How to tell if your child has a reading disorder

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PHOENIX -- A growing number of children diagnosed with dyslexia has increased demand for services offered at the Arizona Literacy and Learning Center.

For second grader Maria Shannon, her disorder means relearning the alphabet.

"She came in with some weaknesses in putting words together and taking sounds apart in words," said her reading therapist, Sherry Holton.

Holton says it's a common problem with children diagnosed with dyslexia and something mother Lisa Groth noticed in both Maria and her brother, RW, early on.

"As soon as mid-December, for both of them, in kindergarten they both just started to go down and I didn't know why," Groth said. "I was seriously depressed because it seemed like every where I went, brick wall, brick wall, brick wall."

It wasn't until just a few months ago that she finally got the help she needed at ALLC.

"They saved us, they really saved us," she said. "They are giving my kids another shot. When my daughter started, she could read about 33 words per minute. Mow she can do about 102 words per minute. I mean it's dramatic, the change."

Maria is not alone. Jalil Mohammad, also a second grader, is facing a similar struggle.

"I would teach him and he'd seem to forget," said his mother Linette Keita. "Or now he's looking at a letter and can't recognize it."   

In addition to dyslexia, Jalil also struggles with a condition known as auditory processing disorder.

"Before a child can actually put a sound to a symbol, we need to make sure they're hearing the sounds correctly," explained Dr. Julia Lukas of ALLC.

The center specializes in helping children with both conditions.

And even though Jalil has only been coming to the center a few short weeks, his mom says he's made a lot of progress.

"He wants to read books more. He insists on it where before it was, 'Ehh, it's OK,'" said Kieta. "Just to know there's a name for what's happening with my son because I didn't know if I was comparing him to my other son too much or if I was picking on the baby talk, you know, I didn't know where I was."

While both Jalil and Maria are getting the help they need now, both moms say they had to figure out the system on their own.  They are calling for the school districts to do more.

"If they knew and could say, 'Hey you don't qualify for school services, but try this,' It would have cut down on the time I was worried and trying to find out what was wrong."

Groth has some advice for parents with children who are struggling.

"Don't let the schools tell you that nothing's wrong, when something is clearly wrong.  It's much easier to catch this when they are 5 or 6 and have them be helped."

The ALLC is holding a benefit concert later this month.

International recording artist Dennis Rowland and renowned trumpeter/author Dr. Jesse McGuire will lead the Extreme Decibel Big Band for an exceptional evening of music and entertainment at the Jazz It Up for Literacy Benefit. 

The event is scheduled for Sunday March 27, at 5:30 p.m. at the Herberger Theater Center 222 E. Monroe, Phoenix,. Tickets cost $40to $50, and are available at www.herbergertheater.org/jazz_it_literacy.