DYSLEXIA – A DEFINED AND LEARNING DIFFICULTY
How hard is it to learn with Dyslexia?
Can it be overcome?
With dyslexia can you be successful?
What are they symptoms and causes (if any) of dyslexia?
Dyslexia, or developmental reading disorder, is characterized by difficulty with learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal or above-average intelligence. This includes difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, processing speed, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, language skills/verbal comprehension, and/or rapid naming. Dyslexia is the most common learning difficulty and most recognized reading disorder. There are other reading difficulties that are unrelated to dyslexia.
Some see dyslexia as distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or poor or inadequate reading instruction. There are three proposed cognitive subtypes of dyslexia (auditory, visual and attentional), although individual cases of dyslexia are better explained by specific underlying neuropsychological deficits (an auditory processing disorder, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a visual processing disorder) and co-occurring learning difficulties (dyscalculia and dysgraphia). Although it is considered to be a receptive language-based learning disability in the research literature, dyslexia also affects one’s expressive language skills. Researchers at MIT found that people with dyslexia exhibited impaired voice-recognition abilities. A study published online (in the American Journal of Human Genetics), reported a possible genetic origin to the disorder, and other learning disabilities, that could help lead in some cases to earlier diagnoses and more successful interventions.
Internationally, dyslexia has no single definition however it is generally accepted as designating a cognitive disorder related to reading and speech. More than seventy related names are used to describe its manifestations, characterizations or causes. The World Federation of Neurology defines dyslexia as “a disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity”. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke definition also adds, “difficulty with spelling, phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.” Many published definitions from researchers and organizations around the world are purely descriptive or embody causal theories. These definitions for the disorder, defined as dyslexia, encompass a number of reading skills, deficits and difficulties with a number of causes rather than a single condition.
Dyslexia can also be acquired following brain damage; it is also commonly called alexia, it includes surface dyslexia, semantic dyslexia, phonological dyslexia and deep dyslexia. Acquired surface dyslexia, as one form of dyslexia, arises after brain damage in a previously literate person and results in pronunciation errors that indicate impairment of the lexical route. Numerous symptom-based definitions of dyslexia suggest neurological approaches. The dual-route hypothesis to read aloud proposes an answer for disordered reading, including both developmental and inherited dyslexia.
In early childhood, early symptoms that correlate with a later diagnosis of dyslexia include delays in speech, letter reversal or mirror writing, difficulty knowing left from right and directions, and being easily distracted by background noise. This pattern of early distractibility is occasionally partially explained by the co-occurrence of dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although this disorder occurs in approximately 5% of children, 25–40% of children with either dyslexia or ADHD meet criteria for the other disorder.
Dyslexic children of school age can have various symptoms. The symptoms may include difficulty identifying or generating rhyming words, or counting syllables in words (phonological awareness), a difficulty segmenting words into individual sounds, or blending sounds to make words, a difficulty with word retrieval or naming problems, commonly very poor spelling, which has been called dysorthographia or dysgraphia, whole-word guesses, and tendencies to omit or add letters or words when writing and reading are considered tell-tale signs. Signs persist into adolescence and adulthood and may be accompanied by trouble with summarizing a story, memorizing, reading aloud, and learning a foreign language. Adult dyslexics can read with good comprehension, although they tend to read more slowly than non-dyslexics and perform more poorly at spelling and nonsense word reading, a measure of phonological awareness.
A common misconception about dyslexia assumes that dyslexic readers all write words backwards or move letters around when reading. In fact, this only occurs in a very small population of dyslexic readers. Individuals with dyslexia are better identified by measuring reading accuracy, fluency, and writing skills and trying to match these measurements to their level of intelligence as determined from prior observations. The complexity of a language’s orthography (conventional spelling system) has a direct impact upon how difficult it is to learn to read that language. English has a comparatively deep orthography within the Latin alphabet writing system, with a complex orthographic structure that employs spelling patterns at several levels: principally, letter-sound correspondences, syllables, and morphemes. Other languages, such as Spanish, have mostly alphabetic orthographies that employ letter-sound correspondences, so-called shallow orthographies. It is relatively easy to learn to read languages like Spanish; it is much more difficult to learn to read languages with more complex orthographies such as English. Logographic writing systems, notably Japanese and Chinese characters, have graphemes that are not linked directly to their pronunciation, which pose a different type of dyslexic difficulty.
From a neurological perspective, different types of writing systems (e.g., alphabetic as compared to logographic writing systems) require different neurological pathways in order to read, write, and spell. Because different writing systems in different languages may require differentiated parts of the brain to process the visual notation of speech, children with reading problems in one language might not have one in a language with orthography. The neurological skills required to perform the tasks of reading, writing, and spelling can vary between writing systems. As a result, different neurological deficits may possibly cause dyslexic problems in relation to different orthographies.
Several learning disabilities often occur with dyslexia, but it is unclear whether these learning disabilities share underlying neurological causes with dyslexia. These disabilities include: (a) Dysgraphia – a disorder which expresses itself primarily through writing or typing, although in some cases it may also affect eye-hand coordination, direction- or sequence-oriented processes such as tying knots or carrying out a repetitive task. In dyslexia, dysgraphia is often multifactorial, due to impaired letter writing automaticity, finger motor sequencing challenges, organizational and elaborative difficulties, and impaired visual word form which makes it more difficult to retrieve the visual picture of words required for spelling. Dysgraphia is distinct from developmental coordination disorder in that developmental coordination disorder is simply related to motor sequence impairment; (b) Attention Deficit Disorder – A significant degree of co-morbidity has been reported between ADD/ADHD and dyslexia/reading disorders, it occurs in between 12% and 24% of those with dyslexia. Research studying the impact of interference on adults with and without dyslexia has revealed large differences in terms of attention deficits for adults with dyslexia, and has implications for teaching reading and writing to dyslexics in the future; (c) Auditory Processing Disorder – A condition that affects the ability to process auditory information. Auditory processing disorder is a listening disability. It can lead to problems with auditory memory and auditory sequencing. Many people with dyslexia have auditory processing problems and may develop their own logographic cues to compensate for this type of deficit. Auditory processing disorder is recognized as one of the major causes of dyslexia; and (d) Developmental Coordination Disorder – A neurological condition characterized by a marked difficulty in carrying out routine tasks involving balance, fine-motor control, kinesthetic coordination, difficulty in the use of speech sounds, problems with short-term memory and organization are typical of dyspraxics. Experience of speech acquisition delays and speech and language problems, can be due to problems processing and decoding auditory input prior to reproducing their own version of speech, and may be observed as cluttering, stuttering or hesitant speech.
Research has examined gene–environment interactions in reading disability through twin studies, which estimate the proportion of variance associated with environment and the proportion associated with heritability. Studies examining the influence of environmental factors such as parental education, and teacher quality have determined that genetics have greater influence in supportive, rather than less optimal environments. Instead, it may just allow those genetic risk factors to account for more of the variance in outcome, because environmental risk factors that affect that outcome have been minimized.
As the environment plays a large role in learning and memory, it is likely that epigenetic modifications play an important role in reading ability. Animal Experiments and measures of gene expression and methylation in the human periphery are used to study epigenetic processes, both of which have many limitations in extrapolating results for application to the human brain.
Through compensation strategies and therapy, dyslexic individuals can learn to read and write with educational support. There are techniques and technical aids that can manage or even conceal symptoms of the disorder. Removing stress and anxiety alone can sometimes improve written comprehension.
For dyslexia intervention with alphabet writing systems, the fundamental aim is to increase a child’s awareness of correspondences between graphemes (letters) and phonemes (sounds), and to relate these to reading and spelling by teaching him or her to blend the sounds into words. It has been found that reinforced collateral training focused towards visual language (reading) and orthographic (spelling) yields longer-lasting gains than mere oral phonological training. Intervention early on while language areas in the brain are still developing is most successful in reducing long-term impacts of dyslexia. There is some evidence that the use of specially tailored fonts may provide some measure of assistance for people who have dyslexia. Among these fonts are Dyslexie and Open Dyslexic, which were created with the notion that many of the letters in the Latin alphabet are visually similar and therefore confusing for people with dyslexia. Dyslexie, along with Open Dyslexic, put emphasis on making each letter more unique to assist in reading.
The prevalence of dyslexia is unknown; with estimations varying greatly between 1% to 33% of the population. It is often estimated that the prevalence of dyslexia is around 5–10 percent of a given population although there have been no studies to indicate an accurate percentage. Internationally, there are differing definitions of dyslexia, but despite the significant differences between the writing systems, Italian, German and English speaking populations suffer similarly from dyslexia. Dyslexia is not limited to difficulty in converting letters into sounds, but Chinese dyslexics have difficulty in extracting shapes of Chinese characters into meanings.