by Cynthia Bayne
Dyslexia is a complex learning disability that affects millions of individuals worldwide. Despite its prevalence, there are still many misconceptions surrounding dyslexia. In this blog post, we'll dive into what dyslexia is, debunk common myths, explore the facts, and discuss tools and approaches that can help dyslexic students thrive.
What Is Dyslexia?
As defined by The International Dyslexia Association:
“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 impair the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”.
Myths about Dyslexia
Squashing some common misconceptions is the first step to understanding Dyslexia.
Dyslexia is NOT simply reading backward.
Contrary to popular belief, Dyslexia does not cause readers to read from right to left or from the bottom to the top of a page. Dyslexics have trouble remembering the letter sounds and letter patterns in words.
Dyslexia is diagnosed independently of IQ rating.
Many people still think that it has to do with intelligence; we know that is untrue.
Not all reading problems are Dyslexia.
Specific Learning Disorders (SLDs) and Language-Based Learning Disorders (LBLDs) also affect a student’s ability to read.
Facts About Dyslexia
It is not a visual processing problem.
Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder that manifests differently in individuals.
Differences in the brain that contribute to dyslexia can actually be seen in MRI scans.
No one area of the brain controls reading, but there are noticeable differences in other language parts of the brain. Because reading combines different processes, researchers look at several parts of the brain. The shape of letters and the sounds each represent use different areas of the brain and can be seen in different ways. There is still some disagreement about whether these changes are the cause of dyslexia or the effect, and research is ongoing.
If not diagnosed early, individuals with Dyslexia often lack confidence and exhibit low self-esteem.
As with many other learning differences, students with undiagnosed Dyslexia can mistake their challenges in reading and writing for incompetency and inability. Dyslexic students are very capable of achieving academic success and learning given the right support.
Poor handwriting may be an indicator of Dyslexia.
Because a student hasn’t mastered common patterns, they use more working memory trying to spell and do not develop fluency. In studies, students with and without dyslexia drew pictures at similar speeds but wrote more slowly and with more spelling mistakes. If motor control was the problem difference, it would be seen in both drawing and writing, but that is not the case.
Tools and Approaches for Dyslexic Students
The DE-STRESS Acronym
Offers a holistic plan of treatment for students with Dyslexia.
D - DEFINING
How does dyslexia present for this child?
E - EDUCATING
Educate the child on dyslexia and how it can impact them. Education is the first step in self-advocacy.
S - SPECULATING
Look ahead to anticipate problems.
T - TEACHING
Implement teaching strategies with approaches the child can use.
R - REDUCING THE THREAT
Give the child opportunities to practice strategies privately. Recognize and deactivate stress triggers.
E - EXECISING
Exercise enhances brainpower and reduces stress!
S - SUCCESS
Help replace the language of self-doubt with the language of success.
S - STRATEGIZING
Use what the child has learned to self-advocate. Plan accommodations.
Orton-Gillingham is a multi-sensory approach to teaching literacy in a sequential structure composed of the following:
Teaching individual sounds until mastery.
Associating symbols with sounds.
Practicing speech patterns and intonation while reading aloud.
Understanding individual words to grasp the whole text.
The ultimate goal requires active engagement with the text.
Orton-Gillingham, based on decades of research begun in the 1920s, is multi-sensory and usually taught in one-on-one or small-group settings. For more information about Orton-Gillingham, visit their website.
Friedman, M. (2017b, November 21). What Is Structured Literacy? - International
Frith -Montgomery, D. (2021). The Three Educational Faces of Dyslexia: Identification and Remediation in the Orthographic Phase The Three Educational Faces of Dyslexia: Identification and Remediation in the Orthographic Phase.
Eide, F. (2017). Recognizing Dyslexia's Strengths In The Classroom. ASCD.
Hebert, M. D., Kearns, D. M., Hayes, J., Bazis, P., & Cooper, S. (2018). Why Children
Schultz, J. J. (2020, March 10). The Dyslexia-Stress-Anxiety Connection, International