Author: Anchal Agarwal
College: JIMS School of Law
Reading may seem easy and automatic for people who master it without difficulty. However, reading is a complex and challenging task for our brains, therefore it is not surprising that people struggle with it. Approximately 10% of the world population has this difficulty. In fact, about 15% to 20% of the U.S. population has a specific reading disability called dyslexia, which is the major cause of reading failure in school. Dealing with this learning challenge can lead to frustration and self-doubt, especially when it goes undiagnosed for a long time.
The term dyslexia means ‘difficulty with words’ but over the years, dyslexia has become the term commonly used to refer to a condition that affects reading, spelling, writing, memory, concentration, and self-esteem. Reading is a little like riding a bike: it requires doing many things at once with precise timing. With practice, typical readers gradually learn to read words automatically so they can focus their mental energy on comprehending and remembering what they've read. Kids with dyslexia, have trouble with phonemic awareness and phonics. Research shows that dyslexia happens because of subtle problems in information processing, especially in the language regions of the brain. For this reason, reading doesn't become automatic and remains slow and labored. When a child struggles with these beginning steps in reading, comprehension is bound to suffer and frustration is likely to follow.
A common assumption about dyslexia is that letters or words appear reversed; i.e., "was" appears like "saw." This type of problem can be a part of dyslexia, but reversals are very common among kids until first or second grade and not just kids with dyslexia. The major problem for kids with dyslexia is in phonemic awareness, phonics, and rapid word recognition.
Signs of dyslexia
A young person with dyslexia may:
- Struggle with learning even simple rhymes.
- Repeat or omit short words such as and, the, but.
- Find it difficult to tell left from right.
In school, children with dyslexia are likely to:
- Have difficulty sounding out new words.
- Lack fluency compared to other children their age.
- Reverse letters and numbers when reading (read saw as was, for example).
- Find it difficult to take notes and copy down words from the board.
Dyslexia affects children outside of school as well. Kids with dyslexia may also:
- Find it difficult to decode logos and signs.
- Struggle when trying to learn the rules of games.
- Have difficulty keeping track of multi-step directions.
Types of Dyslexia
Acquired dyslexia is a disorder in reading, usually due to confirmed damage to the nervous system, such as a stroke.
Peripheral dyslexia can be where the visual analysis system is damaged, or where processes beyond the visual analysis system are damaged, resulting in difficulties in comprehension and/or pronunciation of written words.
Central dyslexia, on the other hand, can be subdivided into non-semantic reading, surface dyslexia, phonological dyslexia and deep dyslexia. In non-semantic reading, the comprehension of written words is very poor. Affected children have impaired semantic systems but are still able to read words aloud using the connections between the visual input lexicon and the speech output lexicon.
How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?
People with dyslexia frequently find ways to work around their disability, so no one will know they're having trouble. This may save some embarrassment, but getting help could make school and reading easier. Most people are diagnosed as kids, but it's not unusual for teens or even adults to be diagnosed.
A physical exam should be done to rule out any medical problems, including hearing and vision tests. Then a school psychologist or learning specialist should give several standardized tests to measure language, reading, spelling, and writing abilities. Sometimes a test of thinking ability (IQ test) is given. Some people with dyslexia have trouble with other school skills, like handwriting and math, or they may have trouble paying attention or remembering things. If this is the case, more testing will be done.
Dealing with Dyslexia
Although dealing with dyslexia can be tough. Under federal law, someone diagnosed with a learning disability like dyslexia is entitled to extra help from the public-school system. A child or teen with dyslexia usually needs to work with a specially trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to learn how to read and spell better. The teacher or tutor should use special learning and practice activities for dyslexia.
- A student with dyslexia may get more time to complete assignments or tests, permission to tape class lectures or copies of lecture notes. Using a computer with spelling checkers can be helpful for written assignments. For older students in challenging classes, services are available that provide any book on tape, even textbooks. Computer software is also available that "reads" printed material aloud. Ask your parent, teacher, or learning disability services coordinator how to get these services if you need them.
- Family and friends can help people with dyslexia by understanding that they aren't stupid or lazy and that they are trying as hard as they can. It's important to recognize and appreciate each person's strengths, whether they're in sports, drama, art, creative problem solving, or something else.
- People with dyslexia shouldn't feel limited in their academic or career choices. Most colleges make special accommodations for students with dyslexia, offering them trained tutors, learning aids, computer software, reading assignments on tape, and special arrangements for exams. People with dyslexia can become doctors, politicians, corporate executives, actors, musicians, artists, teachers, inventors, business entrepreneurs, or whatever else they choose.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article or any other publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Educoncours or its members.