Dyslexia is a condition used to describe children who have great difficulty acquiring the basic skills needed for reading and writing, despite their average or above average intelligence, and the absence of any other learning disabilities. The skills that people with dyslexia have difficulty with include phonological awareness, word identification, decoding, spelling, and working memory. Dyslexia falls under the U.S. DOE Disability Code of Specific Language Impairment. It is not associated with any medical problems, such as hearing loss, visual problems, or motor difficulties.
The educational implications for children with dyslexia are serious. A child with dyslexia has trouble learning new words. A child without dyslexia is able to remember the individual phonemes and the orthographic letters that those phonemes correspond to, and then uses this acquired knowledge to decode new words, and thus read independently. However, children with dyslexia do not have the ability to store and process sounds in words. Farquharson et al. (2014) reported that a child diagnosed with dyslexia will require more phonetic information than the average child to correctly identify simple, printed words.
The language skills of a child with dyslexia can be affected in multiple ways. The spoken and gestural components of language are not affected; the dyslexic individual only has problems decoding printed words. As reading is fundamental to learning in most scholastic endeavors, the child’s performance in school will usually be severely diminished if they have dyslexia.
The written language of a child with dyslexia will also be negatively affected. Word reading is the initial concern when a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, but as the demands of the child’s educational environment become more intense, it will become apparent that spelling is also a major difficulty. Children with dyslexia will need increased support from educators as the demands of written compositions increase and they are expected to know how to spell words from their lexicon automatically.
Research undertaken to examine teachers’ response to pupils with dyslexia has shown discouraging results. Washburn et al. (2011) used a survey to study the perceptions of teachers regarding their ability to teach phonics, vocabulary, and phonemic awareness to struggling readers and children with dyslexia. The results of the survey showed that teachers believe that the main problem for children with dyslexia is visual rather than phonological. The teachers believe that the students struggle with reading and spelling because they cannot properly see the letters. This misconception leads to futile attempts by teachers to educate children with dyslexia with practices that are not evidence-based and that do not offer any educational benefit to a child with dyslexia.
In conclusion, dyslexia is a learning disability that affects 10% to 15% of children. Children with dyslexia have trouble exclusively with printed language, including decoding words and spelling. A child with dyslexia will not have problems with any other aspect of learning. Teachers who have a pupil with dyslexia should realize that the child is bright; they will just need extra attention and assistance when it comes to connecting the sounds that letters represent to the actual letter shapes, and then applying those connections to literacy and writing.
The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association (ASHA) Scope of Practice document states that speech-language pathologists have the knowledge and competency to diagnose and treat phonological difficulties and literacy problems. You can read more about that in a position statement from ASHA by clicking HERE. If you feel that your child may be experiencing difficulties in any of these areas, please contact Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child.
-Katherine “Kacey” Clark M.S.CF-SLP
Berninger, V. W., & O’Malley May, M. (2011). Evidence-based diagnosis and treatment for specific learning disabilities involving impairments in written and/or oral language. Journal of Learning Disabilites, 44(2), 167-183.
Farquharson, K., Centanni, T. M., Frazluebbers, C. E., & Hogan, T. P. (2014). Phonological and lexical influences on phonological awareness in children with specific language impairment and dyslexia. Frontiers in Phsychology , 5, 1-9.
Vellutino, F. R., Fletcher, J. M., Snowling, M. J., & Scanlon, D. M. (2004). Specific reading disability (dyslexia): what have we learned in the past four decades?. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(1), 2-40.
Washburn, E. K., Joshi, R. M., & Binks-Cantrell, E. S (2011). Teacher knowledge of basic language concepts and dyslexia. Dyslexia: Wiley Online Library , 165-183.