Monday, April 16, 2007

HWAT's a Paretn to oD? dyslexia and your Child

“My child cannot read. She’s in second grade and she still reverses letters, omits letters in common words, guesses words when she reads rather than actually reading the words. It’s a constant struggle to get her to read. It takes all evening to get through a book, she gets so frustrated and is constantly in tears and we (her parents) feel horrible. Its not supposed to be like this. We took her to a professional who told us she has dyslexia but, now what?”

Dyslexia simply refers to a disturbance (dys) of reading (lexia). Enlightening, huh? Hope you didn’t pay too much to have it revealed that your daughter has a disturbance in reading (which, by the way, I assume you actually told the professional about two minutes into the interview).

The real challenge is to understand the underlying breakdown in processing that result in dyslexia or a reading disorder.

Reading is like a chain with each link providing its own unique and necessary contribution to reading. While professionals with different educational backgrounds and training may identify some different individual components (or links) that compose reading, most breakdowns of reading indicate links that include:

(a) visual acuity (can the child see)

(b) oculomotor functions (can the child scan a row of letters/words),

(c) visual-perception (can the child recognize and discriminate visual configurations)

(d) auditory acuity (can the child hear)

(e) auditory perception (can the child recognize and discriminate speech sound units)

(f) grapheme (letters) - phoneme (speech sounds) integration (can the child link sounds with letters)

(g) sequential grapheme-phoneme processing of units (can the child read individual words)

(h) sustained attention (can the child keep track of what was read)

(i) storage of data (can the child store a series of words)

(j) linking ideas/themes with words (can the child create mental pictures/images of what the words “say”)

(k) development of a general theme (can the child understand what was intended in the written communication)

(l) development of a response (can the child respond to the written words) and motor programming a response (can the child articulate the words or formulate a motor plan based on what was read)

So… your child has dyslexia? What are you supposed to do? It all depends on the stage at which reading breaks down. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Therefore, interventions directed towards “weak links” or components in the reading process are likely to result in the greatest benefits. The first step… complete a comprehensive evaluation of reading components or links. The intervention?… direct or focus interventions on weak links to obtain the greatest benefits or “bang for your buck.”


Dr. Richard Dowell is a Neuropsychologist located in Pennsylvania. Dr. Dowell evaluates upwards of 400 children and adolescents each year. In addition, Dr. Dowell is recognized as one of the top Forensic Neuropsychological witnesses in the North East.

Dr. Dowell can be contacted at

For more information on Neuropsychology visit

No comments: