Thoughtful Parenting: What is dyslexia? |

Thoughtful Parenting: What is dyslexia?

Beth Melton and Kim Schulz/For Steamboat Today

When your child struggles to learn to read, it can be difficult to sort through all the information you might receive from doctors, teachers and reading specialists. Following is a summary of the basics.

There are many different phrases you may hear to describe a child's challenges with reading. Like many things, reading difficulties occur on a continuum. Children can struggle only a bit, or they can have significant difficulty learning to read. All this is dependent on how their brain processes written language. Overall, about 20 percent of children struggle with reading in some way.


Dyslexia is the term that generally used by psychiatrists or medical doctors.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is used in Special Education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Significant Reading Deficiency (SRD) is a term used in the state of Colorado under a state law called the READ Act.

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Each of these terms has a slightly different definition based on the tests that are used to identify reading struggles. A child who receives a dyslexia diagnosis from a medical professional meets their diagnostic criteria.

SLD is usually identified by a school through the special education referral process and means a child is eligible for special education services.

A child with SRD under the READ Act has been determined to be at risk of "reading failure," meaning he or she is unlikely to be a successful reader without intervention and support. A child may meet the criteria for one, two or all three of these measures.

Early signs

As a parent, you may see signs that your child is having difficulty learning to read from a very early age. Some signs to look out for as early as preschool include the following.

  • Trouble with nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty learning the names of letters
  • Mispronouncing words (more than his or her peers)
  • Not recognizing rhyming words

What to do

The label used to describe a child's reading struggles does not necessarily point to a solution. It is important for children who have been identified with a reading struggle to be assessed by an experienced teacher of reading in order to determine his or her exact strengths and weaknesses and the best course of action for instruction.

As a parent, the best thing you can do is continue to support your child in a positive way. Embrace strengths by giving him or her opportunities to shine in these activities, whether it's sports, art, math or music. Then, give your child the encouragement he or she needs to do the hard work of learning to read. Helping a child who struggles, with or without a disability, can be a long, hard and emotional process. You are your child's best advocate, so learn everything you can to help provide the support your child needs to be successful. 

The following websites have great resources for parents.

Beth Melton and Kim Schulz are the owners of Steamboat Reading, an organization which supports children and their families using a strengths-based model to help all children become successful readers. For more information, visit