Dyslexia affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language. Experts agree that the characteristics of dyslexia are language based in three categories reading, writing, and speaking. Reading characteristics may include difficulty hearing and manipulating sounds in words, remembering names and shapes of letters, and slow laborious reading. Some characteristics of writing are difficulty getting ideas on paper and organizing those ideas and poor spelling. Possible speaking or oral language characteristics are delayed speech, difficulty with word retrieval, difficulty following directions, struggle with concepts of time, money, and interpersonal relationships. Intelligence is not impacted by dyslexia.
Dyslexia impacts school, home, and social situations in many ways. Difficulty following directions can be frustrating at home and in school, for the child and the adult. Oral communication challenges include the inability to understand nonliteral language, idioms, sarcasm, or even a joke. (For example, misunderstanding who a joke is directed at and taking it personally.)
Classrooms can be a challenging environment for a dyslexic. In a large classroom with many students to one teacher the fast pace makes it hard for a dyslexic child to keep up, they need time to understand and process what is being said and done in the classroom. For a dyslexic child, they may feel that they will make mistakes repeatedly or the fear of not knowing the answer when called on leads to frustration that can cause stress and anxiety. Dyslexia affects academics because of its reading challenges. Slow reading challenges a student’s comprehension, they are so focused on reading the words that they do not know what they are reading. All these challenges to a dyslexic can also affect their motivation, and they can frequently adopting an attitude of “why bother it’s too hard” or “I can’t do it.”
Experts recommend teaching strategies that are based on the Orton-Gillingham methodology.
Birsh (2011 p.461) explains that Orton-Gillingham is “a system of teaching language related skills incorporating letter sounds, syllables, words, sentences, and writing contained within a daily lesson plan in which all aspects of the alphabet phonetic approach to reading and spelling were detailed.” The instructional method is direct, explicit, sequenced, systematic, cumulative, and intensive. Orton-Gillingham also states that the instruction is to be multisensory and emphasizes the how and why of reading.
Shaywitz (2005, pp. 257–262) tells us that the “Essentials of an effective program include the following: Systematic and direct instruction in the following: Phonemic awareness—noticing, identifying, and manipulating the sounds of spoken language; Phonics—how letters and letter groups represent the sounds [of] spoken language; Sounding out words (decoding); Spelling; Reading sight words; Vocabulary and concepts; Reading comprehension strategies; Practice in applying the above skills in reading and in writing; Fluency training; Enriched language experiences: listening to, talking about, and telling stories.”
Texas state statute regarding intervention reads “districts shall purchase or develop a reading program for students with dyslexia and related disorders that incorporates all the components of instruction and instructional approaches in the following sections.” This means that a teacher trained in dyslexia intervention is required.
The Dyslexia Handbook specifies that instruction for dyslexics include the following: Multisensory instruction where at least two senses, visual, auditory or kinesthetic/tactile strategies are used together to enhance memory and learning of language. Instruction must be taught in sequence from simplest to more complex concepts. Those concepts must be reviewed as a regular part of instruction to enhance memory of concept. The lessons are direct and explicit where a teacher explains and demonstrates one concept at a time allowing practice and feedback as appropriate. Teachers need to plan lessons, according to the student’s ability to master the content by monitoring the student’s progress daily.
A diagnosis of dyslexia may be challenging, but there are ways to learn to compensate.
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