Definition of dyslexia - learning difficulty
Dyslexic child will usually, but not always, have a difficulty with reading. The difficulty could be with fluency or accuracy. The cardinal signs of dyslexia observed in school aged children are an inaccurate and labored approach to decoding, word recognition and text reading. The basic problem in dyslexia is in the way by which the brain translates symbols in to an understandable language.
According to International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is defined as a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Problems faced by a dyslexic child
A dyslexic child may have the following problems:
A dyslexic child may not be able to read fast or they may hesitate over words or make a guess based on the anticipated meaning of the word or through utilizing the visual features of the word. There may also be a difficulty in reading comprehension, but this is not due to lack of understanding, rather a result of the difficulties in fluency and reading.
Spelling difficulties are very common in a dyslexic child. Quite often the word misspelt is a commonly used one. Often the sequence of letters can be jumbled.
Dyslexic child may have problems with expressive writing and their actual handwriting style. Expressive writing is an important element in examinations and the dyslexic student may not perform to his/her real ability. In handwriting, letters may be badly formed with no distinctive style. There may be improper use of capital and lower case letters.
Information processing is related to how one learns a new material. It consists of three stages – input, cognition and output. A dyslexic child may face problem in any one or all the three stages of information processing. The input may be auditory, visual, tactile or kinesthetic modalities. Auditory mode is the weakest mode of learning in a dyslexic child. Unfortunately auditory mode is most commonly used one in schools.
Phonological difficulty is one the common difficulties in dyslexic children. This relates to an awareness of sounds and the characteristics of these sounds in words.
Visual difficulties are also common in dyslexia. This can take the form of visual distortion of letters, blurring, letters merging into each other and missing lines or words when reading. This difficulty may also be noted in numbers, for example in tables and other forms of data such as graphs.
Listening comprehension is robust in dyslexic children. Many children identified as dyslexic during primary grades display difficulties playing rhyming games and learning the names for letters and numbers during the preschool and kindergarten years. Kindergarten assessment of language skills is highly predictive of later reading failure.
Diagnosing dyslexia in children
Dyslexia is a diagnosis of exclusion of many other conditions which may mimic dyslexia. Some of the disorders which may mimic dyslexia are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, central auditory processing deficit, absence seizures and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Family history, teacher/classroom observation and tests for language particularly phonology, reading, spelling and intellectual ability represent a core assessment for the diagnosis of dyslexia in children. Additional tests of mathematics, attention, general memory and general language skills should be done. No single test score is diagnostic of dyslexia.
There are some standard tests available which can be used to as screening tests for dyslexia. These include Dyslexia Screening test (Fawcett and Nicholson 1996), the Bangor Dyslexia Screening test (Miles 1983), the Lucid Assessment System for Schools (Secondary) (LASS), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition (WISC-III), Bender Gestalt Test of Visual Motor Perception, Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language, Test of Auditory Perception (TAPS) and Test of Visual Perception (TVPS).
Bangor dyslexia test
This is a commercially available screening test for dyslexia used in many different countries. The test is divided in to following sections:
- left-right (body parts)
- repeating polysyllabic words
- months forward/reversed
- digits forward/reversed
- b–d confusion
- Familial incidence
Bangor dyslexia test is only a screening test which helps in finding which child is having learning difficulty. It should not be considered as a diagnostic test.
Dealing with learning problems in dyslexic children
Too often dyslexic children are misdiagnosed or simply regarded as stupid, retard or lazy. A dyslexic child’s reaction to such treatment is often poor self esteem, anxiety or depression. These added pressures are not only difficult to overcome, but they may affect the child’s personality for life.
Learning difficulties are lifelong disorders
A multimodal approach is essential while treating a dyslexic child. A multimodal approach should include recommendations for educational strategies, using medications when needed and developing a relationship with the family members in order to discuss the various interventions that are proved to be effective in dyslexia. Reassessment should be done periodically to assess the child’s progress and to determine whether any modifications in the treatment is needed.
Early intervention is very important while dealing with learning problems in a dyslexic child. If it is not recognized and treated early it may lead to increased frustration, poor self esteem, bad behavior and school dropouts. This in turn can affect job prospects and earning.
A complete evaluation of the dyslexic child should be done to find the specific area of disability in that child. There is no complete cure for dyslexia. The treating physician should discuss about the disability of the child not only with the family members but also with the teachers in the school. A special program tailored to address the disability of the child should be planned. If the school does not have any special programs to deal with the learning problems in dyslexic children, then the dyslexic child has to be transferred to special school which has all the facilities and staffs to deal with it.
Some of the specific reading approaches that can be used to deal with the learning problems in dyslexic children are the Slingerland Method, the Orton-Gillingham Method, or Project READ.
There is a significant overlap between dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Up to 40% of dyslexic children have an overlap of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Medications like neurostimulants in these children will make them less impulsive and allow them to get benefited by educational interventions. Piracetam is a medication that is most widely researched to deal with learning problems in dyslexic children.
Dyslexic child may find the academic work highly demanding and tiring. But that should be an excuse to avoid written work. Work should be broken in to appropriate chunks. Rewards should be given for the efforts put the dyslexic child as well as the achievements.