Whether your child “can’t read” or “won’t read,” it may be worthwhile to look beyond the usual suspect causes, such as poor eyesight, dyslexia or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder). “Most parents are not aware of the unusual things that can affect kid’s reading ability and motivation,” explains literacy remediation expert Tara Clancy, a New Canaan resident who earned her M.A. in Educational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, over two decades ago. “Neurological research indicates that Pediatric Sleep-Disordered Breathing, known as SDB, is a frequent cause. Twenty-five percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have a sleep breathing disorder.”
The biggest sign of sleep-disordered breathing is noisy breathing — habitual snoring and sleeping with the mouth open. Other signs include crowded teeth (those perfectly aligned baby teeth with no spaces between them may indicate that the new adult teeth will be too crowded), and sometimes the crowded teeth result in an elongated face, changing between the ages of six to nine.
While the most severe form of sleep-disordered breathing is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a number of research studies have demonstrated that even modest pre-clinical levels of Sleep Disordered Breathing may have a detrimental effect on cognition and behavior in children.
If parents see any signs suggesting sleep-disordered behavior, a sleep study is often the next step, but it is important to have a test that detects all levels of sleep disordered breathing, not just the severe form of Sleep Apnea. Even mild forms of SDB are associated with lower neurocognitive functioning and maladaptive behavior, says Clancy, who discovered this through experience with her own children.
To help address these issues, Clancy suggests consulting with a provider who has specialized training in airway issues — the underlying cause of sleep-disordered breathing. This would include osteopathic doctors and holistic dentists.
When seeking a reading evaluation for a struggling reader, she advises parents to choose a reading professional who is knowledgeable about SDB. The right evaluator can make all the difference in uncovering the roots of your child’s reading problem and providing effective solutions.
For more information, call 203-258-3868 or visit NurturingLiteracy.com.