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Recognizing dyslexia at an early age helps ensure children won't fall behind in school

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Jan 06, 2022

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Every parent has dreams for their infant child as soon as they leave the womb. But what happens when your child is struggling in school?

How difficult is it to navigate if your child has special needs or is dyslexic?

One of the most heart-wrenching times for a parent is when you realize your child is struggling in school.

“It is challenging there have been many nights where we've sat at the kitchen table and we've all cried trying to help her,” Jeff Shtogrin said.

For the parents of Katelyn Shtogrin, who is now 14 and loves basketball and is extremely creative with her artwork, they knew early on something wasn't quite right.

“When did you realize Katelyn had dyslexia,” WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked.

“We had suspicions when she was in kindergarten,” Shtogrin said.

One in five students across America is dyslexic, but many go undiagnosed and struggle through school.

“Do you remember struggling with reading or pronouncing words or you had no idea?” Clifford asked 14-year-old Katelyn.

“Yes, I do remember it. I just remember always struggling but trying to get through it,” Katelyn said.

For Katelyn, her parents began monitoring her progress and by second grade, it was confirmed she was dyslexic.

“If you suspect your child has a problem, especially right now, and you suspect it might be dyslexia, what can a parent do? Clifford asked.

First thing we recommend is to talk to your child's teacher,” said Dr. Stephani Hines.

Hines is the Medical Director at the Center for Human Development at Beaumont Children's Hospital. For 25 years she's been working with dyslexic children, teens and adults by testing, tutoring and monitoring their progress. She tested Katelyn.

Are there classic warning signs that a parent needs to worry about?” Clifford asked.

“Right starting off in preschool actually, there are some warning signs,” Hines said.

The biggest one: A history of speech and language delays or a child needs speech therapy for articulation. Also, slow when learning your name in print, your address and phone number.

“Learning the names of shapes and colors followed by letters of the alphabet and numbers,” Hines said.

Hines says these are all considered early pre-academic skills, but for children in districts where families struggle financially, especially the city of Detroit, students often fall through the cracks. Getting a medical diagnosis of dyslexia can cost $3,000 out of pocket with no insurance and Medicaid is usually not accepted for testing.

“Here at Beaumont, we do have scholarship money available, and we do have patient financial assistance,” Hines said.

Parents must fill out paperwork and provide financial information to qualify.

Medical testing for dyslexia is recommended mid-way through second grade or at age 7-and-a-half to 8 years old.

“Up until that time, there's still developmental maturation going on,” Hines said.

Right now, it's more important than ever for parents to know what their child is struggling with.

“COVID has kind of set us behind because some children and many children are learning in a virtual format, we're seeing what we call the "COVID slide,” Hines said.

Hines says children are behind across America, but what we do not know is if it represents a true learning disability or if it is because of COVID-19. For Katelyn who has gotten tremendous academic support in the Utica school district, knowing her diagnosis early made a huge difference.

“What have you learned through this journey of yours? Clifford asked.

“I've learned that if you just keep pushing through and keep trying your best that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Katelyn said.