Dyslexia is not just a severe reading disorder characterized by reversals. It is a syndrome, meaning that it shows many and varied reading and non-reading symptoms such as:
* Memory instability for letters, words, numbers
* A tendency to skip over or scramble letters, words, and sentences
* A poor, slow reading ability prone to compensatory head
tilting, finger pointing and rapid fatigue
* Reversals of letters such as b and d, words such as saw and was, and
numbers such as 6 and 9 or 16 and 61* Letter and word blurring, doubling, movement, scrambling, omission,
insertion, size change , etc.
* Poor concentration, distractibility, light sensitivity (photophobia), delayed visual and phonetic processing, etc.
* Messy, poorly angulated, or drifting handwriting prone to size,
spacing, and letter-sequencing errors.
SPELLING, MATH, MEMORY, AND GRAMMAR
* Difficulties remembering spelling, grammar, math, names, dates, and
lists , or sequences such as the alphabet, the days of the week and
months of the year, and directions.
* Speech disorders such as slurring, stuttering, minor articulation
errors, poor word recall, and auditory-input and motor-output speech
* Right/left and related directional uncertainty.
* Delay in learning to tell time.
CONCENTRATION AND ACTIVITY
* Impaired concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, or
BEHAVIOR, TEMPER, OR IMPULSE DISTUBANCES
BALANCE AND COORDINATION
* Difficulties with balance and coordination functions, i.e. walking,
running, skipping, hopping, tying shoelaces, and buttoning buttons.
OTHER RELATED ISSUES
* Difficulties with headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, motion
sickness, abdominal complaints, excessive sweating, and bed-wetting
* Feeling stupid, ugly, incompetent, brainless.
* Fears of the dark, heights, getting lost, going to school
* Fear or the avoidance of various balance, coordination, sports, and
* Mood disturbances.
* Obsessions and compulsions.
Because dyslexia is often mistakenly viewed as a severe reading
impairment rather than a syndrome of the above mentioned symptoms,
many believe that normal or even superior reading individuals can’t be
dyslexics – despite the presence of typical dyslexic – related
difficulties with writing, grammar, spelling, math, memory, speech,
sense of direction, and time, etc.
As a result, typical dyslexics with normal or superior reading scores
are termed Learning Disabled – as if dyslexia and LD were separate and
Several approaches, supported by research, believe dyslexia to be a
syndrome of many and varied symptoms differing in intensity. And thus
some dyslexics will have severe reading, spelling and speech
difficulties while others will have major problems with only math,
memory and concentration.
What many don’t realise is that many of the symptoms understood to be part of this syndrome are linked to irregular functioning of the vestibular system (better known as the inner-ear). Not all Dyslexics are alike but many can be helped by activities aimed at improving vestibular functioning. This means that particular, coordinated, slow movements can help many children who are struggling at school.
There will be more information about this in following posts.
The early years of life are vital for laying the foundation of learning success. Most parents get it right – and that’s because it isn’t as difficult as you might think.
I get lots of enquiries from people wanting to know what programmes to buy or what activities to do with their infants to ensure good brain development. The reason is that they want their children to do well at school and in good tertiary institutions so that they will enjoy a lucrative career later in life. While their motivation is pure, they are often trying too hard to stimulate their children. Expensive equipment, costly academic packages and too-early school admittance simply aren’t needed. Instead, providing lots of love and spending lots of time playing games and talking to your babies while ensuring that their diet is as good as you can afford are the ingredients for a healthy brain.
The brain is very underdeveloped at birth. This is because human mothers could not give birth to an infant with a fully developed brain – it would simply be too big. So from the moment of birth, everything in the infant’s environment will impact on the development of the neurons (brain cells) that comprise the brain. Genetics do play a role in intelligence – but the nurturing received after birth is vital. In his book ‘Raise a smarter child by kindergarten’, Dr David Perlmutter writes that ‘great brains are made, they are not born. From birth to age 3, up to 30 IQ points are up for grabs.’
He goes on to list some simple things that parents can do to ‘claim’ those IQ points for their child:
Breastfeeding for at least twelve months
- Making sure your toddler eats brain-enhancing ‘real’ food
- Engaging your baby in mentally stimulating activities from the first weeks of life throughout childhood – not with artificial or ‘educational’ media but simply through games you play with her. Think ‘Peek a boo’; ‘Where’s mommy gone?’; singing songs and telling or reading stories
- Limit TV and DVD watching and playing video games
- Training a child to use a computer, however, can improve cognitive function and better prepare her for school
- Introduce youngsters to formal music training by aged 4 years. This helps develop future future maths and science ability
- Be aware of possible toxins in your home and environment that may cause learning problems (pollution being one)
- Provide a warm, loving, low-stress environment with lots of attention from you
In the next few articles, I’ll be focusing on what happens in a baby brain when we provide a nurturing environment and also on good, brain-building activities.
Some people use the terms ‘food allergy’ and ‘food intolerance’ as synonyms but this is incorrect. Some of the signs of food intolerance and allergy are similar but the difference between the two are very important. Eating a food to which you are intolerant can leave you feeling miserable. A true food allergy, however, could be life-threatening. Either way, a child whose body reacts negatively to something in her diet will find it more difficult to focus on schoolwork and do her best. It’s worth considering whether or not she has a food intolerance.
Let’s first consider the differences between the two conditions. If you’re allergic to a food, your immune system will consider the food as an enemy invader and defend the body with antibodies. These antibodies produce symptoms that can cover a range of conditions like hives, eczema, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, excessive winds and vomiting. More severe symptoms are termed anaphylactic and may include difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness. Without immediate treatment – an injection of adrenalin – anaphylactic can be fatal.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, doesn’t involve the immune system. It takes place in the digestive system and is usually due to an inability to properly break down a particular food. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, sensitivity to food additives (colourants and flavourants) or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods. The symptoms are sometimes vague and can include a combination of gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and wind, diarrhea, nausea and indigestion and aggravation of eczema and asthma. These symptoms often take long to emerge, often several hours or days so it is difficult to pinpoint what foods may be causing the symptoms. The symptoms too may take a couple of days to go away.
Almost any food can cause an intolerance but there are some types that occur more than others. Common culprits are dairy, gluten and foods that can lead to gas buildup, such as cabbage and beans. A specific type of intolerance can develop to the protein in wheat and other grains called gluten. This condition is called Coeliac disease.
The tricky thing about intolerances is that they are dose-dependent. This means that a certain amount of the offending substance has to be consumed before symptoms appear. Small quantities of the food may be handled by the body, unlike people with allergies, who must stay away from even the tiniest trace of the trigger food. Everyone is different, so the amount tolerated will vary from person to person.
If you suspect that your child has a food intolerance, you can try an elimination diet to decipher what food is causing problems. Keeping a food diary is useful because you need to be able to look back to see what might have been eaten a few days before.
What you need to remember is that while a food allergy will probably make itself conspicuous with the more severe symptoms, many food intolerances go unnoticed and ignored. Try to remember that these can negatively affect learning and behaviour – and if your child shows puzzling challenges, keep in mind that food might be the reason. Next week, we’ll list some behaviours that may indicate an intolerance to one or more foods.