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  • Writer's pictureKathy McAtee, SLP

Reading with your eyes shut: The challenge of dyslexia

You had your eyes open when you read that, because you can’t really read with your eyes shut, can you? Learning to read, however, is a process that begins long before a child can see or recognize letters and words in print. It begins when the child hears spoken words! About the time they start kindergarten, important building blocks for reading are established when they realize that certain words rhyme or that words begin with the same sound as their name. These rhyming and alliteration abilities are helping to strengthen a child’s phonological awareness skills, which involve the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds in words. As these skills improve, they move on to pairing sounds with written letters and begin blending those letter sounds into words. They begin to read!

Reading is not something that the brain is automatically wired to do. The letters we use to spell words consist of a man-made system of symbols, so reading must be taught. Children that have strong phonological awareness abilities have an easier time making sense of the letter/sound relationship because they already have experience ‘reading with their eyes shut’. They’ve already been blending and breaking down the words they’ve heard into individual sounds and syllables, which are skills needed when learning to read. Children with dyslexia, however, typically have difficulty with phonological awareness, which can lead to difficulty with reading. They missed out on 'reading with their eyes shut'.

According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), “dyslexia has been used to refer to the specific learning problem of reading”. The term language-based learning disability, or just learning disability, is a better term because of the relationship between spoken and written language. In fact, many children with reading problems also have spoken language problems.

Other red flags associated with dyslexia that indicate the need for an evaluation include:

• Difficulty associating a letter with its sound

• Reversals of letters

• Difficulty reading and/or spelling single words

• Difficulty retaining content of new/familiar material

• Difficulty with writing tasks

• Difficulty holding writing utensils

Our Speech-Language Pathologists can help your child ‘read with their eyes shut’ and improve their reading abilities. Our Occupational Therapists can help with the fine motor aspects related to dyslexia, such as pencil grasp, as well as alignment of letters/words. Auburn Therapy and Learning Center is here to help!

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