Reading and Spelling Difficulties
What problems will I see in my child?
- May have difficulty learning letter names and sounds in Kindergarten
- Will omit, add or substitute sounds and/or syllables in words while reading or spelling
- Guesses at words when reading
- Often does not correct reading errors
- Has difficulty understanding phonics instruction
- Is a slow reader and does not like to read
- May add or omit sounds and syllables in words when spelling, such as “desmr” for “December” or “hospel” for “hospital.”
- May mispronounce words when speaking. May say “flustrated” for frustrated, “libary” for library, “aminal” for animal, “pocorn” for “popcorn.”
- May be labeled learning disabled, dyslexic, or underachiever.
Why can’t my child learn to read?
Reading is a challenge for as many as 20-30% of our children, or two or three children out of ten. A child can have average or above average intelligence but still struggle to read. The primary reason for reading and spelling difficulties is weak phonemic awareness. This has been documented by many extensive research studies over the past 15-20 years. The book “Overcoming Dyslexia” by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. explains this in detail.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a broad term that refers to reading difficulties. It used to be thought that people with dyslexia saw words backwards, but that has been disproved in the past 15-20 years. Children who struggle to read do not see words backwards, nor are they just lazy or unmotivated, they have what the literature refers to as weak phonemic awareness.
What is a phonemic awareness weakness?
In the literature such terms as phonological processing, phoneme segmentation or auditory processing may be used interchangeably when talking about this inability to perceive sounds and syllables. A person who cannot read well has difficulty perceiving that spoken words are made up of sounds and syllables. This is an actual brain function that either is working well or not working well. When a child cannot perceive sounds within words he/she will have difficulty sounding out words. They cannot self-correct because they do not realize that what they said did not match what they saw in the word.
Children with weak phonemic awareness will often add, omit, or substitute sounds when reading, or they may just simply guess when they see a word they don’t know. A child may read the word stump as stop, discover as disappear, dream as drum, etc. Children with weak phonemic awareness do not have the ability to sound out unknown words or correct their reading errors on their own.
This difficulty often presents itself in early childhood and remains persistent throughout life unless it is changed.
Do you mean my child can’t hear well and what does sensory cognitive processing disorder mean?
No, your child can hear just fine, but it is hard for him/her to understand that words have individual sounds. They literally hear a word like ‘stream’ as one or two sounds, not five sounds like s-t-r-ea-m. Therefore when spelling or reading a word the child will often leave out sounds, spelling or reading the word stream as stem or steam. Our reading system is based on this understanding that words are made up of sounds and/or syllables. Therefore, children who have difficulty with phonemic awareness will have difficulty with reading and spelling.
Sensory cognitive processing disorder is a term used to describe a reading, comprehension, or mathematics disabilities….There is nothing physically wrong with a child’s brain, it is simply a matter of their brain not being “wired” properly to perceive sounds.
Is my child less intelligent because he/she can’t hear sounds and read well?
Absolutely not! Albert Einstein could not read, but he was a genius. More than likely, if we could test him now, we would find that he had a weakness in phonemic awareness. It has nothing to do with intelligence, only in a difficulty perceiving sounds within words.
Most children we see have average to above-average intelligence, but they are just not able to break words into sounds and/or syllables.
Can this be problem be changed?
Yes, phonemic awareness weakness can be improved with the appropriate treatment. A tutoring approach such as re-teaching, etc. is not an effective way to improve a phonemic awareness weakness. The Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing™ and the Seeing Stars™ programs are the two sensory cognitive therapies that the staff use at the reading Therapy Center, Inc. These programs, when done intensively one on one, by a well trained and experienced therapist, are extremely effective in changing this difficulty. This therapy process is integrated into every level of reading and spelling from simple syllables to multi-syllables and then brought into contextual reading at the Reading Therapy Center, Inc. Our goal is to teach students to become independent, self-correcting readers.
Will my child’s reading difficulties just go away with time?
No. Reading difficulties are persistent and one does not outgrow them. Only with intensive, proper intervention can children improve their reading and spelling skills. By overcoming the underlying cause, weak phonemic awareness, children can significantly improve their skills and achieve to their potential.
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