What is dyslexia?

Children and adults who have difficulties reading and writing are often said to have “dyslexia” but what does this mean and what can help?

The following is the definition of dyslexia adopted by the Research Committee of the International Dyslexia Association in August 2002:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterised 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. Secondary problems may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Difficulties with word recognition can result in difficulty recognising common sight words. This means that reading may be slow, inaccurate and lack fluency. Slow, inaccurate reading means that it is harder to understand what is read. Poor decoding abilities relate to a difficulty breaking down written words into sounds and blending those sounds to “decode” the written word into a spoken word. This means that as well as having difficulty with recognising whole words by memory, people with dyslexia may also have difficulty reading using a sound by sound approach. These two difficulties can also have an impact on writing and spelling.

Difficulty with the “phonological component of language” refers to a difficulty understanding the way sounds are organised to form spoken words. This then impacts on the ability to understand the way letters are organised to form written words. Dyslexia is therefore considered to be a language based difficulty. Students with dylexia may have other language problems such as poor comprehension, reduced vocabulary and difficulties with grammar and these can also effect reading and writing skills. As children get older much of their language learning comes though reading. As people with dyslexia tend to read less often, read less complex texts and have difficulty understanding what they read this can slow their langauge development.

Each student with dyslexia is different. Because dyslexia has a language base, a detailed assessment of language and phonological awareness skills is recommended in order to determine the patterns of strengths and weaknesses. This then allows planning of an intervention program to target a student’s individual needs and to recommend support strategies for use at school.

Children with dyslexia may show the following:

• Reading, spelling and/or writing below their age or grade level and general intelligence

• Difficulty hearing beginning and ending sounds, rhyme and syllables

• Difficulty learning the sounds associated with letters

• Difficulty blending sounds together when reading

• Difficulty breaking words into sounds when writing and spelling

• Difficulty reading and writing basic sight words

• Reading is slow and effortful

• Difficulty understanding and remembering what is read

• Difficulty with grammar, sentence construction and punctuation

• Difficulty with organisation and time management

Common questions:

If my child has trouble reading do they have dyslexia? Dyslexia is only one cause of reading problems. Reading problems can also be caused by language delays and disorders, intellectual disability or developmental delay, hearing and vision problems, emotional diffiuclties and lack of apprpriate teaching and experience. Assessment of your child’s hearing and vision is recommended to eliminate these as possible causes. If there is a concern about overall development and learning an intellectual assessment with a child psychologist is recommended.

Is there a cure for dyslexia? There is no “miracle cure”. Research suggests that the most ongoing benefit is gained from a phonics based literacy program that is structured and works through a logical sequence.

How can a speech pathologist help? Speech pathologists can provide a detailed assessment of language, literacy and phonological awareness skills and provide individualised support to develop the needed skills. They can also recommend strategies for supporting the student in the classroom.

For more information about how a speech pathologist can help your child with literacy check Our website.

Ref: http://www.speld-sa.org.au

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