5 Things Every Social Worker Should Understand About Dyslexia

In the course of your career in social work, dyslexic clients may be referred to you. Unfortunately, there are many myths concerning this learning disability. Often, it’s accompanied by emotional, behavioral, and social problems. Just imagine the stress of always struggling academically. To help your clients make progress, you need to be well-informed about this condition. Here’s what social workers must understand about dyslexia.

Nature of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning disability evidenced by difficulty reading. A dyslexic child finds it hard to match letters to sounds. You can see how this hinders reading ability.

The disorder also impacts spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, writing, and speech. It can evolve into stammering. Consequently, a child may shrink from vocal class participation or become frustrated and tense when they try.

Associated Issues

Dyslexic children are often subject to bullying, causing them to withdraw socially. Academic failure renders poor self-esteem. Frustration can lead to anger, depression, and even substance abuse.

Family dynamics are affected, too. Siblings may feel neglected or jealous of the attention the dyslexic child receives. Parents can mistakenly believe that if their child would try harder in school, they’d succeed. Dyslexia tends to run in families, so parents with the disability will painfully recall their childhood trauma. This history can interfere with their parenting skills.

Dyslexia is often accompanied by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This further complicates learning difficulties by derailing focus. Approximately 40 percent of students diagnosed with ADHD also struggle with dyslexia.

1. Dyslexia Does Not Reflect Low Intelligence

Educational testing will likely reveal that the child’s IQ is average or above average. Their parents and teachers may be baffled as to why the child is struggling so hard to learn. They may regard them as lazy or unmotivated.

Receiving special education helps to surmount learning difficulties. In fact, many actors, politicians, inventors, and entrepreneurs have excelled in their fields, despite dyslexia. Here are some famous high achievers:

  • Orlando Bloom
  • Walt Disney
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Jay Leno
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Henry Winkler

2. Dyslexia is Not a Visual Disorder

This is a common misconception that social workers must understand about dyslexia. Uninformed people think dyslexics see letters backward and reversed. Actually, non-dyslexic young children also reverse letters and numbers. However, if this tendency persists after two years of handwriting lessons, it signals a learning disability.

Still, dyslexia is unrelated to visual impairment. It’s a language processing disorder involving linking sounds to letters. The typical “b-d” letter reversal is primarily caused by misinterpreting left and right.

3. Dyslexia does Not Result from Malnutrition and Poor Parenting

This is a guilt-producing fallacy. To date, researchers haven’t found a specific etiology for dyslexia. However, they do know that neural pathways are involved. Imaging studies trace the disability to brain regions that process sound and language.

One brain area identified is the angular gyrus or AG. Located in the posterior brain, the AG translates words and letters into language. Dyslexic individuals have less AG activity than people who don’t have the disability. Additionally, they use only the right hemisphere of the brain to process language, while non-dyslexics use three areas in the left hemisphere.

Since dyslexia often occurs in multiple family members, genes are also contributory. If one parent has the disorder, there’s a 50 percent likelihood that their child will develop it. If both parents are dyslexic, it’s almost certain their offspring will be too. However, it’s critical for social workers to understand that dyslexia is not a disease. Accordingly, there is no medication to treat it.

4. Children do not Outgrow Dyslexia.

This is a lifelong learning disability. If not addressed early in childhood, lack of intervention creates a snowball effect. Children continue to lag behind their peers academically. Meanwhile, poor self-esteem and frustration mount. But if language difficulties are broached quickly, they’re more readily minimized. Still, it’s never too late for an adult to seek help.

Thankfully, this is because the brain has neuroplasticity. This is the ability to reorganize itself to form new neural connections. The brain does this naturally, in response to environmental change.

5. Educators are not the Only Ones that Can Help Dyslexic Individuals

This misconception is a primary reason why social workers must be knowledgeable about dyslexia. You’ll play a vital role in helping clients adjust and progress. You’ll encounter dyslexic clients while employed at mental health centers and schools. They’ll be referred to you in private practice. Here are some of the responsibilities you’ll have, depending on employment setting.

Schools – Social worker roles vary by academic environment. You may be a team member in the evaluation process. You’ll advise parents whose children need special education. Kids will come to you for counseling related to mental health, behavioral, and social problems. With your coaching, they’ll gain coping and interpersonal skills.

Mental Health Center – You’ll provide case management and therapy. In group therapy, you’ll teach social and problem-solving skills. You’ll also counsel individuals with ADHD in behavior therapy. With your guidance, clients will identify their abilities, interests, and strengths.

Private Practice – You’ll deliver services similar to those of a mental health center. However, your caseload will be smaller, enabling you to spend more time with clients.

Your Vital Role

Dyslexia can be transcended when a child is taught phonics using a sequential multi-sensory model. Social workers should understand their key role in helping clients manage dyslexia-related challenges. Being unable to process language has far-reaching consequences.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs