Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. It is estimated that around 10-15% of the world’s population has dyslexia to some degree, making it one of the most common learning disabilities.
Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence or a lack of effort. It is a specific learning disability that is caused by differences in how the brain processes language. This means that people with dyslexia may have difficulty recognizing and processing written words, even if they have good oral language skills.
I’ve worked with many kids that have stellar vocabularies, excellent communication skills and have dyslexia. I’ve also worked with kids that need speech language pathology for significant speech delays and have dyslexia. The point is: dyslexic children can range in verbal communication skills, but they all struggle with learning to read.
Dyslexia can present itself in many different ways, and the severity of the condition can vary from person to person. Some children have mild forms of dyslexia and struggle only with polysyllabic words and reading speed. Other kids have severe forms of dyslexia and will not learn to read at all without a research-based reading instruction. (Research-based instruction includes explicit, systematic phonics with interleaving and decodable texts.) The trouble is many educators don’t know how to implement research-based reading instruction.
“Amazingly, most teachers receive little or no professional training in the science of learning. My feeling is that we should urgently change this state of affairs, because we now possess considerable scientific knowledge about the brain’s learning algorithms and the pedagogies that are the most efficient.”
― Stanislas Dehaene, How we Learn
Some common signs and symptoms of dyslexia include difficulty with phonemic awareness (the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds in words), trouble with decoding (the ability to sound out words), poor spelling, difficulty with word retrieval, and slow reading speed.
Children that struggle with learning to read often also develop a low self-esteem.
People with dyslexia may also have difficulty with other academic skills, such as writing, math, and organization. They may struggle to remember instructions, follow a sequence of steps, or complete multi-step tasks. Dyslexia can also affect social and emotional functioning, as people with dyslexia may experience frustration, low self-esteem, and anxiety as a result of their difficulties with reading and writing.
Despite its challenges, dyslexia can be managed with appropriate support and accommodations. The earlier dyslexia is identified, the better, as early intervention can help to prevent many of the negative outcomes associated with the condition.
Children with dyslexia need explicit, systematic phonics instruction with interleaving and decodable texts.
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Explicit instruction involves telling the child the phonics sounds directly. This takes the guesswork out of learning to read. For example, the teacher can explicitly say, “ee says ee as in tree and bee” or “ai says ai as in sail and mail.”
Systematic instruction involves introducing the most common phonics sounds one at a time. Systematic instruction is also called step-by-step instruction. This allows kids to gradually master the phonics units over time.
Interleaving involves mixing old phonics sounds in with new content. For example, a child who just learned short e, but knows short a and short o, will read an interleaved list like this: 1. Meg 2. top 3. hat 4. red 5. mop 6. nap 7. yet 8. den 9. not 10. pet. A list that includes all one phonics sound like the following ( hat, map, tap, cat) does NOT include interleaving. An interleaved mixed list and lesson allows kids to practice old phonics sounds so they don’t become weak in old content. Interleaving also prevents kids from guessing, as they never know what phonics sound is coming next. Thus, they have to engage in real word analysis.
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Research-based reading curriculums work. Early intervention is key.
It’s important to note that dyslexia is not a curable condition. However, with the right support and accommodations, people with dyslexia can learn to read and write effectively, and can go on to achieve great things in their academic and professional lives. Many successful people, including entrepreneurs, athletes, and artists, have dyslexia, and have found ways to thrive despite their challenges with reading and writing.
In conclusion, dyslexia is a common and often misunderstood learning disability that affects a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. While dyslexia can present significant challenges, it is a manageable condition that can be supported with appropriate interventions and accommodations. With the right support, people with dyslexia can learn to read and write effectively, and can achieve great things in their lives.