Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the way your brain processes information. It can make reading, spelling and writing hard, even for those who are intelligent and have never had trouble. Sadly, trouble reading and processing language can lead to low self-confidence and high anxiety levels.
There are many misconceptions about dyslexia. It’s not caused by vision problems or low intelligence, and it’s not something that disappears over time, though there are ways to cope with it. We have compiled a comprehensive outline of dyslexia based on our experience with dyslexic students.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that primarily affects the ability to read, despite average intelligence and adequate education. It’s estimated that dyslexia affects around 10% of people worldwide; however, it can be hard to identify, and the severity can vary. A lack of motivation or effort does not cause dyslexia, nor can it be cured by spending more time on homework assignments or practising reading skills. It also doesn’t mean those with the condition aren’t intelligent; those with dyslexia can have above-average intelligence levels. Instead, researchers think that dyslexia may be caused by differences in brain structure and function, with evidence showing that it is genetic.
Dyslexia was first described in 1881 by German physician Oswald Berkhan; however, it wasn’t until much later that researchers began studying commonalities among people with dyslexia. Today we know that there are many different types of dyslexia, but all share specific characteristics:
Phonological dyslexia: Also known as dysphonetic or auditory dyslexia, is a condition where individuals struggle to process the sounds of individual letters and syllables, making it difficult to match them with their written forms.
Surface dyslexia: Also known as dyseidetic or visual dyslexia, it is characterised by the struggle to recognise entire words. This difficulty may stem from visual or visual processing challenges in the brain. Individuals with surface dyslexia may benefit from assistance learning and memorising words due to their problem identifying them.
Rapid naming deficit: When someone has difficulty quickly and automatically naming letters, numbers, colours, or objects. This is due to a low processing speed, which causes them to take longer to name these things. They may require assistance to improve their naming abilities.
Double deficit dyslexia: This is a condition where an individual exhibits weaknesses in phonological processing and naming speed. This type of dyslexia is commonly observed among the weakest readers.
Students with dyslexia are often identified and assessed later in their school careers. Early identification and assessment are critical to ensuring that children receive appropriate support in and out of the classroom. Early warning signs include:
To formally identify dyslexia, a diagnostic assessment is necessary. These assessments are conducted by experienced specialist teachers and psychologists knowledgeable in dyslexia.
An individualised education plan (IEP) is a written document that outlines specific goals and services for a student with a disability. An experienced tutor or coach creates these plans. They can include the parent/guardian of the child, teachers and school staff members who work with the child on an ongoing basis, and other professionals such as speech therapists or psychologists. The goal of an IEP is to provide students with disabilities with access to curricular content in their regular classroom environment at their own pace while maximising their strengths so they can be successful academically and socially.
We have a few ideas that are shown to help students with dyslexia:
Assistive technology is an essential tool for students with dyslexia. They can help students with learning disabilities access education and communicate more effectively. There are many types of assistive technologies available, including:
Multisensory teaching methods use multiple senses to help students learn. These methods can be used to teach all students, but they accommodate those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities.
The most common way that multisensory instruction is used in classrooms is through visuals, such as charts and graphs, that illustrate concepts visually instead of just verbally describing them, as most teachers do. This allows students with dyslexia who struggle with written language comprehension (or any other disability) to see what the teacher is trying to teach them and make connections between words or numbers rather than having those things told aloud by someone else.
Impaired phonological awareness is a common trait of dyslexia. Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds in language. It’s a critical skill for reading success and can be taught at all ages. Even if you’ve struggled with dyslexia as a child, you can still build phonological awareness skills through specialised instruction and practice.
When we learn to read, our brains process information from letters on a page into words. Phonological awareness helps us do this because it gives us an understanding of how words are made up of different sounds (phonemes). Listening to audiobooks and podcasts is an excellent way to build this skill.
There are some ways to support children with dyslexia in the classroom. Asking children to write daily will help them develop their writing and spelling skills and build confidence.
Students with dyslexia are at risk for social and emotional challenges. They may experience bullying, frustration with their learning, and feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress. Teachers can help students by creating an environment in which everyone feels accepted.
We hope this article has helped you understand what dyslexia is, how it affects people and how we can support them. If you’re interested in learning more about how to help someone with dyslexia, check out our free resources on our website!