October is recognized as International Dyslexia Awareness Month. Having dyslexia can be an overwhelming life-long journey, and parents often report that their hearts have been broken because of the struggle their child has had with learning to read, spell and write. However, we know that with the right instruction and with adequate intensity, almost all individuals can learn to read. Also, there are many success stories at Currey Ingram Academy, as well as in the country for individuals with dyslexia.
So, what is dyslexia?“Dys” means difficulty and “lexia” means “with words.” The child with dyslexia has difficulty reading words accurately and fluently. Below are some basic facts about dyslexia.
- Dyslexia is not a visual problem. It is a myth that individuals with dyslexia see letters backwards.
- Dyslexia is a language-based, neurological condition caused by different wiring in the brain.
- At the heart of dyslexia is difficulty identifying and manipulating speech sounds in words, learning all sound-symbol correspondences, and consolidating word memories (Louisa Moats, 2018, webinar with IDA).
- Individuals with dyslexia are just as bright as others; it has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
- Individuals with dyslexia are not lazy; it does not help them to “just try harder.”
- Dyslexia has nothing to do with a family’s socio-economic status.
- Approximately 10 to 20% of our school-age students have symptoms of dyslexia
(National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2003).
- It is not uncommon for students with dyslexia to feel less confident than others and to show more signs of anxiety and frustration.
Are there interventions for students with dyslexia?Yes, and the early years are the first critical time period for intervention. Research shows that growth of the brain and its responsiveness to intervention from birth to age 8 is a critical time for reading development. In addition, in The Teenage Brain, Dr. Frances E. Jensen notes that the second critical time for intervention is during the teen years.
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) recommends an approach called Structured Literacy that includes the following components (See IDA’s fact sheet for more detailed information on the components of Effective Reading Instruction.):
- Phonology (study of sound structure in the spoken word)
- Sound-Symbol Association (often referred to as phonics, but more in-depth)
- Syllable Instruction (learning the six syllable types)
- Morphology (study of root words, prefixes and suffixes)
- Syntax (grammar, sentence variability and mechanics)
- Semantics (comprehension of written text)
Because learning to read is a complex process, there is no magic pill or quick fix. Sometimes, it may take years for a student with dyslexia to learn to read. However, we do know that a student can improve reading skills with the right intervention that is sustained over a sufficient period of time.