What is Dyslexia? • Before the National Institutes of Health began their research in the 1980's, the only definition of dyslexia was an exclusionary one. If a child's difficulty with reading could not be explained by low intelligence, poor eye sight, poor hearing, inadequate educational opportunities, or any other problem, then the child must be dyslexic. • That definition was not satisfactory to parents, teachers, or researchers. So here are three different definitions in use today.
definition used by the National Institutes of Health • Dyslexia is 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. • 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 consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
causes of dyslexia • Dyslexia is an inherited condition. Researchers have determined that a gene on the short arm of chromosome #6 is responsible for dyslexia. That gene is dominant, making dyslexia highly heritable. It definitely runs in families. • Dyslexia results from a neurological difference; that is, a brain difference. People with dyslexia have a larger right-hemisphere in their brains than those of normal readers. That may be one reason people with dyslexia often have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right-side of the brain, such as artistic, athletic, and mechanical gifts; 3-D visualization ability; musical talent; creative problem solving skills; and intuitive people skills.
In addition to unique brain architecture, people with dyslexia have unusual "wiring". Neurons are found in unusual places in the brain, and are not as neatly ordered as in non-dyslexic brains. In addition to unique brain architecture and unusual wiring, f/MRI studies have shown that people with dyslexia do not use the same part of their brain when reading as other people. Regular readers consistently use the same part of their brain when they read. People with dyslexia do not use that part of their brain, and there appears to be no consistent part used among dyslexic readers. It is therefore assumed that people with dyslexia are not using the most efficient part of their brain when they read. A different part of their brain has taken over that function.
Learning disability • The term 'learning disability' means a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language. It may show up as a problem in listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling or in a person's ability to do math, despite at least average intelligence. • The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or physical handicaps, or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Phonemic Awareness • Quotes from prominent NIH researchers: • "The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure to learn to read." • "Phonemic awareness is more highly related to learning to read . . . than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension." • "Phonemic awareness is the most important core and causal factor separating normal and disabled readers." • NIH research has repeatedly demonstrated that lack of phonemic awareness is the root cause of reading failure. Phonemes are the smallest unit of SPOKEN language, not written language. • Children who lack phonemic awareness are unable to distinguish or manipulate SOUNDS within SPOKEN words or syllables. They would be unable to do the following tasks:
Phoneme Segmentation: what sounds do you hear in the word hot? What's the last sound in the word map? • Phoneme Deletion: what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cat? • Phoneme Matching: do pen and pipe start with the same sound? • Phoneme Counting: how many sounds do you hear in the word cake? • Phoneme Substitution: what word would you have if you changed the /h/ in hot to /p/? • Blending: what word would you have if you put these sounds together? /s/ /a/ /t/
Rhyming: tell me as many words as you can that rhyme with the word eat. • If a child lacks phonemic awareness, they will have difficulty learning the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent in words, as well as applying those letter/sound correspondences to help them "sound out" unknown words. • So children who perform poorly on phonemic awareness tasks via oral language in kindergarten are very likely to experience difficulties acquiring the early word reading skills that provide the foundation for growth of reading ability throughout elementary school. • Phonemic awareness skills can and must be directly and explicitly taught to children who lack this awareness.
Phonological Processing and Phonics • Phonemic awareness must exist or be explicitly and directly taught BEFORE phonics (or phonological) instruction begins. Otherwise, the phonics instruction will not make sense to the dyslexic child. • Phonological processing starts by knowing which speech sounds are represented by which written letters. • The goal of teaching phonics is to make phonological processing fluent and automatic. Phonics teaches how the written letters blend together to produce words, how the sounds of the letters change depending on the letters that surround them, the rules regarding adding suffixes and prefixes, and so on. In other words, phonics teaches students the internal linguistic structure of words.
Myths About Dyslexia • Dyslexia does not exist. • Dyslexia is a "catch all" term. • There is no way to truly diagnose dyslexia. • Many children who experience reading and writing problems in kindergarten through third grade will outgrow those problems. These children are just developmentally delayed. • Repeating a grade will often help children gain skills because it allows them to mature and become developmentally ready to read. • Children outgrow dyslexia. .
Dyslexia is a visual problem. Therefore, vision therapy, eye tracking exercises, and/or colored lenses will solve the problem. • Children with dyslexia see things backwards. • All children who reverse b's and d's or p's and q's have dyslexia. • If a child does not "mirror write" or reverse letters and numbers, he/she does not have dyslexia. • The way to help a child to read is to force him or her to read at least 20 minutes a day. • Dyslexic children will never read well. It is best to teach them to compensate. • If you don't teach a dyslexic child to read by age 12, it is too late. They won't be able to learn to read after age 12.
Symptoms of Dyslexia • No two people with dyslexia are exactly alike. No one will have every single symptom, and the symptoms they do have can range from mild to severe. Clinicians look for a "constellation" or cluster of symptoms in the following areas.
Pre-school and kindergarten warning signs • delayed speech (not speaking any words by the child's first birthday) • mixing up sounds in multi-syllabic words (ex: aminal for animal, mawn lower for lawn mower, bisghetti for spaghetti, flustrated for frustrated) • inability to rhyme by age 4 • lots of allergies or stronger and more severe reactions to childhood illnesses than most other kids • can't master tying shoes • confusion over left versus right, over versus under, before versus after, and other directionality words and concepts • lack of dominant handedness (switches from right hand to left hand between tasks or even while doing the same task) • inability to correctly complete phonemic awareness tasks • difficulty learning the names of the letters or sounds in the alphabet; difficulty writing the alphabet in order
Reading • slow, labored, inaccurate reading of single words in isolation (when there is no story nor pictures to provide clues) • when reading aloud, reads in a slow, choppy cadence (not in smooth phrases), and often ignores punctuation • becomes visibly tired after reading for only a short time • reading comprehension may be low due to spending so much energy trying to read the words. Listening comprehension is usually significantly higher than reading comprehension. • When reading, frequently reverses, inverts, or transposes letters: • reverses means flipping a letter horizontally along a vertical axis, such as reading ded for bed, or bog for dog • inverts means flipping a letter upside down, such as may for way, or we for me • transposes means switching the order of two adjacent letters, such as on for no, gril for girl, own for won • Substitutes similar-looking words, even if it changes the meaning of the sentence, such as sunrise for surprise, house for horse, while for white, wanting for walking • When reading a story or a sentence, substitutes a word that means the same thing but doesn't look at all similar, such as travel for journey, fast for speed, cry for weep • Misreads, omits, or even adds small function words, such as an, a, from, the, to, were, are, of • Omits or changes suffixes, such as need for needed, talks for talking, late for lately.
Spelling • Spelling errors consist of reversals, inversions, or transpositions (just like the reading errors) • Continually misspells sight words (nonphonetic but very common words) such as they, when, ball—despite extensive practice • Misspells even when copying something from the board or from a book • Written work shows signs of spelling uncertainty--numerous erasures, cross outs, etc.
HandwritingDysgraphia • Also known as a visual-motor integration problem, people with dyslexia often have poor, nearly illegible handwriting. Signs of dysgraphia include: • Unusual pencil grip, often with the thumb on top of the fingers (a "fist grip") • May hold onto the pencil lower than normal (just above the lead), or higher than normal (an inch or two above the start of the paint) • If pencil grip is lower than normal, the child will often put his/her head down on the desk to watch the tip of the pencil as he/she writes • The pencil is gripped so tightly that the child's hand cramps. The child will frequently put the pencil down and shake out his/her hand. • Writing letters is a slow, labored, non-fluent chore • Child writes letters with unusual starting and ending points • Child has great difficulty getting letters to "sit" on the horizontal lines. • Unusual spatial organization of the page. Words may be widely spaced or tightly pushed together. Margins are often ignored. • Child has an unusually difficult time learning cursive writing, and shows chronic confusion about similarly-formed cursive letters such as f and b, m and n, w and u. They will also difficulty remembering how to form capital cursive letters.
Quality of Written Work • People with dyslexia usually have an "impoverished written product." That means that their intelligence and abilities are not apparent when looking at something they wrote. Their intelligence is obvious when you speak to them, but it is not obvious when they write. They tend to: • write extremely short sentences • take an unusually long time to write, due to dysgraphia • display very poor mastery of punctuation as well as grammar, syntax and suffixes • misspell many words • have nearly illegible handwriting, due to dysgraphia • use space poorly on the page; odd spacing between words, may ignore margins, sentences tightly packed into one section of the page instead of being evenly spread out • miss many errors in written work even when proofreading has been attempted
Directionality • Most dyslexic children and adults have chronic difficulty with many aspects of directionality. • Geographic directionality: confusion about north, south, east and west; difficulty reading or following maps; chronically get lost when going to new places (and sometimes even to familiar places) • Directionality words: difficulty learning (or remembering) the meaning of words such as left-right, over-under, up-down, before-after, ahead-behind, forward-backward, east-west) • Left-Right confusion: this shows up in handwriting and in mathHandwriting: trouble remembering where a letter starts and which way it goes. Does the circle on the b go this way or this way? Which way does the tail on a q go? Does an s start here and go to the right, or here and go to the left? Which way is left, anyway?Math: trouble remembering which way to work a math problem.Reading goes from left to right, but adding, subtracting and multiplying goes the other way. However, long division goes the same way as reading (except when you're multiplying or subtracting within a division problem). When carrying a number, do I carry it to the left or to the right?
Time concepts and time management • People with dyslexia often have difficulty with time management and time concepts. They often have difficulty: • Telling time using an analog clock (a clock with hands): directionality issues add to this difficulty (which way do the hands go?), as does math. To understand "be home at quarter to six", you must know fractions (quarter means 1/4, 1/4 of an hour is 15 minutes), and you must realize that "to six" means before six, and "before" has directionality issues (is that when the long hand is on the 9 or on the 3?) • Knowing the months of the year in sequence. If you haven't mastered this, then you may mis-interpret a due date written as 5/15/98. • Estimating the time a task requires. People with dyslexia are often chronically late to appointments and late turning in homework because they don't accurately estimate the time required to drive to a destination or to complete an assignment. • Remembering the starting times and the sequence of classes in high school, both on regular school days and days with shortened schedules due to rallies or inservice days. • Using appointment calendars. People with dyslexia will often show up for appointments on the wrong day or the wrong week.
Spatial Organization • People with dyslexia have an extremely difficult time organizing physical space. They tend to prefer to pile things rather than to organize them and put them away. It is almost as though if they can't see item (if it is behind a door or in a drawer), they won't know where it is. • This disorganization invades all of their personal space: their rooms, their lockers, their backpacks, their offices, and their cars. • They often have extreme difficulty organizing their offices or their study space. • Also, perhaps due to their disorganization, they tend to lose many, many personal items: clothing, watches, pagers, books, lunches, and shoes. • They also have trouble bringing all necessary items to a meeting or to their house to do homework.
Co-existing Conditions • Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity)Attention Deficity Disorder is a completely separate condition than dyslexia. However, research has shown that at least 40% of people with dyslexia also have AD/HD. • Light Sensitivity (Scotopic Sensitivity)A small percentage (3% to 8%) of people with dyslexia also have light sensitivity (sometimes called scotopic sensitivity). These people have a hard time seeing small black print on white paper. The print seems to shimmer or move; some see the rivers of white more strongly than the black words. These people tend to dislike florescent lighting, and often "shade" the page with their hand or head when they read. • Colored plastic overlays and/or colored lenses can eliminate the harsh black print against white paper contrast, and may make letters stand still for the first time in someone's life. However, the plastic overlays or colored lenses will not "cure" dyslexia, nor will they teach a dyslexic person how to read.
Significant Strengths of people with dyslexia • artistic skill • musical ability • 3-D visual-spatial skills • mechanical ability • vivid imagination • athletic ability • math conceptualization skills • creative, global thinking • curiosity and tenacity • intuition
You'll find people with dyslexia in every field. However, many excel in the following fields: architecture interior or exterior design psychology teaching marketing and sales culinary arts woodworking carpentry performing arts athletics music scientific research engineering computers electronics mechanics graphic arts photography Good careers for people with dyslexia