Hindsight is 20/20. For Cynthia Pappas, looking back at her son Josh as a toddler, she remembers a boy who had no interest in being read to. It was typical boy behavior, maybe.
But, Josh, 11, now gets tutored at the 32nd Degree Masonic Learning Center for Children with dyslexia.
Pappas recalls Josh's kindergarten year as one of tears and frustration.
"He couldn't learn his letters. He cried every day," she said. The first week of first grade at Sauder School in Jackson Township (Ohio), his teacher suggested that he be tested for a learning disability.
SURPRISED AND RELIEVED
Pappas and her husband took Josh for neurological and psychological tests with a specialist in Cleveland and were somewhat surprised to get the diagnosis of dyslexia.
|WORKING THROUGH IT - Josh Pappas, a dyslexic fifth-grader, works with tutor Rebecca Marsh, who knows he is a visual learner. Dyslexia can be overcome, experts say, with a little patience and some extra effort CNS Photo by Scott Heckel.|
"We thought, 'Oh my gosh, what do we do to get help?' And we felt relief. OK, now we know," said Pappas.
Dyslexia is an impairment in the brain's ability to translate written images from one's eyes into meaningful language. People with dyslexia sometimes write letters and numbers backward. This was not the case with Josh. He could not match letters to sounds, his mother explained. Also, he had a hard time communicating. "He knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn't communicate it through speech," said Cynthia.
Sequencing is a problem, too. Putting the days of the week in order, tying his shoes, and just getting ready to go out in the cold, has been a problem at one time or another.
According to information found on the Mayo Clinic's Web site, children with dyslexia commonly have problems processing and understanding what they hear.
They may have difficulty comprehending rapid instructions, following more than one command at a time or remembering the sequence of things. Reversals of letters (b for d, for example) and a reversal of words (saw for was) are also typical.
While reversals are common for children age 6 and younger who don't have dyslexia, the reversals persist for those with it.
Children with dyslexia may also try to read from right to left, may fail to see similarities and differences in letters and words, may not recognize the spacing that organizes letters into separate words, and may be unable to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word.
FINDING THEIR WAY
Dyslexia is not a reflection on intelligence. Most dyslexics have normal to above average IQs.
Through testing, it was determined that Josh's listening capabilities are at a ninth-grade level. This might be a coping mechanism for him, in a way that a blind person develops greater senses of smell and touch. Many dyslexics, Pappas added, are good at music and art, things requiring different areas of the brain.
Pappas said Josh's school has many ways to help him, including special pens that, when moved across a written word, will say the word for him, and headphones that allow him to have his tests read aloud for him. Also, he gets more time for tests.
Getting Josh to take advantage of what's there is sometimes a problem. "He doesn't want to feel different," his mom says.
Building up the self-esteem of a dyslexic child is of utmost importance, she adds.
"It's really important for parents to find something to build up their confidence. They go to school and get beat up, go to tutoring and get beat up. They need something to excel at," Pappas said.
For Josh, it's BMX racing. He rides bikes on the national circuit and he and his family spend weekends traveling to races and shows. Since starting tutoring at the Masonic Learning Center, Josh has learned to write cursive, he gets B's on his spelling tests, and he's much more willing to read a book, his mom says happily.
"This is a godsend for us," she said happily.
OUT OF THE FOG
For 12-year-old E.J. McKenna, diagnosis of dyslexia came after misdiagnosis of both Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
While his dad, Edward McKenna, said he recognized E.J. had a problem, ADD and ADHD didn't seem to fit.
"He never fit the criteria and the drugs just slowed him down," he said. "(Doctors and teachers) are so big on saying, 'Put them on Ritalin, put them on Adderall, drug them.'"
For E.J., writing was difficult. It took him a long time to copy things. Reading was a challenge, too.
"I felt different," E.J. said. "Everybody else knew the difference (in letters)." He explained, "Teachers would tell me I messed up. I'd correct it and make the mistake again."
It wasn't until two of his fourth-grade teachers attended a conference on learning disabilities that they recognized dyslexia. Since then, E.J. has had tutoring at a chain-type facility that they did not find to be effective. His teachers work well with him at Marlington. He, too, gets extra time on tests.
It wasn't until he started at the Masonic Learning Center, McKenna said, that E.J. began to excel. His dad says he is more confident and his self-esteem has improved a lot.
"Once we found out it was dyslexia and found out about this place," he said, "Everything changed for the better."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Your child might be dyslexic if he or she has trouble with any of the following:
- Sounding out words or reading.
- Decoding words.
- Sequencing numbers, letters or complex instructions.
- Comprehending while reading.
- Writing thoughts.
- Listening accurately.
- Expressing orally.
- Determining direction, for example, left vs. right or up vs. down.
- Sequencing math problems.
- Learning to speak.
- Planning, organizing or managing time.