Friday, September 25, 2009

Understanding Dyslexia 101

Dyslexia is a condition where the brain is unable to process the symbol of language. It does not stem from intellect as individuals with average to above average intelligence can be dyslexic. Reading, writing, spelling and organizational skills are most likely impacted. The causes of Dyslexia are theorized to be genetic in nature. Dyslexia does not however, result from emotional, socio-economic, cultural or physical deprivation. However, children from these types of situations may be Dyslexic.

Reading requires the coordination of three systems: Visual processing to see the word (impacts orthography skills), auditory processing to hear the word (impacts phonology skills), and semantic processing to understand the word (Sousa, 2001).

Strong orthographic skills are required to recognize the visual shape and "form" of the letters and order of letters in words. This then allows for your child to understand the word's meaning automatically.

For example, if you read reign and rain side-by-side, your child would recognize two words that "sound" the same. Phonological approaches won't help much in this case. Your child must rely on visual and orthographic approach to be able to correctly read and understand the meaning of the words.

Good phonological skills are needed so the reader is able to sound out unfamiliar words based on sound-code (letter) conversion rules (Stein, 2001). Your child, with good decoding phonological skills, can sound out the following word pretty easily. electroencephalograph

According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Dyslexia is a disorder that includes poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency, and spelling. Children with dyslexia may have impaired orthographic and phonological coding and rapid automatic naming and switching.

Some characteristics of Dyslexia may present in the following categories:

Reading is not fluent and the reader with dyslexia may often substitute or guess at the words that look alike. The reader may leave out little words like "of" "the"; syllables may be reversed so the word pancake is read “cakepan”; the reader may not be able to "decode" even the easiest decodable words such as "hat."

Spelling is poor where you see the alphabet being written in improper sequence, words are written with missing letters, unable to copy prewritten text easily, difficulty spelling correctly due to poor phonological skills (letter-code associations).

Sometimes you will see a child with outstanding spelling grades per spelling tests. However, when the same child is asked to write a paper, their spelling is very poor. Reversals show up in spelling frequently. For example, “Brain” for “Brian” where the middle vowels are switched.

Some theories point vision issues are to blame for letter reversals and transposing of letters. Specifically, theories point to where the child with dyslexia in unable to keep their vision "still.” Developmental Optometrists refer to this as Binocular Fixation. Where a child with Dyslexia has weak Binocular Fixation, their eyes will not remain steady during the filtering of the data from a printed source. As a result, they pick up on the letters before and after the letter being read causing overlap and at times transposing them altogether.

Language difficulty when speaking and trying to "find" the right word. Often, you will see children's eyes looking upward as if they are "searching" for the correct word in sky. They know exactly what the correct answer/explanation is but struggle greatly in finding and recalling the appropriate word/language to speak or write about it appropriately.

Directionality is often poor to the point that children confuse left/right and need prompting to remind them which is which. This comes into play sometimes with directionality of letter creation and you can see the mix up of the written letters with "b" as "d".

Poor Coordination is seen when a child with dyslexia can be lost in a familiar setting, has no sense of time, may have difficulty going down stairs, may misstep and bump into things frequently, cannot seem to organize items and may be hyperactive to compensate.

If your child presents with some of the above symptoms, it does not mean they have Dyslexia. Dyslexia does not go away per se with instructional assistance. Meaning, if your child has a reading difficulty, instruction is provided in their area of weakness and your child shows improvement, then most likely your child does not have Dyslexia. Your child may, however, have weak reading skills that need to be strengthened.

Dyslexia is neurological in nature and is a distinct way of processing language in the brain (Sousa, 2001). Your child would need to have a neuropsychological evaluation to officially determine diagnosis. Children with Dyslexia can learn to read, write and spell with intensive approaches. Research supporting the brain's ability to change has determined success using both computer based and 1-1 in person approaches providing for improvement in brain dysfunction in Dyslexia (Cornell University, 2009).

The good news is that Enhanced Learning Skills for Kids can help your child by first assessing cognitive abilities required for learning and reading. Next, any weaknesses are strengthened including auditory, visual and phonological processing. Your child’s foundational cognitive skills are strengthened allowing for success in reading and learning. Take advantage of our back-to-school special and assess your child online for only $19.97.


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