?

How do they test for dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language based specific learning difference that can impact on reading, writing and spelling skills. There are different approaches to testing, including online screening forms – such as the Lexercise or Beating Dyslexia tests – but these measures are only meant to provide guidance as to whether or not a more in-depth assessment is needed. Sometimes a teaching assessment will suffice, but a comprehensive evaluation of dyslexia is typically undertaken by a speech and language/pathologist, educational psychologist or trained expert and is diagnostic in nature to provide a clearer picture of how the dyslexia impacts on an individual’s ability to learn.

Most evaluations test phonemic awareness, ability to rapidly name objects and letters, decoding skills, fluency in reading, comprehension skills, and writing and spelling ability. Testing can sometimes extend to oral language skills, intelligence and checks for visual and hearing impairment, both of which can have a severe impact on language development. In certain cases a child may be referred for more testing, particularly if additional learning difficulties such as dysgraphia or ADHD are suspected.

What is developmental language disorder
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Developmental language disorder

Developmental language disorder

If you haven’t heard of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) it may be because as a public facing term the name is a relatively new one. It was chosen by a panel of experts in early 2017 as part of the CATALISE project - a multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study identifying language impairments in children - and describes what was previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI).

Children with Developmental Language Disorder do not have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), apraxia of speech, brain damage or hearing impairment but still experience language based communication difficulties that disrupt their life and do not go away by the age of 5. Every case of DLD is unique and individuals will vary in the severity of the disruption to communicative ability.

Symptoms range from trouble with pronunciation, to challenges with learning vocabulary, problems manipulating syntax (grammar), and/or using the correct language for a particular context (pragmatics). Problems with language retrieval, similar to what is seen in aphasia/dysphasia, may also be observed. And while DLD mainly addresses issues with spoken communication, children tend to struggle with literacy skills as well.

Learning disabilities and self-esteem
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Learning disabilities and self-esteem

Learning disabilities and self-esteem

While any child can suffer from low self-esteem, students with learning disabilities are particularly at risk, especially if they are struggling with an undiagnosed condition. If the problem is related to a learning difference such as dyslexia, a child is not less intelligent than other children, he or she simply learns in a different way. Yet most school-based learning programs are developed with a neuro-typical child in mind.

This mismatch between learning style and task can cause students to doubt themselves and believe poor performance means they are not “smart”, that they are thick or stupid, or are somehow less skilled than their classmates. The stress and frustration a child experiences at school is often accompanied by feelings of shame associated with underperforming. There is also the social stigma of being “different” to deal with.

But with the right strategy training, accommodations and emotional support, many children with specific learning differences can overcome the challenges they face and achieve their full potential in the classroom.

Difficulty writing
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Difficulty writing

Difficulty writing

Writing is a complex and cognitively demanding task that requires a child to bring together both lower and higher order skills, including manipulating abstract ideas while paying close attention to the spelling and punctuation conventions of written English.

If the physical act of putting letters on a page is problematic or a learning difficulty gets in the way of fluent language production, students may struggle to come up with legible and coherent compositions. This can lead to poor marks on quizzes and exams but can also affect learning when note-taking skills are compromised.

Because writing is central to most subjects across the school curriculum, over time poor performance on written assignments can result in negative associations with classroom learning, low self-esteem and a general lack of confidence at school. A child may believe he or she is a bad writer and begin to avoid writing activities, which in turn results in a less developed skill set.

The tragedy is that with the right strategy training and appropriate accommodations, every child can achieve his or her full potential.

Dysgraphia symptoms in children
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7 Dysgraphia symptoms in children

7 Dysgraphia symptoms in children

Dysgraphia is a language based specific learning disability or difference that primarily affects writing. It can be difficult to spot in young learners, as not every child develops literacy skills at the same rate. Nonetheless, there are some hallmark signs of trouble which usually show up when a child first learns to write.

For example, these children often have problems holding a pen or pencil and forming letters and numbers, both in print and in cursive writing. They can struggle to express themselves in writing, from organizing ideas, to spelling and using punctuation correctly. Poor handwriting is common. The spacing between words may be uneven, letter size can vary and there will be issues staying inside margins.

Students with dysgraphia can find it hard to show what they have learned when assessment is done via writing assignments. Dysgraphic children also tend to find copying exercises challenging and may avoid coloring and drawing too.

As writing by hand is necessary for everything from putting your name at the top of a page, to making notes, completing worksheets and taking tests, learning can be affected when a child doesn’t get access to the accommodations and strategy training he or she needs.

When b and d letter reversal becomes an issue …
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B and d letter reversal

B and d letter reversal

Writing by hand requires a child to correctly identify the sticks, curves and/or circles that make up a letter, then reproduce those shapes in a particular orientation, using a set sequence of pen strokes. Before the skill is automatized, the handwriting process can be quite mentally taxing. New writers are also struggling to develop the fine motor skills needed to grip a pen or pencil and the language encoding skills required for reading and spelling.

Add to this the challenge of writing in a straight line and creating letters of the same height and width and you’ll find that reversing letters is a common mistake for beginners to make. This is particularly the case for symbols built from the same set of shapes, including b/d, p/q, f/t, i/j, m/w and n/u. Nonetheless, most children grow out of letter reversal by age 7 and it only becomes a cause for concern when errors occur beyond first and second grade.

My child has dyslexia
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My child has dyslexia

My child has dyslexia

A guest post from the authors of ‘The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and Its Amazing People'

6 Gifted children problems and how to help
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6 Gifted children problems

6 Gifted children problems

Gifted children are often precocious learners who can master counting, reading, and writing skills from a very early age. They will generally have a large vocabulary, advanced grammar and adult-like communicative abilities.

But while many do exceptionally well in academic pursuits, there are cases in which how best to support these special children, as they require help in areas in which they are underperforming and stimulation to encourage and nurture their giftedness. Moreover, some gifted children have difficulty making friends with same-age peers.

This can result in feelings of isolation, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in social situations. That’s why it’s important to recognize problems early on, to ensure every child gets the help they need to reach their full potential.

Identifying dyslexia in 3 easy steps
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Identifying dyslexia in 3 easy steps

Identifying dyslexia in 3 easy steps

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that can affect both children and adults and cause difficulties with reading, spelling and math. It’s important for parents and teachers to understand that dyslexia does not affect intellect. Rather, it is a different way of processing language in the brain.

Often individuals who are dyslexic struggle to split words into their component sounds. For children who are learning how to read and write, this causes frustration and poor performance in activities involving literacy skills. Because reading is required across the curriculum, students may quickly fall behind their same-age peers and lose confidence in the classroom.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on so children can gain access to appropriate coping strategies and accommodations that can help them achieve their full potential at school.

When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed
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When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed

When learning disabilities in adults go undiagnosed

Learning disabilities are neurological differences in the way the human brain processes, stores and communicates information. Some estimates suggest that over 10% of the world’s population is affected by a learning disability such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and/or attention deficit disorder (ADHD). In extreme cases, they can cause individuals to miss out on literacy skills development, particularly when schools do not recognize the symptoms early on.

For adults, having an undiagnosed learning disability can affect career choice, limit job advancement and lead to a number of psychological and emotional issues, including depression and feelings of low self-worth. This is particularly true when the person interprets his or her past educational failures as personal faults and experiences feelings of embarrassment and shame because of a perceived intellectual deficiency.

The tragedy is that with the right diagnosis, coping strategies and accommodations can be put in place to help every individual with a learning disability achieve their full potential.

Signs of a gifted child in the classroom
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7 Signs of a gifted child

7 Signs of a gifted child

Giftedness is often defined as an intellectual ability linked to an IQ score of 130 or over. However, not all gifted children excel in an academic area. Some may display high creative, artistic, musical and/or leadership abilities relative to their peers.

Giftedness can be focused in one skill, or it may be more general. It's also important for parents and educators to understand that it can sometimes come with specific learning differences that impact on performance at school. In these situations it's important to help a child develop their talents while also overcoming any challenges posed by the SpLDs.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for the child to attend a special program or a school specifically for gifted children, so they have ample opportunities for advancement in a classroom environment that is sensitive to their needs and provides adequate stimulation. With access to the right resources and emotional and academic support, every gifted child can achieve their full potential at school.