Dyslexia: The Number 1 Learning Disability

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Dyslexia is the number one learning disability. Approximately 80% of the people who have learning disabilities have dyslexia and 40% of those people inherited it (Pediatrics, American Academy of, 2010). I chose to research dyslexia because it is the one learning disability that is affecting the children in today's world the most, though not the only reason. I also chose to research dyslexia because my youngest brother has been diagnosed with it. I realized I do not know that much about dyslexia and I wondered how many people really do. So I began my journey to discover what dyslexia really is, how it affects people, and how to deal with it once I become a teacher.

What is dyslexia? Simply put dyslexia is a learning disability that causes abnormal difficulty in reading and spelling (Dictionary.com, 2001). The MayoClinic describes dyslexia as an impairment in your brains ability to translate written images received from your eyes and turn them into meaningful language (Staff, 2009). So basically your brain is not interpreting what your eyes are seeing.

What causes dyslexia? There are three different types of dyslexia. First, there is dyslexia caused by brain damage. This is due to trauma to the part of the brain that controls your reading and writing abilities. This form of dyslexia is rarely seen. Second, there is primary dyslexia, which is a dysfunction in the brain. This form of dyslexia does not improve with age and the majority of people who have this type cannot read above a fourth grade level. Lastly, there is secondary or developmental dyslexia. This form of dyslexia is due to hormones and diminishes with maturity and age. (Perlstein, 2008)

What functions does dyslexia affect? There are two types of functions that dyslexia affects, visual and auditory. Visual dyslexia affects numbers and letters. It is the reversal and inability to write symbols in the correct sequence. This is the form my brother has. It can be very difficult to deal with. The second, auditory, involves difficulty in the sounds of letters and the grouping of letters. The sounds are perceived as jumbled or they are not heard correctly. (Perlstein, 2008) Both of these functions can affect children's abilities to learn deeply. That is why the correct steps must be taken to ensure the child gets the education they deserve.

What do you do with a child that is dyslexic? Since I want to be a teacher this a very important question. First the child should be properly diagnosed with dyslexia before seeking treatments. Questions to ask yourself to see if the child is dyslexic? Does the child have family members that are dyslexic or family members who have trouble reading and writing? Is the child reluctant to come to school or feeling like a failure in school? Does the child have difficulty with spelling? Does the child miss out words while reading? Does the child have trouble reading out loud? Does the child skip lines while reading? Does the child experience difficulty while copying the school board? Does the child get confused while following directions such as when playing a game? Is the child unable to count backwards from one hundred to zero? Is anyone in the family left handed? If the answer is yes to four or more of these questions the child has a high chance of being dyslexic and should immediately have an assessment by a psychologist or a dyslexic test in order to test the dyslexic symptoms (Bradford).

Once it is established the child has dyslexia the next step is to find the right treatment for the child. There is no actual cure for dyslexia, but there are methods that can help the child. The sooner the child is diagnosed and treated the better but it is never too late to get treatment for dyslexia (Perlstein, 2008). Most schools will develop a plan to help the child if the school is ill-equipped to provide the necessary help the child will need to be transferred to a school that will be able to help. There are more than thirty-six centers in Tennessee that offer help to people with learning disabilities if the school is unequipped this could be a good route to go (Learning Disability Resources Agencies and Organizations Serving locations in Tennessee). People in the centers are specially taught to deal with learning disabilities and with the majority of teachers not having the required skills to handle a child with a learning disability; one may need to go to such a center. Hopefully by the time I am a teacher the skills will be required of all teachers and we will be better equipped to handle such things in the school system.

As a teacher good techniques are needed to help students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The educational system has triple the responsibility of detecting a learning disability such as dyslexia early, evaluating it, and finding the correct treatment for the child (Pediatrics, American Academy of, 2010). I would like to now introduce techniques I have found on a website called dyslexia-teacher.com that could potentially help with dyslexic students. One method mentioned is multi-sensory teaching. Studies from The National Institute of Child Health and Human development have shown that children that have difficulty reading, have found that this method be most effective. What Multi-sensory teaching means is that the child learns through more than one of their senses. Most teaching in school is done with either sight or hearing so a child who is dyslexic may be having trouble with one or the other and the education would not be getting through. Multi-sensory teaching incorporates touching into the lesson along with the seeing and hearing. This method helps develop memories for the child to hang onto. Some examples of this being used is teachers will use playdough to make letters for the children or even sandpaper to give a textile experience for the child along with seeing it and hearing the sound (Bradford). I think this is a great idea because you can even use it with the children without a learning disability and make the child feel normal.

Most dyslexic children will feel like they are stupid and they can tell that the rest of the class are doing better than they are. Dyslexia does not mean a child is stupid they can be bright in Math, Sciences, the arts, or even in unexpected areas such as writing (Pediatrics, American Academy of, 2010). You should let the child knows this because before any real progress can be made with treatments such as the multi-sensory method. The child must first have the confidence to be able to succeed. As a teacher you should perform a little cognitive therapy to help the student. To help the student feel better about themselves a great exercise is to create a list of things they are good at and things they are bad at. The evidence will help show the child there are far more things they are good at then things they are bad at. Confidence will help them then put in the effort in to try and get passed dyslexia. It will not happen overnight though you will have to encourage and let the child know you are there for them and you believe in them. I think another great way to help build confidence is to let them know that many people have dyslexia and get through it every day, even celebrities, athletes, and political figures. People like Tom Cruise, Jay Leno, Muhammad Ali, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Cher to name a few, all have dyslexia (Famous people with the gift of dyslexia, 2010). Maybe if a child knows that their hero or a known celebrity can move passed it and develop a life for themselves so can they.

A controversial method used for dyslexia is the new experimentation of balance. I do not know that much about this method. I read one example from a UK site that had children standing on a cushion with one leg and throwing a beanbag from one hand to the other (Special exercises help dyslexia, 2004). I found studies though by Dyslexia Review that disproved it and studies by a Reynolds and Nicholson that proved it (Bradford). So apparently it is still being tested to see if it is likely to work. I would really like to see what the results are.

I could not find a remedial treatment for dyslexia. I found websites that claimed to be herbal cures but I would not put much faith in things such as those.

As a person who wants to be a teacher I know the responsibility is mine to look for such learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Especially since I want to be an elementary teacher that would be the best time to discover the problem and set up a plan to help the child succeed. With these methods and better understanding hopefully children with dyslexia will have a bright future.

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