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Is Your Child a Stealth Dyslexic?

These highly intelligent children often compensate so well for their dyslexia that it goes undiagnosed.

by
Paula Bolyard

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April 9, 2014 - 8:00 am
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Do you have a highly intelligent child who struggles with writing and spelling? A child who, despite good scores on standardized tests, is performing below his “potential”?  If so, you may be the parent of a “stealth dyslexic.” According to learning experts, dyslexia manifests itself in a variety of ways beyond the most common form where individuals reverse letters and have difficulty learning to read. Indeed, stealth dyslexics often learn to read quite easily because of their outstanding memories and ability to compensate for their deficits.  But because of this, their learning disability is often not detected until later in life.

According to school psychologist Jim Forgan,  ”These highly intelligent or gifted children compensate for their dyslexia because they learn to rely upon their outstanding memory, keen intuition, and general smarts to work around their reading weaknesses.” Stealth dyslexia often goes undetected until the child is in third grade or older. “Your child may have stealth dyslexia if they are very smart and can read but don’t enjoy reading and rarely read for pleasure. Many of these children don’t read for pleasure because it’s laborious and mentally exhausting,” says Forgan.

Teachers often think that these obviously smart kids are lazy, inattentive or “not applying themselves” because they have precocious verbal skills and many, in fact, have high verbal IQs. According to the Davidson Institute, there is often a huge gap between the child’s verbal skills and the ability to read and write, especially as the student progresses to more difficult assignments in the middle school years. The Davidson Institute says that children with stealth dyslexia tend to exhibit some of the following characteristics:

1. Difficulties with word processing and written output.

2. Reading skills that appear to fall within the normal or even superior range for children their age, at least on silent reading comprehension.

3. Difficulty remembering how to form individual letters (resulting in oddly formed letters, reversals, inversions, and irregular spacing.

4. Difficulty remembering the sequence of letters or even sounds in a word.

5. Difficulties with sensory-motor dyspraxia, or motor coordination problems resulting in handwriting problems.

6. An enormous gap between oral and written expression.

7. Spelling errors in children’s written output that are far out of character with their general language, working memory, or attention skills.

8. Persistent difficulties with word-for-word reading skills, resulting in subtle word substitutions or word skips; which can result in significant functional problems, especially on tests.  This occurs despite the appearance of age-appropriate reading comprehension on classroom assignments or standardized tests.

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All Comments   (9)
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Thanks for this.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The correct term for high IQ dyslexics is Twice Exceptional.

Getting a diagnosis of dyslexia is only the beginning. Fortunately we have over 100 years of research on how dyslexics do learn. This is probably one of the few areas of learning differences where the correct intervention delivers a 100% positive result. However; despite the effectiveness of appropriate intervention, 99% of school districts will not assist those students with testing or remediation.

Parents of dyslexics generally don't "give up" but rather move heaven and earth in order to locate teachers and tutors who are trained in Orton-Gillingham based methods of instruction. The resources (while easier to locate today than 20 years ago - and much more so than 40 years ago) are still few and far between and require a huge commitment to access. I know families that have relocated in order to get their child close enough to a school or tutor. Others commit to 3 or 4 hour drives multiple times a week.

For a parent of a dyslexic (in my case 4 dyslexics) you have a choice of allowing your extremely bright children to fail and be thrown away by the public school systems or to seek private solutions. At our house, over 20 years, we invested over $180,000 in private tutoring and dyslexic specific private schools. It wasn't money we had, it required working insane hours and sacrificing darned near everything. And it was 100% worth the effort.

This is a topic that I've lived and passionately learned about for over 26 years. I can expound upon it for hours. The dyslexic mind is a truly amazing creation in the unique way it's wiring creates and problem solves.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do you have a highly intelligent child who struggles with writing and spelling? A child who, despite good scores on standardized tests, is performing below his “potential”? If so, you may be the parent of a “stealth dyslexic.”

Yet, at the same time, statistically speaking you are more likely to be dealing with some obviously smart kids who are lazy, inattentive or “not applying themselves”.

But it's certainly easier to get a diagnosis and treatment than to apply yourself as a parent to disciplining your child - extra effort and extra work at home to correct vocabulary and spelling problems. Are there a very slight number of children with this problem in the world? Probably.

Will parents seek a diagnosis when there's nothing wrong with the child, because they learned about this new possibility that they're actually great parents and the real problem is no one's responsibility? Yes.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
While I agree with you that some parents seek "a diagnosis" when they're dealing with a simple discipline problem, there are other children who do genuinely have this problem. My son is one of them. He was homeschooled and taught to read using an intensive phonics program but despite our best efforts and all kinds of programs aimed at improving it, he struggled with spelling and sounding out new words. He also could not learn his multiplication facts, remember phone numbers or what time we left for church every Sunday. By 8th grade, writing a paragraph was like torture to him. Despite that, he tested off the charts in reading and even tested well in spelling and had a high ACT score (97th percentile in science). We finally decided to seek "a diagnosis" when he was in danger of getting kicked out of Hillsdale College his freshman year (because as it turned out, he couldn't spell in French, either).

Once we knew what the problem was it was a huge relief. He wasn't dumb. He wasn't lazy. His brain worked differently and certain things were hard for him. Once he understood it he was able to make adjustments to his major and his schedule (including choosing professors who were a better fit for his learning style). It wasn't easy. Reading takes twice as long for him and he often has to re-read things. Writing takes a long time and he has trouble with proofreading. And he still can't spell. By God's grace and with a lot of hard work (and after sacrificing a lot of his social life), he made it through and graduated from Hillsdale this past December. He has actually become a very competent writer and is now managing an IT department at a non-profit in D.C.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dyslexia is not an issue of Discipline, but of being taught in the way your brain understands. If discipline were the answer, then I'm quite sure that the daily beatings that my father in law received from the Nuns and his parents should have quickly taught him to spell. The official statistic is in the neighborhood of 20% of school aged children. Of that 20% - less than 1% are ever diagnosed. The rest are written off.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes interesting, I can think of several people I've known, as children in school and as adults in the world, who probably qualified.

But I'm not sure about the entrepreneurship link, at least not as a positive thing, after all nine out of ten fail no matter who starts them.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dyslexics are actually over represented in the Forbes 500
Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, and Paul Orfalea just to name a few.

Orfalea's book "Copy This!" is a great read. Schwab has put a great deal of his personal fortune into creating resources for dyslexics and their parents.

It's an older article from Fortune, but it's still solid:
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2002/05/13/322876/
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
This was a very valuable post. Thank you.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The following link is a good start in resources for Texans:
https://www.tsrhc.org/dyslexia
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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