Frequently Asked Questions
What is Dyslexia?
Let’s talk about what dyslexia is not……. It is not reading words or writing letters backwards. That is a common misconception. Dys-lexia comes from the Greek root; dys means having difficulty with, and lexia means words.
So, to broaden this explanation, dyslexia means difficulty with understanding how the English language works….. either in written form, or spoken form. When speaking about children, a child may not be able to read well, or read and write well, or use spoken language accurately. Some young children speak later than usual, or do not articulate speech sounds correctly, or mix up the placement of sounds within words (“pisghetti” for “spaghetti”). Research indicates at least 30% of such students are later diagnosed with a reading disability, often referred to as developmental dyslexia.
That’s because the synapses and circuits in the left hemisphere of the brain, or the language center of the brain, are wired differently for the individual with dyslexia.
Since every individual is unique, common patterns exist, but no two children show the same symptoms exactly. Most children with dyslexia are bright, many are gifted, and can compensate to a certain point until their level of confusion surpasses typical teaching methodology. Nevertheless, most children with dyslexia struggle to recognize sounds that letters make, do not sequence the sounds in a meaningful way, and have to be retaught to read in a systematized, structured way with a reading system based on teaching the phonology (sound system) of our language.
So why do so many children reverse letters? Because they also have retrieval difficulties, and the images of the letters do not get imprinted in their memory. Therefore, it is difficult to associate sounds with the letter images. Every time the child tries to read or write, it is like starting all over again. Since so many of our letters are similar in shape, without good recall for letters and sounds, they confuse the letters that look alike such as m/w,m/n, b/d, p/q, etc.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
A thorough evaluation must be conducted by a psychologist, neuropsychologist, speech-language pathologist, or a specialist trained in the administration of individual, standardized tests, or a team comprised of two or three of these professionals. This comprehensive assessment must include three parts to provide a thorough picture of the child’s learning strengths and weaknesses: a cognitive battery, an achievement battery, and an oral language battery The cognitive battery must include psychological processing testing to assess how the child reasons and analyzes (verbally and nonverbally), and how he or she has acquired facts and general knowledge. The cognitive portion of the evaluation should also assess long-term, short-term, and working memory.
An achievement battery includes assessment of reading (decoding, comprehension, reading vocabulary) and should include timed and untimed tests. The battery should also include assessments for math computation assessment and math problem-solving. The achievement battery must include written language skills assessments such as spelling, sentence structure, story writing, etc.
The oral language battery, a very necessary component to a comprehensive evaluation, is often not administered , but provides more detailed information that provides insight into the underlying language skills that can support or hinder achievement in reading. An oral language battery should include assessment of receptive and expressive language knowledge and processing. Specific components of the oral language battery assesses semantic knowledge and use of words (vocabulary, sentence, and conversational discourse), knowledge and use of syntax (word order) and grammar (word function) in sentences, and the child’s understanding of phonology (the rules the guide the way sounds are sequenced in the language).
A comprehensive assessment is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together; all the pieces must be linked to make the correct diagnosis and to understand how to plan a course of teaching specific to the child.
Does dyslexia run in families?
Yes, dyslexia is familial, which means it runs in families. A recent study indicates a gene has been identified that causes it. Because no two people are alike, and because dyslexia is not a syndrome, the symptoms displayed by a parent could look very different for the child. When parents know that dyslexia or reading difficulties are present in the family, they should monitor their children’s progress carefully, starting at age two when children begin to develop spoken language, with continued careful diligence during the preschool years and early elementary school grades when pre-reading and writing skills are introduced.
When should my child be evaluated?
If your child demonstrates delayed speech or speech sound production issues that causes his or her speech to be difficult to understand, a speech/language evaluation at the age of two or three is very appropriate, and certainly, not too early. If early oral language symptoms are not evident, but if your child shows difficulty learning to read, a thorough evaluation should be completed. First grade is not too early to have your child assessed, especially if you receive teacher reports that your child is struggling and if your child comes home from school very frustrated, shies away from reading and writing task, and expresses doubts in his or her ability to do well in school. And, if you do not have your child evaluated early in their school career, don’t worry! It is never too late; many bright students have made it to high school, and are diagnosed for the first time as a teenager.
Will my child ever read?
So many parents struggle with this frustration. For some children progress seems slow, and a parent fears their child will be so far behind before “catching up.” If the diagnosis is a reading disorder like dyslexia, your child will learn to read. Since we are talking about a processing problem that has its roots in how the language center of the brain is wired, every child integrates the corrective strategies differently, so the pace and rate is different for each child. But, have no fear, your child will learn to read.
How do I know if tutoring is enough?
Your child has been evaluated because of frustration with school work and progress is slow. Many children with dyslexia make progress with a tutor, but once a week is rarely enough. Tutoring sessions two or three times during the week will help you, your child’s teacher, and your tutor decide if tutoring is enough.
The research has demonstrated that intensive remediation is necessary, and the tutor must be trained in a method developed for children with dyslexia. Intensive does not mean once weekly. If your child is being tutored two or three times a week and progress is still very slow, it could be time to look for a specialized program that is even more intensive.
What strategies work for my child?
The research indicates that a systematic, structured, phonetic approach, implemented with fidelity, is needed to remediate the child who is diagnosed with dyslexia. There are numerous methods that fit this description. What is critical is the fidelity (that is, that the method is strictly followed the way in which it was developed and verified by sound scientific inquiry), and the intensity (the amount of time per session). Twice weekly, thirty minutes sessions will not make improvement for most children who struggle in this way. Daily instruction, with a method that is carefully followed, is necessary.
For math and written language, and for study skills, routines and strategies are also critical. Children who struggle in this way do not create their own strategies, and are often fragmented learners. Teachers must be trained to deliver corrective strategies in these content areas, as well.
What can I do at home?
The first and most important thing you can do is to make sure that your child has a quiet place to do homework free of distractions like TV, other children running through the space, etc. Help your child develop good study habits: all materials on the table needed, pencils, eraser, or computer if needed. Review the directions for each assignment if your child is younger than 11 years of age. You may need to review the assignments one at a time as your child completes them. Teach your child to put the homework in a subject-specific or a “homework” folder, and to put the book away after each assignment is completed. You may want to review the completed assignment, but do not change it; mistakes are diagnostic information for the teacher.
When a child goes to school with perfect homework that a parent has completed, the teacher does not understand how much a child struggles with his or her school work, and then cannot modify his or her teaching to meet the child’s needs.
Read to your child, even if he or she is in middle school. If your child struggles with reading fluency and decoding, take the pressure off and have time when you read that age-appropriate novel or story so your child’s vocabulary continues to increase, and you talk about the story. Be careful not to quiz your child or make it difficult; make reading fun and interesting by being the reader and sharing the story line. In fact, consider getting books on tape or CD or downloading them to the child’s IPod. Let them listen and follow along in the book. Your child can still develop a love of literature even if he or she struggles with reading.
Does The Summit School offer financial aid?
Yes, a financial aid application is available through the business office of the school. The School works SMART, a company dedicated to helping schools process the information. Therefore, experts interpret the need, and send a recommendation to the School. Decisions are made based on how much scholarship money is available for the next year, and demonstrated need. Applications are available in January, and must be submitted to SMART by March 31. Decisions are made by June 1.
Does The Summit School offer testing and tutoring services apart from the school program?
Yes, The Summit School offers these services through Summit Outreach. Summit Outreach provides the comprehensive testing described above, as well as tutoring services for reading, writing, math, SAT prep, and college placement. Some of our tutors can help children with foreign language and with science and history as well.
Does The Summit Outreach accept insurance for testing or tutoring?
No. However, you may check with your insurance to see if an out-of-network evaluation will be reimbursed according to the terms of your policy. Insurance does not reimburse for tutoring.