Human Growth. Dyslexia as a Learning Disability

Introduction

There is ample evidence that a child with dyslexia does indeed have barriers to reading, but these difficulties can be overcome with patience and time so as to ensure that this condition does not remain a obstacle to the child’s success in school. It is recognized that dyslexia in no way indicates lack of intellect. Many prominent people of history such as scientist Albert Einstein, writer Hans Christian Anderson, painter Leonardo Da Vinci, U.S. Army General George Patton and inventor Alexander Graham Bell battled and overcame dyslexia proving that the condition does not have to be a barrier to potential successes in life.

Main text

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects a child’s ability to read, a disability that affects millions of children regardless of nationality, race or economic status. Due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols, dyslexia alters the way the brain processes words. The Greek prefix ‘Dys’ means ‘difficulty’ and ‘lexia’ translates to ‘words’ (Huston, 1987, p. 5). Evidence exists indicating that the brain of a dyslexic differs somewhat from those of other children though there is not specific scientific evidence to support this claim. This disparity of neurological function leads to a substantial motor co-ordination delinquency which is why many of those with dyslexia read ‘m’ as ‘w,’ ‘b’ as ‘d’ and ‘p’ as ‘q.’

They also are prone to putting their shoes on the wrong foot. Physical activities and the deciphering of mathematic problems present a further challenge as these actions demand the efficient use of spatial abilities which are deficient in the dyslexic. Because the effects of dyslexia may be neurological, genetics could be, at least partially, its cause. “According to a study, the risk that a child will have dyslexia is increased from four to 13 times if one of the parents has dyslexia too” (Chakravarthula, 2003).

Males are affected more than females and there has been correlations drawn between left-handedness and the learning disabilities. Various studies have shown that up to 25 per cent of children between the ages of 2-12 display dyslexic symptoms. In addition to reading problems, dyslexic children experience many difficulties in school including a lack of concentration, memory and verbal skills which impede a child’s ability in acquiring proficiency in writing and spelling resulting in poor grades and general underachievement.

They also have problems adjusting socially as low self-esteem is usually associated with learning disabilities. Often, children afflicted with dyslexia are considered to be apathetic or worse, of minimal intellect. These erroneous beliefs lead to feelings of inferiority and of discouragement during the fundamental period of social development in a child’s life. “A closer look at most of the underachievers in the class might reveal that they are not how they are out of choice rather because they just are made that way. A little bit of empathy and understanding might go a long way in making their life easier. What they need around them is a support circle of friends and family who understand them and accept them for what they are” (Chakarvathula, 2003).

Despite the physical, neurological and thus emotional setbacks suffered by those afflicted with dyslexia, dyslexic children can typically achieve reading levels at the level of those that are not. They must, though, be diagnosed early and begin receiving specialized tutoring from home and school. “Children suspected of suffering from dyslexia should undergo a series of reading, spelling, drawing, math and intelligence tests, as well as visual tests, laterality tests, visual scanning tests, sequencing and other tests to examine which brain functions are interfering with their acquisition of normal school learning” (Chakravarthula, 2003).

To determine if a child may have dyslexia, there are several consistent behaviors that can be readily observed from an early age and throughout their lives. They experience very evident ‘good days’ and ‘bad days,’ for no apparent reason. The dyslexic also confuses directional words, for example, up/down, and has difficulty with sequencing colors and numbers, for example 6/12/18/24, etc. A family history of dyslexia or reading difficulties is also an indication of dyslexia if other evidence is present.

Other indicators of dyslexia include a constant confusion of simple phrases by saying such things as ‘house in the mouse’ or ‘stward and the swone.’ They have difficulty remembering the names of objects, learning rhymes and typically began speaking later than their peers. Before they were school-age, they may have walked early but never crawled on their hands and knees. When they began to walk, they were quite clumsy and had difficulty with normal activities associated with play such as catching, kicking or throwing a ball and clapping in beat to a simple rhythm. When of primary school age, dyslexics show much difficulty in regard to reading and spelling as they consistently arrange letters and figures the wrong way round. They also have difficulty remembering the alphabet and mathematical formulas.

Poor concentration is another trademark sign of dyslexia which contributes to the lack of reading comprehension skills. Understandably, the primary student takes longer than average to do written work and has troubles processing language at normal pace. They demonstrate clear signs of continued problems dressing themselves and struggle to quickly recognize left from right, order of days of the week, months of the year, etc. As the child graduates to secondary school, they continue to read and spell incorrectly and require instructions to be repeated. They usually have difficulty articulating long words, planning and writing essays and still confuse places, times and dates (British Dyslexia Association, 2006).

Multi-sensory teaching involves helping a child to learn by using more than one of their senses. Research shows that programs utilizing multi-sensory structured language techniques can greatly assist dyslexic children because, when learning to read, these children do not necessarily learn in the same way. Some dyslexic children absorb information and retain it best when it is presented visually in pictures and images. The use of flow charts is a helpful aid and teachers should also encourage the use of highlighters and color coding when note taking. Color coding of subjects will significantly assist the child in organization and planning of studies.

Other children retain information best when hearing it. The use of auditory information such as learning tapes and reading out loud is useful for these children. Still other children retain information best when involved in tactual or ‘kinesthetic’ activities as hands-on, practical learning efforts suits them. “This is why it is good that they use computers, tracing letters and words, role playing and repeating facts while walking” (SmartActually, 2004).

Teaching phonological awareness begins by demonstrating to the student the relationships of parts of words and sentences in relation to the whole then demonstrate how to segment short sentences into individual words, showing how the sentence is made up of words. Teachers can use any handy object to represent the number of words in the sentence then move to phoneme tasks by modeling a specific sound and asking the students to reproduce that sound both separately and in a variety of words and syllable formats. “Once the students understand part-whole relationships at the sentence level, move on to the word level, introducing multi-syllable words for segmentation into syllables. It is best to begin with easier words and then move on to more difficult ones” (Kameenui, 1995, p. 27).

Building a dyslexic child’s confidence in their ability to attain reading skills is the most important aspect of the parent or teacher’s role in this development. The preponderance of dyslexic children has come to the conclusion that they are not as smart as the other kids at school. A dyslexic child experiences an enormous amount of failure and self doubt every day of the school year. As these children, as discussed, experience sequencing difficulties, any type of writing or math exercises usually present serious problems and the dyslexic child cannot help but to notice (if they don’t, other kids will remind them) that almost all of the other children are able to do the work which they find so difficult. The child, and unfortunately other children and the teacher, come to the conclusion that anyone would reach in similar circumstances without prior knowledge of the condition. If this perception does not truly change within the child, corrective teaching will probably not be effective.

Conclusion

While a dyslexic child has neurological, social and psychological barriers to reading, these can be surmounted with knowledgeable tutoring at home and in the classroom setting. Recent research in the area of dyslexia in children has had a constructive impact in the area of phonological awareness and the multi-sensory teaching programs for reading comprehension which has had a direct influence on home tutoring as well as classroom teaching practices. For many parents, hearing their dyslexic child read a book aloud at a first-year level when they are in their third or fourth year of primary school is a disheartening experience.

Sitting down with the child for a quiet evening of reading can quickly become less than peaceful if it is not managed correctly by the parent. It often causes immense frustration when the parent feels that their child is not learning to read as fast as children of the same age. The dyslexic child already faces many negative aspects of their condition related to their own frustrations and feelings of inadequacy. The addition of visible parental disgust will only add to this and cause the child to withdraw, which is hardly conducive to a positive learning environment. The reading of a book together must be strictly for pleasure.

References

British Dyslexia Association. (2006). “Indications of Dyslexia.” The British Dyslexia Assocation. Web.

Chakravarthula, Smitha. (2003). “Battling Dyslexia.” Boloji [online]. Web.

Huston, Dr. Anne Marshall. (1987). Common Sense about Dyslexia. Lanham: Madison Books.

Kameenui, E.J. (1996). “Shakespeare and Beginning Reading: The Readiness is All.” Teaching Exceptional Children. Vol. 27, I. 2.

SmartActually. (2004). “Coping Strategies for Dyslexia.” SmartActually. Web.