Common misconceptions of dyslexia will be tackled during Australia’s annual awareness week dedicated to the learning disorder, from 4–10 October.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) are working to demystify dyslexia with the aim to ensure children get the correct support in a timely manner.
According to RANZCO and the ADA, there are many misconceptions about the cause and treatment of this disorder. Timely diagnosis and the correct treatment are key, and they want parents and teachers to be on the lookout for the signs of dyslexia.
Not a Vision Problem
In a statement, RANZCO and ADA have asserted that dyslexia is an impairment of reading that can affect anyone. Importantly, it is not a vision problem. Dyslexia is not the result of problems with someone’s eyes or vision, or ability to focus and track words and letters across a page. It cannot be treated or managed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist using eye exercises or glasses.
dyslexia is a language processing disorder. It is often, but not always, accompanied by a history of language delay or speech therapy
Instead, the organisations advise, dyslexia is a language processing disorder. It is often, but not always, accompanied by a history of language delay or speech therapy.
Paediatric ophthalmologist, Dr Maree Flaherty, notes that “the reversal of letters, numbers and words are not a sign of dyslexia, and do not occur with increased frequency in dyslexia”.
RANZCO and the ADA are working to improve understanding of dyslexia, which is the most common of the specific learning disorders that affect between five and 15% of Australian school-aged children. Dyslexia does not go away as children get older and will continue into adulthood. However, through intervention and regular appropriate support it can be managed.
What to Look For
Parents and teachers should be on the lookout for children who seem to be having difficulty learning to read, despite normal intelligence and adequate educational opportunity.
Action to Take If you think a?
Dr Flaherty suggested parents and teachers take a two-step approach to children who suspected of having dyslexia:
- Check it out – rule it out.
Book an appointment for a ‘comprehensive eye exam’ with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. This will identify or rule out any underlying problems such as an eye disorder, need for glasses or rarely a more serious medical cause. An optometrist may choose to refer on to a paediatric ophthalmologist for a more comprehensive opinion.
- Appropriate management.
If the eye exam uncovers no refractive error or eye disease, parents should seek a referral to an educational psychologist to formally assess for dyslexia.
The evidence-based treatment for dyslexia is an individualised remedial reading program, comprising intensive instruction in the language areas, particularly of phonics and phoneme awareness. Dr Flaherty notes that “scientific evidence does not support the use of treatments like vision therapy, tinted lenses or colour filters for the treatment of dyslexia.
“If you or your child’s teacher have concerns, book in for an eye exam or visit the Australian Dyslexia Association (dyslexiaassociation.org.au/) for more information. Importantly, it has been shown that the earlier the intervention the greater the improvement.”