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Reading disability in children

The Journal of Pediatrics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0022-3476(62)80062-6
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


Summary The “typical” child with a reading disorderis a boy (males predominate 4:1), in the third or fourth grade, of average or superior intelligence, who may, incidentally, also be having difficulty with arithmetic. Such a child usually displays a tendency to be anxious, hyperactive, distractible, and given to excessive daydreaming, fearfulness, or depressive trends in the classroom. Usually the child with reading difficulty has had no preprimary training, is under 6 years of age at the time of entrance into school, and has probably had some unfortunate school experiences. The child may have distinterested parents, or parents who are extremely demanding and place undue pressure on him to do well, thereby accentuating his failure. The parents may themselves be disturbed or suffering marital unhappiness. The child's relationship with his mother may have been disturbed, and his early curiosity about sex and babies may have been poorly handled. These early experiences may well cause the child to suppress his natural curiosity which is needed to succeed in reading. Sibling rivalry may also have been encouraged, resulting in the development of an inferiority complex, and in withdrawal from the competition of learning through fear of failure. It appears clear that any number of personalityand situational factors can precipitate school failure, particularly in reading. It is imperative that all possible contributing factors be uncovered early and be resolved before remedial reading is undertaken. In approaching a child with a reading disability, a systematic examination must be carried out 11: 1. Complete personal, family, social, andschool histories must be taken and correlated. 2. Complete physical examination, includingvisual, auditory, and neurological testing, must be done. 3. Complete psychological testing must be undertaken, including determination of intelligence quotient; Thematic Apperception tests, Rorschach and other specialized tests, such as laterality tests, human figure drawing, etc., may be required to point up specific defects. A general impression gleaned from these tests by a psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary. However, mistakes can be made if one tries to be too scientific, and care must be exercised in the interpretation of all these tests. 4. School testing with many differentreading tests, including word recognition, visual and auditory discrimination, spelling inventory, and associative learning should be done. Once an impression of the child's abilityhas been reached, the situational factors which may be operative must be resolved. The family's faulty attitude toward the pupil may be modified through the help of a teacher, social worker, or physician, or, ideally, by all three working as a team. The reduction of pressure and sibling rivalry and the patient answering of the child's questions may ease the situation. All this takes time, and the continuance of understanding must be stressed. A patient, sympathetic teacher who understands that the child is disturbed can best decrease his anxiety about reading, and can promote better attention and increased interest in learning. When these factors have been resolved, remedial reading to aid the child in “catching up” with his class is in order.

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