What is Dyslexia
Dyslexia is a Neurological Condition that is characterized by difficulties that mainly affect the ability of a child to read, write and spell. Dyslexia mostly runs in families and it can affect the child for his / her whole life, even into adulthood. It has nothing to do with the person’s intelligence. Often weaknesses may be seen in areas such as of language development, memory and sequencing. Dyslexia does not imply that a child possesses below average learning ability. In fact, many children and adults with dyslexia are very bright. However, for a child, not being able to read well can make wide-ranging areas of learning a problem. Dyslexia can more appropriately be described as a condition that reflects a different kind of mind, at times gifted and productive, a mind that learns differently to other children in the pool.
Dyslexia is often called a Specific Learning Difficulty because it can exist in individuals who are otherwise of average or above average ability. Being neurological in origin Dyslexia can go undetected in the formative years of schooling. Children afflicted with this Learning Difficulty, can become frustrated by the level of difficulty they face in learning to read, and other problems can arise that mask the presence of dyslexia. Parents often begin to realize that there is an issue when they notice a severe discrepancy in the child’s intellectual abilities and achievements. In the long run, the child may show signs of depression and low self-esteem and behaviour problems at home as well as at school begin to manifest themselves. Children usually exhibit an attitude of being unmotivated and develop a dislike for school. Success in school is jeopardized if the problem remains untreated.
Research indicates that perhaps 10 to 15% of children may suffer from some type of Dyslexia. In our country this figure may go up as multilingualism can also impact on the difficulty. Dyslexia has been known to range from mild to severe and is often accompanied by other specific learning difficulties, such as Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia or Attention Deficit Disorder, resulting in a variation in the degree and nature of individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.
It is important to note and remember that Dyslexics are not “lazy” they just have information processing differences and difficulties. Being Neurological in origin, Dyslexia is a life-long affliction, but the difficulties caused by dyslexia can be overcome with specialist teaching techniques and the use of specialized strategies.
Dyslexia as a word is derived from two Greek words: dys (inadequate or lack of) and lexicon (word and/or verbal language). Dyslexia therefore stands for problems learning how to read words and deal with language in print.
In the past dyslexia as a term was used to describe difficulty in reading as a result of brain damage. An initial attempt to create a model to describe the conditions went on to consider dyslexia as developed rather than innate, with difficulty in reading as a result of cerebral disease rather than brain injury. The second attempt was to describe dyslexia as difficulty in reading or language processing as a result of intermittent disorientation. This disorientation it was assumed came from conflicting messages to the brain, for example, when the eyes are telling the brain one thing but senses of balance and movement are saying something different.
Eventually most researchers began to indicate that there might be a dual pathway to progress from print to speech. One route was considered to operate via the use of grapheme-phoneme correspondence for reading aloud. The other route is considered to operate via access to a semantic system for reading aloud. The grapheme to phoneme route successfully allows a child to read words not in the English language, but words that can be pronounced by using reading and grammar rules - and, regular words, which are words in the English language and which conform to typical English grapheme-phoneme conversion rules. The correct learning of the grapheme to phoneme system results in successful reading of all words but inability to produce a correct response to words that can be pronounced but have no apparent meaning. Impairment in either one of these routes can present with a specific subtype of dyslexia.
Currently, the definition of dyslexia is not limited to difficulty in reading: dyslexia also includes difficulty in literacy acquisition, cognitive processes and discrepancies in educational outcomes.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), dyslexia is a term used to describe brain-based difficulty in reading, now simply called a reading disorder. It is one of many disorders referred to as learning disorders. A learning disorder exists when a child’s scores on an achievement test of reading, writing, or mathematics are substantially below expectations for his age, schooling, and level of intelligence.
Dyslexia is not a disease but a lifelong condition. The symptoms of this condition are variable from one child to another, but usually, the child has normal or above average intelligence. Some children have problems with speech and poor vocabulary, and some have problems in decoding symbols and sounds that are not registered properly in the brain. For example, some children with dyslexia see letters as mixed up, as in reading b for d; read words backwards, as in tac for cat; and, do not see numbers in a line, which results in incorrect computations. There are children with dyslexia who learn how to compensate for their learning difficulties.
Amongst the many terms that are used to describe dyslexia, the most common include learning disability, specific learning difficulty, minimally brain damaged, neurologically impaired, and perceptually handicapped. We do not agree with the use of the general descriptor dyslexia, and think that the specific learning disability should be identified and described in order to effectively inform how the management of the condition should take place.
An association between dyslexia and attention deficit disorders (ADD) is very high -as out of 100 children with dyslexia, 46 are also reported to have ADD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), manifesting lack of concentration and behavioral problems.
The exact cause of dyslexia is still being debated and there are many theories about contributing factors. Genetic factors can play a major role in the cause of dyslexia, and it is estimated that the risk of a father with dyslexia having a son with dyslexia is as high as 40%.
Genetically a certain chromosome – called chromosome 6 has been identified by most researchers as the main chromosome, which may be responsible for dyslexia. Further, imaging studies have revealed that structural and functional brain-related factors are to be found in dyslexic children.
Deficiencies in processing information and decoding words along with difficulties when transferring the information from one hemisphere of the brain to another have been indicated. In fact it is predicted that a phonological deficit identified in a child at 6 years of age was the strongest predictor of reading difficulty in the long term, and it has been suggested that there is extensive evidence of morphological difficulties to be found in dyslexic readers. Children with dyslexia can have problems in memory and speed of processing, and can also have a double deficit, which is difficulty in both phonological and naming speed. The learner’s awareness of thinking can be affected in dyslexia, with difficulties in reading and writing in foreign languages as well. Environmental, cultural, social and socioeconomic factors can also contribute to dyslexia.
Dyslexia can manifest in a number of forms. We have developmental dyslexia, with no obvious organic damage. Acquired dyslexia, which is a disorder in reading, usually due to, confirmed damage to the nervous system, such as a stroke. It can be peripheral where the visual analysis system is damaged, or central where processes beyond the visual analysis system are damaged, resulting in difficulties in comprehension and - or pronunciation of written words.
Peripheral dyslexia can be subdivided into three subtypes: neglect dyslexia, attentional dyslexia, and letter-by-letter reading dyslexia.
Central dyslexia, on the other hand, can be subdivided into non-semantic reading, surface dyslexia, phonological dyslexia and deep dyslexia and both phonological and surface dyslexia can occur in both developmental and acquired dyslexia. Another subtype of dyslexia is direct dyslexia where words are read aloud without comprehension.
Children with dyslexia demonstrate similar stages of development to those without this condition. In early childhood, from 2–5 years, children produce clear imagery, a reason why their nightmares can be so terrifying. Their thoughts are bigger, broader, more global, dynamic, less systematic, and less rational than those of older children. As playfulness is a hallmark of this stage, a child with dyslexia may not appear to be affected due to lack of detection of the problem. The second stage is middle childhood, from 5–7 years, where children are starting to acknowledge the significance of things and feel responsibility. Imagination is still more important than knowledge at this stage, and the dyslexic child may consider reading, writing or arithmetic as bad or ugly, and may hate going to school. The last stage is late childhood, when children become part of various social groups. This is a critical stage where maturation of the cortex of adrenal glands occurs, resulting in the initiation of sexual tension between boys and girls. In this stage, learning disabilities will be more obvious as the child may not meet the greater scholastic expectations. In this stage of ingenuity and brainstorming, learning disabilities and dyslexia will be more obvious as the child is scholastically overwhelmed.
Although dyslexia is more often clinically noted in later childhood, screening methods can be utilized at various stages of childhood development. There are many methods for screening, and it can be done as early as at birth or in the first year of life. Ideally screening conducted at about 4-7 years of age will help in identifying and remediating the child with a higher possibility of the concerned child being brought up to grade level. There is often confusion as to whether the problems manifested by many children are normal variations of preschool development, or manifestations of dyslexia. If this thought ever occurs in a parent’s mind, it indicates that they have noticed, or are noticing a problem in their child’s academic efforts and the Dyslexia Association of India usually encourages a screening to rule out any Learning Disability.
Understanding that dyslexia in children is an issue that affects their schooling years and their performance is crucial and can positively inform its detection, management and outcome. In early childhood (2–5 years), the child may not be obviously affected by or manifest dyslexia, and therefore, parents and caregivers may not detect the problem. In middle childhood (5–7 years), when the child starts to become aware of the significance of things and develop feelings of responsibility, the child with dyslexia may not value scholastic achievements, and therefore may dislike school. Early detection is very important for early intervention and management of dyslexia, especially before reaching the later childhood stage when socialization is important and schoolwork demands are greater. Appropriate family counseling is also important. We have learned that some children try (successfully) to compensate for their dyslexia by creating equilibrium and balance between their sensory disorientation, reading and writing. For the child with dyslexia, all possible solutions to their problems should be explored in order to foster optimal learning outcomes.
To learn more about how to have your son or daughter screened and assessed for Dyslexia and any other Learning Disability that may exist, we would encourage you to make a call and fix an appointment with our specialist. The Dyslexia Association of India™ is the leading association for Learning Disabilities in India and works closely with parents, children and schools to help identify, and provide Intervention for children.
Identification is crucial as Dyslexia is being used as an umbrella term to categorize Learning Difficulties, Attentional Problems; School based Routine Academic Problems and Aspects of Disorderly Conduct in School and Home. Incorrect identification of a Learning Disability and tagging it under the Dyslexia Umbrella may serve the parents and the child in the short run, where exemption can be obtained from the school or the CBSE for a specific subject, however the long term impact of tagging (if Incorrect) is that the particular child will stand undiagnosed and worst - remain misdiagnosed. Misdiagnosis further implies that the remediation and intervention programme that the school or the parents may opt for will target areas for development, which bypass the origin of the cognitive issues that are causing the Learning Disability in the first instance. To complicate matters more, an incorrect tagging of a child and emphasis on remediation, which may not suit the child, will result in the original deficit being left untreated. The cascade effects of deficits, which multiply over time, are a formula for academic failure and or mediocrity.
The Dyslexia Association of India™ through its research has developed the T.R.A.I.N™ - Brain Neuroplasticity Programme and using the inbuilt plastic nature of the human brain and its ability to be molded via cognitive training delivers very comprehensive remedial intervention which is tailor made for every child and extremely focused.