What is dyslexia? A simple introduction.

A simple introduction to Dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a learning difference that  leads to difficulties  in reading and writing (often especially noticeable in spelling). Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties,without clear-cut boundaries or with a single cause.  Many intelligent people are dyslexic, including some very creative and successful people.

The latest scientific research indicates that the dyslexic brain works differently. Scientists are now able to study the living human brain (for example by using MRI and EEG scanning). They can see that the whole of the brain is used in language activities. How the brain makes its own internal connections will affect how we are able to process language. New connections are made as we learn how to do things and a dyslexic person can create new pathways as they learn how to process language.

It would seem that there are genetic links in dyslexia. If you have a family history of dyslexia you are more likely to be dyslexic yourself. What causes dyslexia and what causes the differences in the brain is far from clear, and open to debate.

Traditionally education values reading and writing . Talented children may be overlooked if they cannot express themselves through writing and they will not get far without reading.

Writing is not a natural process, it is the most complex thing that your brain will ever need to learn. In human development terms we have only been writing for 4000 years – out of tens of thousands of years of communicating.  It takes us many years to learn to read.

The importance of phonics (matching sounds to their written form).

Phonological processing involves the processing of speech sounds and not just hearing. We need to be able to process the sounds correctly and to be able to match them to the letters that represent them. If you can’t process the sounds it is difficult to relate them to their written form. All languages have a phonetic element.

Memory difficulties often found with dyslexia.

Weaknesses in short term or working memory may be a part of dyslexia. Most people have difficulties with remembering the name of someone they have just met – because this information is held in short term memory, which is quickly ‘overwritten’. Once the name is added to your long term memory you are less likely to forget it (you’ve met someone twice and talked to your best friend about them – you remember their name! Most of the time…)

The speed of processing information may be effected. A dyslexic person may need longer to work on a problem and they are likely to need frequent breaks. These problems can become more apparent when there are time pressures and stress (during a timed test for example).

Other memory difficulties may include:

  • Difficulties with organisational skills, such as time management.
  • Difficulties with common sequences such as days of the week, months, the alphabet, times tables.
  • Difficulties in following instructions – not being able to remember and follow a set of instructions.
Self Esteem

A young person with dyslexia may suffer from low self esteem. They may feel that they are stupid and they may think that they are having difficulties that other people are not (such as remembering the name of someone that they have just met). Someone who thinks they a dumb is less likely to keep trying in school.

However, with early intervention and good teaching there is no reason why a child with dyslexia should not be successful at school and in later life.

Conclusion

Dyslexia can be viewed as a spectrum of difficulties that impact on reading and writing as well as everyday activities such as following directions and timekeeping. Recent studies show that there are differences in the brains of dyslexic people, although the causes of these differences are still open to argument. Traditionally children with dyslexia have been disadvantaged at school but with the right support they should be able to succeed and excel at school and in later life.

Source: Developed from notes taken at a Dyslexia workshop presented by Dr Sheena Bell of Northampton University, in conjunction with The Village International Education Center, Bangkok October 2014

Next: Dyslexia and Multi sensory language teaching