ADHD and Dyslexia
By: Rifka Schonfeld, Director S.O.S (Strategies for Optimum Success)
Q: My child has been struggling with reading for a while, but now she seems to be struggling socially as well. My husband thinks I am overstating this, but I think there might be a link between the two. Is that possible – are reading and socializing connected?
A: The short answer is: yes, there is a link between reading and social skills. But, first, it is important to clarify some of the different types of learning disabilities that cause children to struggle with reading:
Dyslexia: The National Institute of Health defines dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Dyslexia is a learning disability that is neurological in origin and often runs in the family. Children with dyslexia experience trouble reading and writing when taught through traditional instruction.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common behavioral disorder that affects between 8-10% of school age children. Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children who have ADHD have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is multi-focused. Their mind takes in multiple stimuli at once, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods of time. For this reason, reading through conventional methods can be frustrating.
Visual Processing Disorder: Visual processing disorder affects how the brain perceives and processes what the eye sees. Difficulties with visual processing affect how visual information is interpreted and perceived. The person may have difficulty in discriminating foreground-background, forms, size, and position in space. Using worksheets with enlarged print and breaking assignments into clear, concise steps are various methods that assist comprehension. Again, with visual processing disorder, traditional methods of reading instruction fall short.
As children enter elementary school, and reading becomes an integral part of the curriculum, children with learning disorders begin to struggle academically. Whereas before, they might have been able to get along based on their innate intellect, children with dyslexia, ADHD, or visual processing disorder start to show signs of struggles when reading instruction begins in earnest.
Often, these children go undiagnosed and their struggles with reading are attributed to a lack of trying or apathy. In reality, these children are working hard, but need different methods of instruction. Without these accommodations, children with learning disabilities often become frustrated and dejected. This can lead to low self-esteem and decreased self-worth.
So, are reading and social skills linked? Definitely. When children develop low self-esteem, they are less likely to attempt to make friends. They believe that no one would be interested in being their friends and therefore think that they will be rejected by their peers. This often leads children with disabilities to isolate themselves in order to avoid risk-taking in social situations.
Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do to help improve your child’s reading and thereby improve her self-esteem. Depending on the source of your daughter’s struggles with reading, alternative reading strategies can be employed. With a customized plan in place, your daughter could be on her way towards success in reading. Then, with each small gain in reading, your daughter’s self-esteem will grow – she will no longer be the girl who is scared to be called on in class. Who knows? That newfound confidence might allow her to believe in herself enough to take some risks and make some new friends!
An acclaimed educator and social skills specialist, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at email@example.com. You can view the web at rifkaschonfeld.com.