The Dyslexic Child



Starting off our first year of big boy school my son was extremely excited. Finally he would ride the bus and he would finally learn how to read. Quickly that excitement dissipated into stress because no matter how hard we tried he just couldn’t catch on. Sight words are evil in my house. For those who don’t know what sight words are, it’s the new way they teach kids to read. No longer are we using phonetics and how to sound out a word, no now we teach to memorize. Every week we got a new packet of sight words and every night the struggle continued. I saw my once happy excited little 6 year old shut down and even cry. We would trace the one word; repeat it and so on down the sheet. By the time we got to the second word he had forgotten the word he had worked on before. Of course I had no idea what was going on and I will admit at times I did get angry with him but then I saw how hard he tried and just couldn’t retain the information. At that point I knew something was wrong, that gut feeling, a mother’s intuition.

After much back and forth I got the school psychologist to test him. His results were just heartbreaking. They administered the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V).Where is was above average in his verbal comprehension, visual spatial, fluid reasoning and processing speed, he well below average, “very low” in working memory. The working memory index measures a child’s ability to register, maintain and manipulate visual and auditory information. Low scores point to visual or auditory problems, difficulty in the working memory processing or general low cognitive functioning.  Another test given to him again he was above average in the same areas and again low in auditory short-term and working memory as well as his visual working memory. His test on the CTOPP-2 showed his phonological memory was well below average as well.  I sat hearing this in a room with his teachers, counselor, principal and I was just filled with anger. I told them all year something wasn’t right and he didn’t need to just “try harder” he’s a smart perceptive kid.

There are two types of working memory, visual and auditory. Think of it like a tv show. Visual is of course what you see and auditory is what you hear.  Kind of like a playback option for later. Kids with weak or low working memory tend to have a difficult time remember all they read or what they teacher has said and have less to work with. They tend to have a harder time remembering instructions. I remember how frustrated I would get when he couldn’t remember multiple step directions. I know have to do in small steps. We did have an incident when he would get off the bus. In order for him to get across the street to his driveway in our neighborhood required close to ten steps. Poor thing just couldn’t remember all of them even though he did it often. What should have been an easy process for a child has turn traumatic where other bigger kids would yell, the bus driver would yell and in turn he would cry. This again is another example of his low working memory. We continue to work on this but he still forgets, just like his sight words.

Role of working memory in Dyslexia also causes issues between the association of verbal working memory and trying to read.  Your working memory is responsible for many skills we use to learn to read. Our auditory memory helps us hold on to the letter sounds and helps us learn to sound out new words. Our visual memory helps us remember what those words look like. Because of his low working memory he has a hard time remember those sight words. When we will read a book the first page will start off he will… and so on and so on. After the first page he will remember the he will part and glance at the picture to see what it illustrates. However with his weak working memory he will forget by the middle of the book and just start guessing. Sometimes you hear that dyslexic children have a hard time with the middle of the story. They will know the beginning and or the end. Just like their speech they tend to leave the middle part of words or words out of sentences. They just don’t have the working memory to process it all together correctly. I believe we are seeing a rise in this mainly because they don’t teach like they used to. I remember having to learn to sound out the words not memorize them. Looking back I think if they did that with me I would probably have the same struggles as my son. If I could get where I am and accomplished what I have then I know he will be ok. He has me to help him and together we will get through our struggles. I tell him every night he’s not dumb he’s dyslexic and some of the smartest, most successful people are too. Albert Einstein to Walt Disney. It’s not a disability it’s a gift be proud and to own it.

3 thoughts on “The Dyslexic Child

  1. Joseph A Bernard

    As a fellow parent, I can empathize with how difficult it can be to help a struggling child. As difficult as it can be for us as adults to put our feelings into words, imagine a child who has never had to think about his own thought processes this deeply try and make someone understand. I’m very happy for you that you’ve found a way to break through for your son, and know that he will appreciate it even more as he gets older. This is why it is so vitally important for the mental health of our children that teachers and parents work together, even when there isn’t a perceived problem. Teachers see a side of our kids that we never will as parents, and vice versa. Figuring out how our childrens’ brains process information and how that is encoded into LTM, can mean the difference between a happy, successful child and one who is depressed and frustrated. As they get older and begin to realize that they need to do what works for them in order to be successful, you’ll see them blossom into the adults with all the potential that only a devoted parent can see.

  2. Harbor Conway

    I am so sorry to hear about the experience that you and your family went through. I was completely shocked and saddened when I read that older children and even the bus driver would yell at your son. It is also unfortunate that you did not receive the support from your son’s school. I’m sure that isn’t completely uncommon in other schools as well. After reading your blog, it makes me think that things need to change within schools. There should be more people within schools that are educated on such important issues. There should be procedures in place when students are struggling. It shouldn’t be automatically assumed that the child isn’t “working hard enough”. It shouldn’t take almost an entire school year for them to finally listen to you that there was a problem.

  3. kpm5267

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. I actually have a child who suffers from dyslexia as well, so I know the struggle. When he first received a diagnoses, I assumed dyslexia was something as simple as just mixing one letter with another. I think your post did a great job at relating working memory with this disorder, especially for people that may not know much about it. I found it interesting to recently learn more about working memory because I had always assumed that memory was as simple as short-term memory and working-memory. I never knew how complex our memory system could be! Working memory is an easier concept for me to accept because it helps break down just exactly how this process works. I also thought long-term memory was more important, but now I see without working memory, we wouldn’t even be able to recall what memories are stored into our long-term memory! I agree also that having dyslexia does not mean that you can not be smart. My son just knows that in order to maintain his academic level at school, he will have to study twice as hard as someone who does not suffer from this disorder. This will help him recall what he reads a little easier since he seems to have trouble recalling and storing some of what he learns.

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