How to recognize reading disabilities

Neuropsychologist Karen Schilts, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to recognize the early signs that your child may have a reading difficulty
Reading Difficulty in Children - How to Recognize the Signs
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How to recognize reading disabilities

What are some of the flags of reading difficulties? Number one, there is most likely a family history of reading problems. Perhaps you, your spouse, partner, grandparents – someone along your family lines had difficultes with reading. Second, some of these children have problems saying their first words, they may say fewer than 50 words by the time they’re two. And they may have difficulties using two word combinations – we call that phrases. These children will have difficulty reciting nursery rhymes. You’ll think, “Why is my child having such problems recalling the names of letters?” They’ll even forget the alphabet. The children in kindergarten will have real problems understanding that words can be broken apart and even put together again. They’ll have trouble manipulating the sounds, or what we call phonemes, in a word. They’re going to feel teary… you’re going to see tears and crying when they’re in grades one, two. They’ll look at John next to them and say, “Gee, he’s reading already. I’m not feeling good. I can’t read. I feel stupid.” As a matter of fact, the children call themselves stupid at that age. As time goes on without an intervention, they’ll leg behind and they’ll get further behind in their courses. They’ll have trouble writing. They’ll have trouble reading. If you hear them read, they’ll substitute words, add words. Their words will be choppy and it’ll be very painful to hear them read. They will not like to read. They will not pick up a book for pleasure. So these are some of the things that you will see in a child with reading difficulties. So as you can see, you need to get help for your child as early as possible. Please, get help for your child when they’re in kindergarten grade 1 – early intervention is everything.

Neuropsychologist Karen Schilts, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to recognize the early signs that your child may have a reading difficulty


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Karen Schiltz, PhD


Dr. Schiltz is a clinical psychologist, licensed in the state of California. From 1985-1987, she completed a post-doctoral residency in clinical neuropsychology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. She received her doctoral degree in psychology in 1984 from the American Psychological Association accredited California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. Dr. Schiltz has conducted a private practice specializing in the clinical and forensic neuropsychological assessment of children, adolescents, and young adults since 1988. She has held an appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, since July of 2004. She also held an appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor within the same department from September 1993 to July of 2004. Dr. Schiltz has been a clinical supervisor within that department since August 1993 to the present time. Her faculty duties at UCLA include lecture presentations in the field of pediatric neuropsychological assessment, attentional disorders, accommodation assessment guidelines, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Dr. Schiltz has written numerous articles on regulation and selective neurobehavioral disorders. In her 24 years of clinical work with children, adolescents, and young adults, she has emphasized the critical importance of integrating neuropsychological assessment findings to the application of accommodations to the classroom and home environments in a “user-friendly” manner. Dr. Schiltz supports a comprehensive team approach in the assessment and remediation of children who struggle with cognitive, learning, behavioral, social, and emotional difficulties. She sees a variety of students who are referred subsequent to or in the process of being diagnosed with a suspected learning disorder, attentional and concentrational compromises, suspected social communication disorder, memory disorder, neurotoxin exposure, scuba diving illnesses, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injury, cognitive changes due to medical illness or surgery, substance abuse disorder, pervasive developmental disorders, high cognitive ability profiles, among other neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions. Her experience has come from assessing children and working on intervention teams both in the hospital units as well as university and private-practice based settings. In addition to her private practice and academic supervisory duties, Dr. Schiltz has written, co-written, and/or presented over 81 papers, manuscripts, and publications. Her book, Beyond the Label, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The book, along with coauthors Amy M. Schonfeld and Tara Niendam, helps parents and educators recognize the warning signs that may indicate a potential problem with a child and explain how to find the best help. Throughout the book, the authors stress that by focusing on behaviors and not labels, parents will be able to better understand the whats, whys, and hows of a child's learning and emotional challenges.

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