Dyslexia
Identifying Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a cognitive deficiency in phonological awareness and word identification which is required for
successful reading.  Phonological awareness refers to understanding that the letters of the alphabet correspond to
certain sounds and, combined in certain patterns, form meaningful words. Due to this deficit, those with dyslexia
cannot keep up with the information that is flowing from their eyes to the brain and words and sentences quickly
get mixed up making no sense to the reader.  This neurological disorder arises from a weakness in the processing
of language-based information; which causes the brain to process and interpret data differently. Dyslexia is a
biological condition which affects a wide range of people, producing different symptoms and varying degrees of
severity. It occurs despite normal or high intelligence, dyslexia breaks down the relationship between reading and
intelligence.

Individuals with dyslexia have a lower than expected reading capacity where letters are scrambled, words are
blurred making reading difficult, if not impossible. Studies have also shown that people with dyslexia have a deficit
in neural functioning.

Common difficulties include:

• Learning to read, write and spell

• Short-term memory impairment

• Mathematics

• Concentration

• Organization thoughts

• Sequencing

Dyslexia is not the result of poor motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or lack of opportunities,
but it may occur alongside any of these. Dyslexia can also make it difficult for people to express themselves
clearly. It can be challenging for them to use vocabulary and to structure their thoughts during conversation.
Others struggle to understand when people speak to them, not because they can’t hear, but because of their
difficulty processing verbal information. The primary contributing factor to dyslexia is an auditory language
deficit. This is particularly true with abstract thoughts and non-literal language, such as hypothetical expressions,
jokes and phrases.

Early Signs of Dyslexia

A child will become aware of movement, sound, taste, smell and sight, and connect these senses with memory
and comprehension. It is combining these senses and developing an awareness of the world that will allow the
child to learn and eventually to read and write.

Some dyslexic children have behavior problems; these usually improve when the right kind of teaching for reading,
writing, spelling and math is provided. A full assessment of children before the age of seven is difficult, except in
obvious cases, or where there are similar problems in other members of the family.

Some traits you may observe at an early age are:

• Bright in some ways with a block in others.

• Unable to remember two or more instructions in sequence.

• Uncertain of left or right.

• Difficulty in dressing. (Ex. Clothes, handling laces and buttons).

• Confusing names of objects.

• Finding it difficult to remember nursery rhymes.

• Learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week-basic sequential information.

• Late in talking or speaking clearly.

Abilities

People with dyslexia are unique; each having individuals strengths and weaknesses. Many are creative and have
unusual talent in areas such as art, athletics, architecture, graphics, electronics, mechanics, drama, music, or
engineering. Those with dyslexia often show special talent in areas that require visual, spatial, and motor
integration.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of dyslexia usually begins with awareness by parents or teachers that a problem in reading exists. A
physician is often the first to explore the nature of difficulty. The medical practitioner should investigate the cause
of the reading problem by conducting a complete physical examination and obtaining a comprehensive health
history. If indicated, the child should be referred for a neurological examination. If dyslexia is suspected, the
physician should refer the child for further evaluation and treatment by a specialist in the special education field.
The major purpose of the diagnostic process is to isolate the specific difficulties associated with dyslexia and to
suggest appropriate educational intervention. Usually the specialist will conduct a number of assessments that
explore the relationship of specific reading problems to the intellectual, achievement, perceptual, motor, linguistic,
and adaptive capabilities of the individual. Based on the results, an intervention plan can be implemented by a
special educator or remedial reading teacher trained in specialized reading techniques.

Treatment

Treatment for dyslexia centers on highly structured, explicit lessons that teach children how letters sound and
words work together.  Once the child understands that words are composed of sounds, they will start to learn
basic phonic rules and applications. If a dyslexic child is unable to use these lessons to decode single words, they
will have difficulty in reading comprehension and written expression.

Recognizing dyslexia early in life is a key factor in how much the learning disability will affect a person’s
development. With help from a tutor, teacher, speech therapist and other professionals, almost all people with
dyslexia can become good readers and writers.

Incorporating the following strategies into the learning process can help overcome the difficulties of dyslexia:

• Early exposure to oral reading, writing, and drawing.
• Knowledge of basic letter formation, recognition skills and linguistic awareness (relationship between sound and
meaning).

• Practice reading different texts types (e.g., books or magazines).

• Multi-sensory, structured language instruction and practice using sight sound and touch when introducing new
ideas.

• Modifying classroom procedures to allow for extra time to complete assignments, help with note-taking, oral
testing and/or other means of assessment.

• Using books-on-tapes and assisting technology such as screen readers and voice recognition computer-software.

Teaching Methods

Reading and writing are fundamental skills for daily living. Like all people, those with dyslexia enjoy activities that
tap into their strengths and interest.

The child will need an appropriate amount of special teaching to overcome dyslexia depending on how severely it
has affected their learning. Students need a structured multi-sensory method for teaching different ways of
learning. This means using as many senses as possible at a time to make learning easier. Some examples are
looking, listening, saying and doing, in this way strong channels of learning are used and weaker but essential ones
are built up. A new sound is listened to and then spoken; the letters representing a word are looked at and written
down.

Phonological training is teaching reading ability by grouping words according to their sounds.
The treatment of phonological teaching has a positive influence on early reading skills and developmental spelling.
It teaches children recognition of letter names and letter sounds in speech. It is believed children who understand
that words can be segmented into sounds tend to be better readers than those children with poor phonological
awareness skills. Early identification of students with poor phonological awareness will help in the prevention of
reading problems.

For more information on this method:
The Phonological Handbook for Kindergarten and Grade School
http://www.people.virginia.edu
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