Dyslexia is a type of learning difficulty, characterized primarily by difficulty or inability to read, write and spell. This spectrum disorder, which is one of the most common learning disorders, can have symptoms that range from mild to severe difficulties.
Dyslexia mainly affects the phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Phonological awareness is a very important part of early reading and writing development. It basically means understanding how words are made up from smaller units, called phonemes, and how phonemes shape the meaning of a word. For example, in a child with good phonological awareness it is clear how switching the letter “p” in the word “pat” to the letter “s” creates a whole other word- “sat”.
Verbal memory, on the other hand, refers to the ability to memorize a set of verbal information and to store it in short term memory. This is particularly important for the ability to follow simple instructions, such as “get dressed, put your shoes on, wash your face and eat your breakfast”.
The symptoms of dyslexia may affect one or more of these processes and to a different degree. Every dyslexic person has his or her own pattern of strengths and weaknesses.
Dyslexia in toddlers and preschoolers
It may be difficult to recognize dyslexia symptoms in toddlers and to make a positive diagnosis, simply because toddlers are very young and only just starting to develop verbal skills. Some signs that may indicate dyslexia in toddlers include difficulty regarding the pronunciation, learning and repeating simple songs and nursery rhymes, learning names of shapes and colors and problems with fine motor skills. Still, it is very important to realize that every child at such young age has his or her own dynamics in learning and development and that certain difficulties do not necessarily mean the child has dyslexia.
As the child grows and reaches the pre-school age, some symptoms of dyslexia may include delayed speech development, especially compared to other children of that age, inability to pronounce long world and jumbling up phrases- for example “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear”, incorrect structure of sentences, inability to remember what words to use, no interest in rhyming and difficulty with learning letters of the alphabet.
In most cases, however, dyslexia is first diagnosed once the child starts school or even at a later age. It can even be possible to reach the adolescence without ever being diagnosed with dyslexia, which usually happens in cases with mild symptoms.