What Is Dyslexia?

What Is Dyslexia?

The term “Dyslexia” has been in the news as more states pass state-wide dyslexia laws, thanks to the grassroot efforts of parents and professionals seeking proven, appropriate interventions for their children and other learners struggling with dyslexia. So what is dyslexia? A popular belief is that the primary indicator of dyslexia is reversing letters. But dyslexia is much more than that. It is a language-based learning disability that leads to difficulty interpreting the phonological components of our language.The definition of dyslexia, as adopted by the International Dyslexia Association:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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.”     Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002

A person with dyslexia has difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling, and sometimes oral expression. Dyslexic individuals are very often bright, very capable in other areas, creative, and go on to accomplish amazing things as adults. Dyslexia is NOT uncommon! The International Dyslexia Association states that current research shows that dyslexia affects 20% of the U.S. population. That’s 1 in every 5 people! Dyslexia is one of the most common causes of reading difficulties in elementary school children, but many do not get the explicit reading help they need.

Because phonological skills underlie learning to read and spell, making the sound-to-letter symbol connection (phonemic awareness) is one of the first areas to assess and remediate. Dyslexics have a much harder time associating sounds to symbols (alphabet), so will need very focused instruction that uses sight, sound, touch, speaking, listening, and writing. There may also very well be deficits in rapid letter and word recall, which will affect quickly identifying words and reading fluently. This in turn can affect reading comprehension and writing. Some dyslexic children will seem to be learning to read well in the early grades because they rely heavily on picture cues and their own background knowledge. But a look at their spelling will show their struggles with letters and sounds, and how words are put together. They will “hit a wall”  in their reading development because of their underlying struggles with sounds, letters, and decoding unknown words. A common myth is that people with dyslexia cannot read, or cannot be taught to read much beyond the third grade level. This is NOT true! Individuals with dyslexia can become confident, successful readers with the right multi-sensory, Orton Gillingham based instructional techniques (systematic, explicit, diagnostic) and interventions that target the underlying language processes.

The International Dyslexia Association offers a wealth of information and resources on their website, including Dyslexia At a Glance, Do I Have Dyslexia?, Fact Sheets, and Success Stories, plus so much more for families and professionals alike.

So what can you do as a parent to help your child? First, get involved in parent groups, such as Decoding Dyslexia  state groups on Facebook for support and to know you are not alone. Next, seek out the right kind of help. You may find the help you need in your child’s school, but unfortunately, many teachers are not trained in the specialized methods needed, or are unable to provide the intensity or one-on-one instruction that is most effective. Specialized teaching/tutoring is often required, and is most effective when it is one-on-one instruction with a professional who understands the dyslexic student, and has the explicit training and experience to guide your child in their learning to become confident and successful readers and writers. You want help that is multi-sensory based which uses sight, sound, touch, feeling (kinesthetic), speaking, listening, and writing. It should be very systematic and address the underlying language processing difficulties. I’d love to show you how online tutoring using proven, intensive, multisensory techniques that target these challenges may just be the perfect fit for your child. Click on the link below for a free, 30-minute online tutoring session for your child to see if online tutoring and intensive interventions may be a good fit. If you have more questions, and are seeking more information, just click on the link below. You are not alone on this journey as you seek the best help for your child!