By: Roxanne F. Hudson, Leslie High, and Stephanie Al Otaiba
This article provides a broad overview of Dyslexia and provides a great deal of information on how the brain and dyslexia are linked. It also provides recommendations for teachers and parents on how to best support their child.
Please click on the link for the full article – LDonline article link
Here is an excerpt from the article:
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is an often-misunderstood, confusing term for reading problems. The word dyslexia is made up of two different parts: dys meaning not or difficult, and lexia meaning words, reading, or language. So quite literally, dyslexia means difficulty with words (Catts & Kamhi, 2005).
Despite the many confusions and misunderstandings, the term dyslexia is commonly used by medical personnel, researchers, and clinicians. One of the most common misunderstandings about this condition is that dyslexia is a problem of letter or word reversals (b/d, was/saw) or of letters, words, or sentences “dancing around” on the page (Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Seidenberg, 2001).
In fact, writing and reading letters and words backwards are common in the early stages of learning to read and write among average and dyslexic children alike, and the presence of reversals may or may not indicate an underlying reading problem. See Table 1 for explanations of this and other common misunderstandings.
One of the most complete definitions of dyslexia comes from over 20 years of research:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. (Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003, p. 2)
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability in reading that often affects spelling as well. In fact, reading disability is the most widely known and most carefully studied of the learning disabilities, affecting 80% of all those designated as learning disabled. Because of this, we will use the terms dyslexia and reading disabilities (RD) interchangeably in this article to describe the students of interest.
It is neurobiological in origin, meaning that the problem is located physically in the brain. Dyslexia is not caused by poverty, developmental delay, speech or hearing impairments, or learning a second language, although those conditions may put a child more at risk for developing a reading disability (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
Children with dyslexia will often show two obvious difficulties when asked to read text at their grade level. First, they will not be able to read as many of the words in a text by sight as average readers. There will be many words on which they stumble, guess at, or attempt to “sound out.” This is the problem with “fluent word recognition” identified in the previous definition.
Second, they will often show decoding difficulties, meaning that their attempts to identify words they do not know will produce many errors. They will not be very accurate in using letter-sound relationships in combination with context to identify unknown words.
These problems in word recognition are due to an underlying deficit in the sound component of language that makes it very difficult for readers to connect letters and sounds in order to decode. People with dyslexia often have trouble comprehending what they read because of the great difficulty they experience in accessing the printed words.
Recommendations for teachers
What does all of this information mean for school personnel and their students? Once teachers understand the underlying processes and causes of reading disabilities, they can use this information as they work with students and their families. The following are specific recommendations based on the neurological research:
- Adequate assessment of language processing is important in determining why students struggle to learn to read.
Dyslexia, or reading disability, is a disorder of the language processing systems in the brain. Specific information about exactly what sorts of weaknesses are present is needed in order to determine the appropriate instruction to meet each student’s needs.
- Imaging research confirms that simple tasks can more reliably be interpreted as “red flags” suggesting that a young child may be at risk for dyslexia.
It is vital to begin using screening and progress monitoring procedures early on to measure children’s understanding of sounds in speech, letter sounds in words, and fluent word recognition. Using such assessment in an ongoing way throughout a child’s school career can help teachers know what skills to teach and whether a child is developing these skills.
- Explicit, intense, systematic instruction in the sound structure of language (phonemic awareness) and in how sounds relate to letters (phonics) is needed for readers with dyslexia.
Imaging research confirmed that instruction in the alphabetic principle caused distinct differences in brain activation patterns in the students with RD (Shaywitz et al., 2004). Keep in mind that the intervention was explicit, intense, long term, and specifically focused on phonological processing, phonics, and fluency.
- The roles of motivation and fear of failing are important when discussing reading problems.
Students do not struggle simply because they are not trying hard enough. They may have a brain difference that requires them to be taught in a more intense fashion than their peers. Without intense intervention, low motivation may develop as students try to avoid a difficult and painful task.
- School personnel can use their knowledge of the neurological characteristics and basis of dyslexia to help their students understand their strengths and weaknesses around reading and language.
Understanding a possible reason why they find something difficult that no one else seems to struggle with may help relieve some of the mystery and negative feelings that many people with a disability feel. Sharing our knowledge of brain research may demystify dyslexia and help students and their parents realize that language processing is only one of many talents that they have and that they are not “stupid,” they simply process language differently than their peers.
Recommendations for parents
The identification of a child with dyslexia is a difficult time for parents and teachers. We suggest that teachers can help parents learn more about their child’s difficulty in the following ways:
- Teachers can share information about the student’s specific areas of weakness and strength and help parents realize the underlying causes of their child’s difficulty.
This conversation can also include information about how to help their child use areas of strength to support areas of weakness.
- It is critical to help parents get clear about what dyslexia is and is not.
Sharing the common misconceptions and the correct information found in Table 1 with parents may help clear up any confusion that may exist.
- Early intervention with intense, explicit instruction is critical for helping students avoid the lifelong consequences of poor reading.
Engaging parents early in the process of identifying what programs and services are best for their child will ensure greater levels of success and cooperation between home and school.
- There are many organizations devoted to supporting individuals with RD and their families.
Accessing the knowledge, support, and advocacy of these organizations is critical for many families. A list of several large organizations to share with parents can be found in Table 3.
- Finally, teachers can often best help families by simply listening to the parents and their concerns for their children.
Understanding a disability label and what that means for the future of their child is a very emotional process for parents and many times teachers can help by providing a sympathetic ear as well as information.