For decades, dyslexics have been one of the most misunderstood groups in our society. This misconception has lead to misdiagnosing and mislabeling of this subset. One may attribute the mislabeling, then, to the intricacy of the diagnostic process. Conditions such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Childhood Depressive Disorder (CDD), Central Auditory Processing Deficit (CAPD), Absence Seizure (petit mal), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and many others, should be considered before labeling or even before the diagnostic process is started. This is because these conditions have the unique ability to both mimic and obscure the diagnosis. This paper will look at the acquired, and the developmental obstacles in the process of adequately assessing the dyslexic. It will also cite management techniques, and will look at the duties of the ancillary and professional disciplines that are sometimes needed in collecting the data necessary to assess and treat these conditions.
A number of the above conditions, although clinically evident at an earlier age, often are not diagnosed until late in childhood or even adolescence. This further complicates the diagnostic process. CAPD is an example of one of these conditions. It is seldom diagnosed prior to adolescence, yet causes learning difficulties throughout childhood. The optimal time for intervention has been established as the kindergarten year. A diagnostic dilemma is therefore created when these conditions are uncovered at a later time, thus preventing appropriate intervention. The effect of this paradox could be reduced however, if the multisensory mode of teaching were implemented in the lower grades. Utilization of this method would reach more students with learning disorders than the conventional method now being used. The State of California has already mandated that the multisensory mode of teaching be implemented in the lower grades. Other states, I am sure, will follow suit. If the need for early childhood assessment is present, a high degree of suspicion established from a thorough family and patient/student history would be the handiest tool for focusing such an assessment. The primary care physician is the most likely person to obtain this initial history, and should set the ball rolling towards intervention. . A number of screeners are available to identify at-risk children at an early age. Drake Dwaine has suggested that any assessment administered prior to mid-second grade should be a screening and should identify at-risk children. Low cost intervention, however can, be offered to the at-risk student during the interim. Diagnosis, on the other hand, is necessary when costly intervention is planned. It is important that intervention be initiated prior to fourth grade so that these children do not develop the acquired obstacles to education (i.e., poor self-esteem, anxiety, and depression).
The need to establish the appropriate time to assess the dyslexic child has become vividly apparent over the years. Proof of this is when dyslexics are mislabeled stupid, retarded, or lazy, and placed among the mentally deficient. Such misdiagnoses are due to the lack of understanding of dyslexia and the plethora of impostors and obscurers that complicate the diagnostic process. Many dyslexics have been placed in special education programs along with the slow learners. Later, after appropriate remediation these same students have made the Dean's List and gone on to become educators, lawyers, and doctors. It is therefore of great importance that we be aware of the sensitive nature of dealing with these prize products of our society, our dyslexic students. We must be diligent in our efforts to help them in their struggle for success.
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