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IDEA Disability: Dyslexia Description
Dyslexia is a disability of interest that has far-reaching cognitive and social impacts. The national legislation allows states to determine what qualifies as dyslexia and how to further provide assistance in public schools for students with the disorder. Local education agencies must conduct an analysis of each child suspected of having dyslexia so as to determine the extent of the disability and whether the child meets specific qualifications (The Assistant Secretary, United States Department of Education, 2015, p. 1).
The Mayo Clinic (2017, para.1) defines dyslexia as “a learning disorder that involves reading, due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they related to words and letters.” While there is still much to learn about the causes of dyslexia, some researchers believe differences in the brain prior to learning to read affect an individual’s ability to learn to read (Norton, Beach, & Gabrieli, 2015, p. 73). Scientists believe there are certain neural networks involved that may influence an individual’s perceptions about the ease or difficulty of learning. However, the assertion of Norton, Beach, & Gabrieli (2015, p. 74) that children with dyslexia tend to read far less outside school settings is based on findings of limited research. There is no concrete evidence that children with dyslexia tend to read less and many children with dyslexia enjoy reading for pleasure.
Another explanation of the etiology of dyslexia is offered by Krafnik & Evans (2019, p. 1). The authors suggest abnormalities in the “temporo-parietal and inferior frontal language regions” have been found through neuroimaging studies. Krafnik & Evans (2019, p. 1) further suggests there may be different subtypes of dyslexia and that differences in how dyslexia presents may exists between genders. In other words, dyslexia may present differently in girls
than in boys. However, this notion is often challenged, as no physical differences have been
found in neuroimaging of boys and girls (Krafnik & Evans, 2019, p. 3). Other researchers argue that differences in behaviors related to dyslexia are not explained by differences in the brain. In other words, gender differences between girls and boys diagnosed with dyslexia may be explained by social and a higher variance in reading abilities among boys (Krafnik & Evans, 2019, p. 4). In other words, dyslexia may be more difficult to identify or diagnose in girls, as
they tend to develop reading skills at a faster pace.
The prevalence of dyslexia in the general population is from 5% to 13% (Krafnik & Evans, 2019, p. 1). Much disagreement about the ratios of the prevalence of dyslexia between boys and girls exists. Arnett, Pennington, Peterson, Willcutt, DeFries, & Olson (2017, p. 720) suggest the “sex ration in epidemiological samples ranges from 1.5:1 to 3.3:1,” whereas
the ratios are much higher in samples based on educator and professional referrals. This finding suggests professionals may identify boys more often as showing indications of dyslexia, simply due to the fact that the disability occurs more frequently in boys than in girls and the differences in reading ability among peers is more pronounced in boys.
Physical, Social, & Cognitive Impacts
The physical, social, and cognitive impacts of dyslexia are extremely challenging. Physical impacts involve processing of information as an individual reads. Therefore, failing to read at an expected rate can lead to poor academic performance and possibly to failure to understand instructions and warnings, such as those involved in tasks such as cooking or driving without supervision. A child who reads at a slower pace and struggles while reading aloud in class may be targeted through bullying and by being teased by other children, leading to emotional distress. Cognitive impacts may include the inability to follow instructions of multiple steps or advanced concepts. These limitations can divert teens and young adults away from career paths of interest.
The chosen task is to match physical descriptions of bicycle parts to the correct parts of the bicycle on a diagram. This type of task is often presented in early elementary school in grades 1-3, as a supplement to developing reading skills. The task can require students to identify animals or other objects based on their reading of physical descriptions, as a process of learning to identify key words in sentences. Identifying the descriptive words and their meanings becomes an important process in completing such tasks correctly.
The task of reading physical descriptions and matching them to parts of an item may require reading each description more than once or reading some descriptions again. A child with dyslexia may find this task difficult, as he or she may miss descriptive words or misunderstand them, either in their meaning or how they are used in the context of sentences.
A child with dyslexia may simply read and process the descriptions more slowly than classmates and may need to re-read descriptions more frequently as he or she works through such tasks. Children without dyslexia may tend to rush through such tasks, believing them to be simple. However, children with dyslexia may rush through such tasks as well, either to mask the disability or to prove to him or herself that the difficulties in reading are not as severe as professionals have claimed.
Impact of Disability
The primary impacts of dyslexia are inability to read and process readings at the expected level, and possibly the inability to vocalize or express thoughts adequately (International Dyslexia Association, 2015, p. 3). A child with dyslexia may appear to initially read more slowly
than other children, while the child actually processes what is being read more slowly and may
not be processing some words or phrases correctly. Signs of dyslexia may include inability to count or recite the alphabet correctly, inability to clap hands to a song in a rhythm that makes sense, poor word retrieval, difficulties remembering names and places, and challenges in
remembering spoken directions (International Dyslexia Association, 2015, p. 5).
These challenges can influence verbal expression, as the child lacks the vocabulary to adequately explain or describe thoughts. A child with dyslexia may be able to read a phrase or sentence correctly with practice, but may not process meaning, due to the focus on correctly reading each word in a phrase and lacking understanding of word meaning (International Dyslexia Association, 2015, p. 2). When meaning is not understood or is misunderstood, the child will not be able to explain what he or she has read. The child may not be able to explain why he or she chose a description to match the bicycle part, even when the selected description is correct.
Secondary impacts of dyslexia may include low self esteem, failure to advance in school to the next grade or reading level, bullying or teasing by classmates and children in social circles,
and inability to succeed in careers and hobbies of interest. Low self esteem occurs when a child with dyslexia realizes he or she is not able to perform at the expected level or is unable to keep up with other children. Falling behind a grade level or in academic subjects will become more apparent to the child over time.
Classmates and neighborhood children who do not understand dyslexia may bully or tease the child, as the difficulties with reading and comprehension become more pronounced or obvious to others. Children with dyslexia may realize their challenges and falsely believe they will be unable to succeed in certain careers or activities of interest outside of school. They may also avoid activities that may highlight their challenges. This can lead to social isolation,
especially when bullying or teasing occurs frequently.
Personal Response: Insights
In order for children with dyslexia to success academically and socially, they will require some form of assistance with learning. Therefore, as an educator is it important for me to identify struggles with reading and comprehension in children early, so appropriate evaluations and interventions can occur. Children with dyslexia must not be made to feel as though they are failures or are less able than their peers. Therefore, learning activities that include additional cues and aids, such as audio and assistive technologies (International Dyslexia Association, 2015, p. 8) to help such children can be useful, when lessons are developed.
Children with dyslexia need to feel they are progressing and are able to accomplish learning goals. Therefore, working with children with dyslexia to identify and set learning goals, as well as acknowledging progress even when the work is not correct can be helpful. Using place markers to help children with dyslexia stay focused and highlighting key words may allow children with dyslexia to address areas of challenge more easily and quickly, though speed is probably less important than accuracy of comprehension. Employing measures to assist children with dyslexia in overcoming challenges may involve offering additional time or opportunities for
working on reading and comprehension tasks, though these measures must be employed in a manner that does not single out children with dyslexia.
In conclusion, collaborating with and seeking the assistance of specialists in reading and language who work with children with dyslexia may be necessary. Again, such collaboration should be done tactfully, without singling out or drawing undue attention to children with dyslexia. As an educator, I can also offer support, by listening to concerns and encouraging children with dyslexia to express their feelings verbally or through some other artistic outlet. I realize younger children may not fully understand the challenges and effects of dyslexia and may
tend to believe they are somehow damaged or inferior to their peers. I can point out their
strengths of character and other abilities, as a means of showing acceptance and boosting self-esteem. I can also incorporate acceptance and diversity of abilities into lessons for the entire class, to reinforce the positive and reduce the negative behaviors of teasing and taunting.
- Arnett, A.B., Pennington, B.F., Peterson, R.L., Willcutt, E.G., DeFries, J.C., & Olson, R.K. (2017). Explaining the sex differences in dyslexia. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 58(6), 719-727. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12691.
- International Dyslexia Association (2015). Dyslexia in the classroom. What every teacher needs to know. https://dyslexiaida.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/DITC-Handbook.pdf.
- Krafnik, A. J. & Evans, T.M. (2019). Neurobiological sex differences in developmental dyslexia. Front Psychol. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02669.
- Mayo Clinic (2017). Dyslexia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dyslexia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353552.
- Norton, E.S., Beach, S.D., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2015). Neurobiology of dyslexia. Curr Opin Neurobiol, 73-78. DOI: 10.1016/j.conb.2014.09.007.
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