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Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

The student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents. The student displays ability to learn in the absence of print and receives the same classroom instruction that benefits most children; however, the student continues to struggle with some or all of the many facets of reading and spelling. This student may be a student with dyslexia.

Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003 defines dyslexia in the following way:

  1. “Dyslexia” means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.
  2. “Related disorders” include disorders similar to or related to dyslexia such as developmental auditory imperceptions, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.38.htm#38.003

The International Dyslexia Association defines “dyslexia” in the following way:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

(Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 12, 2002)                        

Students identified as having dyslexia typically experience primary difficulties in phonological awareness, including phonemic awareness and manipulation, single-word reading, reading fluency, and spelling. Consequences may include difficulties in reading comprehension and/or written expression. These difficulties in phonological awareness are unexpected for the student’s age and educational level and are not primarily the result of language difference factors. Additionally, there is often a family history of similar difficulties.

The following are the primary reading/spelling characteristics of dyslexia:

  • Difficulty reading words in isolation
  • Difficulty accurately decoding unfamiliar words
  • Difficulty with oral reading (slow, inaccurate, or labored)
  • Difficulty spelling

It is important to note that individuals may demonstrate differences in degree of impairment.

The reading/spelling characteristics are most often associated with the following:

  • Segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  • Learning the names of letters and their associated sounds
  • Holding information about sounds and words in memory (phonological memory)
  • Rapidly recalling the names of familiar objects, colors, or letters of the alphabet (rapid naming)

Consequences of dyslexia may include the following:

  • Variable difficulty with aspects of reading comprehension
  • Variable difficulty with aspects of written language
  • Limited vocabulary growth due to reduced reading experiences

Common Risk Factors Associated with Dyslexia

If the following behaviors are unexpected for an individual’s age, educational level, or other thinking abilities, they may be risk factors associated with dyslexia.  A student with dyslexia usually exhibits several of these behaviors that persist over time and interfere with his/her learning. A family history of dyslexia may be present; in fact, recent studies reveal that the whole spectrum of reading disabilities is strongly determined by genetic predispositions (inherited aptitudes) (Olson, Keenan, Byrne, & Samuelsson, 2014).

Preschool

  • Delay in learning to talk
  • Difficulty with rhyming
  • Difficulty pronouncing words (e.g., “pusgetti” for “spaghetti,” “mawn lower” for “lawn mower”)
  • Poor auditory memory for nursery rhymes and chants
  • Difficulty in adding new vocabulary words
  • Inability to recall the right word
  • Trouble learning and naming letters and numbers and remembering the letters in his/ her name
  • Aversion to print (e.g., doesn’t enjoy following along if book is read aloud) 

Kindergarten and First Grade

  • Difficulty breaking words into smaller parts (syllables) (e.g., “baseball” can be pulled apart into “base” “ ball” or “napkin” can be pulled apart into “nap” “kin”)
  • Difficulty identifying and manipulating sounds in syllables (e.g., “man” sounded out as /m/ /?/ /n/)
  • Difficulty remembering the names of letters and recalling their corresponding sounds
  • Difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
  • Difficulty spelling words the way they sound (phonetically) or remembering letter sequences in very common words seen often in print ( e.g., “sed” for “said”)

Second Grade and Third Grade

Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:

  • Difficulty recognizing common sight words (e.g., “to,”  “said,”  “been”)
  • Difficulty decoding single words
  • Difficulty recalling the correct sounds for letters and letter patterns in reading
  • Difficulty connecting speech sounds with appropriate letter or letter combinations and omitting letters in words for spelling (e.g., “after” spelled “eftr”)
  • Difficulty reading fluently (e.g., slow, inaccurate, and/or without expression)
  • Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words in sentences using knowledge of phonics
  • Reliance on picture clues, story theme, or guessing at words
  • Difficulty with written expression

Fourth Grade through Sixth Grade

Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:

  • Difficulty reading aloud (e.g., fear of reading aloud in front of classmates)
  • Avoidance of reading (e.g., particularly for pleasure)
  • Acquisition of less vocabulary due to reduced independent reading
  • Use of less complicated words in writing that are easier to spell
  • Reliance on listening rather than reading for comprehension

Middle School and High School

Many of the previously described behaviors remain problematic along with the following:

  • Difficulty with the volume of reading and written work
  • Frustration with the amount of time required and energy expended for reading
  • Difficulty with written assignments
  • Tendency to avoid reading (particularly for pleasure)
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language

Postsecondary

Some students will not be identified prior to entering college as having dyslexia. The early years of reading difficulties evolve into slow, labored reading fluency. Many students will experience extreme frustration and fatigue due to the increasing demands of reading as the result of dyslexia. In making a diagnosis for dyslexia, a student’s reading history and assessment history are critical. Many of the previously described consequences may remain problematic along with the following:

  • Difficulty pronouncing names of people and places or parts of words
  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places
  • Difficulty with word retrieval
  • Difficulty with spoken vocabulary
  • Difficulty completing the reading demands for multiple course requirements
  • Difficulty with note-taking
  • Difficulty with written production
  • Difficulty remembering sequences (e.g., mathematical and/or scientific formulas)