Dyslexia Explained

What is Dyslexia?

  • Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
  • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
  • Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
  • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
  • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia. 
  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention. (Sir Jim Rose, 2009)

The BDA agrees with this definition; however, also,’… acknowledges the visual and auditory processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that some dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process. Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills. They have endorsed an addition to the above definition.

“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling (BDA 2007)”.

Types of Dyslexia

Phonological Dyslexia

Phonological awareness means a child can identify that words consist of a number of different sounds.
E.g. the spoken word cat composes of three phonemes, /k/a/t/
By developing their phonological awareness, the child will be able to take the next important step in learning about phonemes, which are units of sound within a word. In addition the child will acquire the knowledge of syllables, where certain words can be segmented into; also known as onset and rime, such as pic/nic.

Unfortunately, the child with dyslexia may have difficulty in learning phonemes. It means limited phonological awareness ability, which refers to a person’s individual inability to access to the sound structure of their oral language.
Another significant part of phonological processing ability is the phonological memory; the ability to code information phonologically for temporary storage in the short term memory. Difficulty in this area indicates that a child will struggle to decode new words; however, it does not usually affect their ability to read or listen.
The finally part is, Rapid naming, which deals with the retrieval of information stored in the long-term/permanent memory. Difficulty in this area can predict a poor performance in reading ability.
Support should be on a multi sensory approach and where relevant use a phonics programme to support specialist teaching.

Dyseidetic Dyslexia (also known as visual dyslexia)

It is identified when a person can usually spell or read words phonetically and because of that may not be identified in school as having dyslexia.  Their problem is with irregular spelled words such as cough, debt and even simple words such as said or does. Other areas where they may struggle will be with plurals such as child to children.
The mistake that may happen is to teach the person through a phonics programme. Any phonics-based reading programme would be more of a disadvantage than advantage.
Notwithstanding the type of dyslexia identified, everyone learns in a different way. The important point is to teach how the person learns not how you may have learnt.