Hot Topic: Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence. (Susan Barton)

From the International Dyslexia Association:

Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.

Dyslexia is not the result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions.

Although dyslexia is lifelong, individuals with dyslexia frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate intervention.

Warning Signs:

  • Reading and spelling difficulties
  • Handwriting issues (dysgraphia) Low quality written work
  • Directionality issues
  • Problems with sequencing steps in a task
  • Difficulty with rote memory of non-meaningful facts
  • Unable to tell time on a clock with hands
  • Extremely messy bedrooms
  • Math difficulties

(adapted from Bright Solutions)

Myth: Dyslexia is Seeing and Writing Letters Backwards
Many children write letters backwards when they are first learning to write. The letters “b” and “d” are commonly written backwards in young children. In an article that appeared in Today’s Parent, Catherine Penny, professor of psychology at Memorial University, explains that writing letters backwards is not a problem unless your child is showing other learning problems, or if your child is still writing letters backwards after first grade. Children with dyslexia have more difficulty naming letters than copying them.

Myth: Children with Dyslexia are Not Intelligent
Dyslexia does not relate to intelligence at all. Many famous and highly intelligent people have or had dyslexia: Charles Schwab, George Patton, and Albert Einstein. Dyslexia is a language-based disorder. People with dyslexia have difficulty processing the sounds of words and that can reduce the ability to memorize facts or tell time. This, however, is not a reflection on how smart someone may be.

Myth: Children with Dyslexia Can’t Read
Children with dyslexia can learn to read. Many children with mild dyslexia use alternative strategies to help them read. They may guess what they think a word is or skip a word they do not know and use context to help them determine what the word might be. Younger children may use pictures to help them read the words. In addition, using specific programs designed for children with dyslexia, children can learn to read and can continue on to college and lead successful lives.

Myth: Dyslexia is Very Uncommon
The International Dyslexia Foundation states that between 15% and 20% of the population have some type of language based learning disability. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services places the number of people in the United States with dyslexia at 15% of the population.

Myth: Boys have Dyslexia More Often Than Girls
Boys are more often diagnosed with dyslexia. DARC, Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center, indicates that even though boys are more often identified as having dyslexia, that the actual prevalence is the same for both sexes.

What can schools do?

Dyslexia has a tremendous impact on reading, especially the crucial skill of phonemic awareness. Children who lack phonemic awareness are unable to distinguish or manipulate sounds within spoken words or syllables. They would be unable to do the following tasks:

  • Phoneme Segmentation: what sounds do you hear in the word dog? What's the last sound in the word stop?
  • Phoneme Deletion: what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cake?
  • Phoneme Matching: do bead and barn start with the same sound?
  • Phoneme Counting: how many sounds do you hear in the word left?
  • Phoneme Substitution: what word would you have if you changed the /r/ in rat to /c/?
  • Blending: what word would you have if you put these sounds together? /l/ /o/ /g/
  • Rhyming: tell me as many words as you can that rhyme with the word best

A system that incorporates the following will make a huge difference for children with dyslexia.

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phoneme/Grapheme Correspondence
  • Six Types of Syllables
  • Probabilities and Rules
  • Roots and Affixes, as well as Morphology

Teaching these concepts should be done through:

  • Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction
  • Intense Instruction with Ample Practice
  • Direct, Explicit Instruction
  • Systematic and Cumulative