Dyslexia (pronounced: dis-lek-see-uh) is a condition where intelligent children have problems with reading and writing. The mysteries of reading and writing do not magically and naturally unfold before these kids even if they show normal intelligence in other areas. It affects 1 in 5 children and is estimated to be 80% of all learning disabilities. Even if a kid starts out fine in school he may develop this problem as reading and writing in school become important.
Why should I be aware of this?
In the 1920s dyslexia was described as “word blindness” and was blamed for letter and word reversal. But, according to recent research, dyslexics are unable to hear or break words into individual sounds, blend them together, or manipulate them.
Among dyslexics there is often a marked difference between achievement and aptitude. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses. Many possess unusual talents in art, athletics, architecture, graphics, drama, music, or engineering.
All about Dyslexia
Most dyslexics have common characteristics which are:
- Difficulty in identification of words
- Difficulty in understanding sounds in words, sound order, or rhymes
- Inability to retain meaning
- Overlooking language details, specially punctuation marks
- Spelling problems
- Transposing letters in words
- Handwriting problems
- Inability to comprehend reading
- Delay in learning spoken language
- Left and right hand confusion
- Confusion with opposites
- Difficulty in learning math concepts
Diagnosis can be difficult
Diagnosis can be difficult as no two cases are identical. It is common to view dyslexia as a developmental condition and dismiss the symptoms. If dyslexia is neglected and not diagnosed early, kids may become more and more frustrated as they get left behind in schools.
One doesn’t outgrow dyslexia. Some have milder forms. For others it takes lots of extra effort and hard work to turn things around.
Researching the brain for cause
With recent advances in brain-scanning, a lot of research has been carried out examining the brains of dyslexic people. With brain-imaging technology, researchers are able to identify the root cause of dyslexia. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain imaging techniques are used to study activities in the brain in real-time while it performs specific tasks.
During brain development in the fetus bunches of cells beneath the surface of the brain, known as ‘ectopic’ cells, move up to the surface and occupy the left and front of the brain. These positions are important for reading and writing. In dyslexic children these cells fail to make the journey. Apart from this, another area of the brain, known as the magno-cellular system, is smaller in the brains of dyslexic people, reducing their ability to see moving images. As this reduces the brain’s ability to quickly interpret the different letters and words seen by the eye, reading becomes that much more difficult.
While non-dyslexic children use the left side of their brain for language work, dyslexic children use both sides. As the right side of the brain is not wired to language work, dyslexic children and adults have to put in six times more effort to learn the same thing.
Intervention in brain pathways
Brain pathways are most active in early readers. Intervention in these pathways is possible to create new neural pathways in areas where they were weak or nonexistent. It is thus possible to rewire a dyslexic’s brains to make him respond like a non-dyslexic.
Early intervention can set things right and make children follow the same development pattern of their peers. It is not wise to wait and see if things will improve on their own as this may put children further behind.
Systematic teaching of phonics to ensure a clear understanding of how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes) and spelling, is required as part of the intervention program. This program is to be integrated with opportunities for writing, reading, and discussing literature to improve phonemic awareness and the ability to manipulate speech sounds.
Learning strategies like Multisensory teaching approach can help a child to learn through more than one of the senses and make a huge difference. Phonics Based Reading Intervention teaches how to attach speech sounds to letters and then use the speech sounds plus a blending strategy to sound out words.
Dyslexia among adults
Those who don’t receive treatment in childhood will grow up as adults with dyslexia. According to the International Dyslexia Association the following are the common symptoms of dyslexia in adults:
- Tendency to hide reading and writing problems
- Poor spelling
- Lacking skill in time management
- Depend more on memory than on reading and writing
- The job he hold is well below his ability
What can I do?
Dyslexia is not brought about by poor parenting, though it is frequently found in families, and is often accompanied by left-handedness somewhere in the family. However, it cannot be generalized that dyslexic parents or left handed parents will automatically have dyslexic children.
What dyslexic children need most are empathetic parents and teachers and supportive friends. It is important to understand that they are not lazy or stupid and that they are trying their best. Appreciate their strengths, be it in sports, art or whatever.
The present schooling systems extend various exemptions and provisions to help the dyslexic child compete on an equal footing. They are given more time to complete the work and as long as the content is correct marks are not deducted for spelling errors. He may be allowed to use a calculator if he has dyscalculia (i.e. difficulty with computations), or a writer if he has dysgraphia (i.e. difficulty with writing). Most colleges too make special accommodations for students with dyslexia.
Great artists like Michelangelo and Rodin, scientists like Einstein and Edison; great orators like President Roosevelt and General Patton, and even entertainers like Tom Cruise and Cher were supposed to be dyslexic. As can be seen they all excelled in areas that did not involve the "written word" to a great extent. They were all able to make the best of their skills and overcome their dyslexic problems to shine in their chosen fields What dyslexic children lack is compensated in their strengths in other areas. Their struggle is often offset by amazing creativity. Their major areas of strength are:
- physical co-ordination, and
- empathy with others
There are numerous instances of creative and imaginative drawings in school by dyslexic children. Sports, games, swimming, skate-boarding and other activities which require the physical co-ordination are areas where they are found to perform better than many non-dyslexic children.
- Brain abnormalities in English-speakers with dyslexia are quite different from those in people who speak Chinese.
- Some people with dyslexia find it easier to read if they have glasses with coloured lenses (perhaps pink or brown). It seems that using these lenses stops the feeling that the letters are moving all over the page.
- Dyslexia can affect as many as one in 20 people
- Diagnosis can be difficult as no two cases are identical.
- Great artists like Michelangelo and Rodin, scientists like Einstein and Edison; great orators like President Roosevelt and General Patton, and even entertainers like Tom Cruise and Cher were supposed to be dyslexic.
- Dyslexia: More Common Than Just Mixed Up Letters
- What causes dyxlesia?
- Dyslexia in Adults
Dyslexic is a website full of information, inspiration, advice, support and products all relating to dyslexia. See their Product catalogue. For details refer to A Parent’s Guide to Dyslexia