SPECIFIC CHILD LEARNING DISABILITIES
Dyslexia, partial word-blindness, is a common problem which reveals itself when the child fails to progress in reading and spelling at school.
She may not learn to tell the time and could have a poor auditory memory so that she does not remember what she has heard. Sometimes she learns to cope initially by remembering the shape of the words in her first reader and guessing the rest of the time. But as the books become more complicated and she is expected to read material for other subjects, she lags behind. Remedial teaching is necessary before she gets too far behind the rest of the class and a feeling of inferiority becomes ingrained.
If the parent is able to exercise great patience and refrain from judging or losing her temper, she can assist the child by reading to her and helping her practise her reading.
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Although progress is generally slow in the beginning, it does accelerate as the child becomes more proficient. Covering part of the word to split it into syllables helps break it up into easier sections to sound out and using a ruler under the line helps her keep track of her place. Because the child does not have the ability to sound out words in syllables she is very poor at spelling and this is usually most difficult to correct. She needs to sound out the words aloud and then write them over several times without seeing the original. Practice at saying, writing and seeing words will gradually build up her repertoire. Many famous people have succeeded in spite of being dyslexic and if the condition is identified and treated early there is every chance of improvement. The tendency towards dyslexia seems to run in families and is far more common in boys than in girls. (See associations and other sources of information p. 202. )
Dysgraphia, the inability to write coherently, is associated with poor fine motor co-ordination, which is the inability to control the muscles necessary for tasks that require precision. These children are often ambidextrous, that is, they use either hand with equal ease, and they have mixed laterality which means that neither side of the brain has become dominant.
When drawing, the child may use one hand on the one side of the and switch to the other hand to work on the other side of the. She may be unable to draw a picture of a man so that there is a head, body and legs even in stick form and cannot copy a triangle, circle or square in any recognisable fashion, even by the age of five.
Although most children use both hands as infants, they should have a preference for either the left or right hand by the age of about two.
Children with learning disabilities are more likely to be left handed, but never force a left handed child to change hands once she has established a dominance, as this can lead to stuttering and to mixed dominance. Her learning problems are not due to the fact that she is left handed.
Dysgraphia stems mainly from poor eye-hand co-ordination, a skill that should be practised by infants from the earliest months. (See p. 144. )
Exercises to stimulate visual motor skills, the co-ordination of eye and hand movements, should be part of a normal child's play. These include jigsaw puzzles, ‹“posting' of various shapes into slots, ‹“sewing' on a large card with thick needle and wool, threading beads, ‹“sieving', drawing with pencil and crayons, building with blocks, and cutting out with round-ended scissors.