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Identify reading challenges such as dyslexia early so that intervention can target foundational skills.

Self-talk like, ‘I’m dumb’ is a sure sign of poor academic self-esteem. Tummy aches before school, a reluctance to read and frustration, are signs that reading is not developing smoothly for the child.  Parents might be mystified by their child’s ability to read a word correctly on one line and get it wrong on the very next line.

Assess the problem

When a child is struggling with reading, teachers are normally the first line of defence. The in-house learning support staff can generally help most children or refer them on. Some children require specialist assessments with an educational psychologist.

Each child’s profile of strengths and challenges is unique, and some children will be referred on to a speech-language therapist. Many people with dyslexia improve with intervention. Those with a proven, significant reading challenge can benefit from concessions such as extra time or a reader for exams. There are ways of managing dyslexia.

For more about dyslexia, read here and here.

Kate’s story

Elizabeth Nadler-Nir, a language and literacy consultant, who consults to Oxford University Press South Africa, relates the story of the life changing difference early intervention made to a girl called Kate, who attended her practice at age seven.

Jean Patterson (Speech-language therapist), assessed and worked with Kate from Grade 2. She had dyslexia. Kate’s Mom was concerned about how Kate would be able to cope with schoolwork.  And so began Kate’s gritty journey with learning to read and managing dyslexia.

She starred in a teaching video for what is now known as the Oxford Reading Safari (ORS). ORS is an online remedial reading intervention from Oxford University Press. It is for the delayed, older reader who already has a basic grade 2 reading level. It provides children with practice at their reading level, using their own errors as teaching targets.

Reading challenges can be easy to miss, especially in verbally strong children.

“I would love it when my parents read stories to me in the evening… I loved it so much that I memorised ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ so that I could shock my parents when I ‘read’ it back to them,” says Kate.

It takes grit from parents and children to keep working on reading, sometimes for years.

“Having a reader in my exams helped me to not get flustered if I couldn’t sound out a word and helped me spend less time struggling to read large passages of texts in comprehensions,” says Kate.

Life beyond dyslexia

 So, was Kate’s journey in managing her dyslexia a success?  We’ll let Elizabeth answer that –

“A gentle knock on my therapy room door reminded me why I love language and literacy intervention.  It was Kate, a grown-up version of the little girl we once knew at my language and literacy practice.   She came to see me with her matric marks.”

Explains Kate, “When I opened my matric marks…I’d not just passed but received a distinction.”

Said a proud Elizabeth, “That evening, I messaged Jean and the rest of our therapist team to say that humble Kate had actually achieved six distinctions and 86% for English, despite her dyslexia.’”

“Never lose that belief that you can do anything you want to do in life… I promise you one day you will learn and all the work you put in…will be worth it,” says Kate.

Elizabeth Nadler-Nir is a MSc Speech-Language Therapist and a language and literacy consultant for Oxford University South Africa’s Reading Safari (ORS), an online remedial reading intervention for the delayed older reader.  Contact The Reading Language Gym for more information.