What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia refers to a constellation of symptoms that make it harder to process information while reading. Word recognition, decoding, and spelling are affected. Experts estimate that about 15% of all Americans suffer from dyslexia to some degree. However, young people with dyslexia may have difficulty expressing the problems they are having. Educators must be alert to the signs of dyslexia so the issue can be treated and the student's potential can be cultivated.
What Are the Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom?
Students with undiagnosed dyslexia typically suffer from poor confidence during classroom tasks like reading aloud and taking spelling tests. They read slowly and may seem to have difficulty comprehending material at their age-based reading level. They often develop behaviors to avoid situations that are problematic for them. Students may avoid speaking up in class, act out to disrupt stressful situations, or develop low self-esteem – feeling that they "can't" learn.
What Are the Types of Dyslexia?
There are several different types of dyslexia, which can affect children and adult learners:
- Developmental Dyslexia: Developmental dyslexia is associated with problems in hormonal development, nutrition, and other factors in the early years of childhood. It can diminish over time with appropriate care and is most typical in boys.
- Primary Dyslexia: Primary dyslexia is caused by a dysfunction of the cerebral cortex and is hereditary. Students with primary dyslexia will typically see limited improvement and must develop healthy coping strategies for the disorder as they age.
- Traumatic Dyslexia: Traumatic dyslexia is caused by injury to the head. Those who are suffering traumatic dyslexia often see marked improvements with prompt, appropriate therapy. This form of dyslexia is most common in adult students.
Although "dyslexia" refers to a specific reading disorder, not all reading disorders are dyslexia. Further, there are other similar learning challenges, such as dysgraphia, which impacts motor and cognitive function related to writing, and dyscalculia, which impacts mathematical ability. Parents should be alerted to potential signs of dyslexia so a diagnosis can be made.
How is Dyslexia Diagnosed?
Suspected sufferers of dyslexia can be tested at any age. The specific tests used will vary based on the known symptoms and the patient's age. A range of assessments can test for issues in written and oral expression and understanding, cognitive processing, and intellectual development. Tests are typically conducted and evaluated by a team of experts. Tests for other issues that are frequently mistaken for dyslexia, such as ADHD, may be included.
How is Dyslexia Treated?
Early identification is critical to maximizing a dyslexic student's educational achievement. Ongoing therapy can help many students attain reading and writing skills very similar to those of their peers. A focus on reading, writing, and drawing at home and in the classroom will also help students develop their capabilities. Structured language instruction should incorporate tactile, visual, and auditory stimuli. These sensory connections can assist students in retaining vocabulary.
How Can You Support Dyslexic Students?
Dyslexic students can benefit from a wide range of accommodations in the classroom. Oral testing is often helpful. Students may need additional time for written assignments and note-taking. Parents should be encouraged to explore technology, such as voice recognition software, that will help students to learn and participate in lessons in multiple ways.
One of the most important aspects of supporting students with dyslexia is helping them to gain confidence in their own ability to learn. This is true across the age spectrum but is especially key for elementary- and middle-school-aged children. Be sensitive to dyslexic students' concerns and be sure to respond if they are bullied. When teachers help dyslexic students foster positive self-esteem, the sky is the limit!
If you wish to learn more about dyslexia, consult these resources:
- Dyslexia Information
- Dyslexia Caucus
- Dyslexia Resources
- Dissecting Dyslexia
- Dyslexia Information for Educators
- What is Dyslexia?
- Dyslexia Help Resource Database
- Definition, Treatment, and Quick Facts for Dyslexia
- Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders
- About Dyslexia and Science
- Dyslexia and the Brain
- Understanding Dyslexia
- Brain Scans May Help to Diagnose Dyslexia
- Less Brain Tissue Not to Blame for Dyslexia
- Dyslexia Facts
- Not All Reading Disorders are Dyslexia
- Dyslexia in the Immersion Classroom
- Youth and Dyslexia
- Dyslexia Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatment
- The Dyslexia Foundation