By Andrea Ehlis-Chang
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. A neurological condition, dyslexia is associated with pronounced difficulty in reading. If you are looking to better understand this condition, a good start is to observe how dyslexia can look at the emergent reading level of preschoolers.
Dyslexia and the Preschool Child
Children with dyslexia often display a unique collection of parallel strengths and weaknesses:
|Curious and imaginative||Difficulty learning nursery rhymes|
|Eagerly learns, embraces, and shows an understanding of new concepts||Often doesn’t appreciate or identify rhymes|
|Mature for their age||Words are often mispronounced, or a pattern of “baby talk”|
|Displays a large vocabulary – both spoken and auditory understanding||Struggles to learn and remember names of letters and numbers|
|Enjoys puzzles and building models||Unable to identify letters in their own name, after having substantial instruction and practice|
Diagnosing dyslexia is a complex and multi-layered procedure, conducted by a licensed educational psychologist. Early childhood educators may utilize universal screening instruments to identify at-risk children. While not a replacement for a diagnosis, identifying at-risk children may provide the first step in early intervention.
Supporting Emerging Literacy Skills of the Dyslexic Child
A multisensory approach is highly effective for the dyslexic child. Educators may observe a variety of multisensory techniques implemented in dyslexic remediation programs. One such example would be the Orton-Gillingham method, in which letters and sounds are taught in systematic progression with kinesthetic and/or tactile cues (tracing on a letter card with fingers or a gesture associated with a keyword or letter sound).
With multisensory recognized as benefitting all emergent learners, incorporating these strategies will boost literacy skills in your setting overall. Allow ample time for these activities and maximize the frequency in which dyslexic learners have access to them.
Rhymes and Songs: Frequently practice rhymes and repetitive songs to target two of the dyslexic child’s struggle points – difficulty learning nursery rhymes and identifying rhyming words. Regular practice of these oral and auditory skills will help strengthen children’s ability to hear and recognize rhymes, even more so if adding movement or gestures to match. Sprinkle oral nursery rhymes and songs throughout the day.
Word Wall: An established tool in emergent literacy, word walls offer visual support of letter names and sounds, reinforce connections between letters found in names, and can be extended to sight/theme words as well. Place careful consideration in maintaining your word wall throughout the year as children’s skills grow.
Syllable Activities and Games: Syllables are a vital component of literacy instruction, and can lead to helping young learners with decoding, spelling, and fluency. Remediation for dyslexic learners often includes a systematic progression of syllable types and rules. Support preschoolers now by including activities and games centered around syllables.
Tactile Letters: Textured letter cards, edible letters, and playdough letters are some examples of tactile letters. A valuable multisensory tool, tactile letters help strengthen the neural pathways for letter name and sound retrieval. You can even make your own tactile letter cards for use in your setting.
Writing Trays: Another multisensory method for building and retaining letter sounds and names, writing trays can be made from a variety of materials. Shaving cream, sand or salt, sensory fillers, and gel are just some examples of how you can bring this activity into your setting.