How to make sense of dyslexia
Some 10% of the UK population are affected by dyslexia. But many people don’t actually understand what it is and how people can be affected by it. This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week in the UK and the theme is ‘Making Sense of Dyslexia’, so today we would like to help you to understand what dyslexia is.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell. It often runs in families and stems from a difficulty in processing the sounds in words.
A formal definition of dyslexia was recommended by Sir Jim Rose in an independent report: Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties which was agreed by the Department for Education in 2009.
It found that dyslexia:
•affects the ability to learn to read and spell
•involves difficulties in dealing with the sounds of words, which makes it especially hard to learn to use phonics to read words
•can affect short-term memory and speed of recalling names
•can sometimes co-occur with other kinds of difficulties, for example with maths or with co-ordination (but not always)
Does everyone experience dyslexia in the same way?
Dyslexia is not the same for everyone. It can be mild or severe, can vary depending on other strengths, or difficulties, and on the kind of support and encouragement that is given at school, at home and at work.
People with dyslexia often have strengths in reasoning, in visual and creative fields; dyslexia is not related to general intelligence; and is not the result of visual difficulties.
Many people learn strategies to manage the effects of dyslexia, but it does not go away and its effects may be felt in new situations or in times of stress.
People with dyslexia often, but do not always, show characteristics of other specific learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder or dyscalculia.
What causes dyslexia?
There is strong evidence that dyslexia runs in families: if someone in a family is dyslexic, then it is very likely that other members of the family are dyslexic to some degree.
However, genetics is only part of the story: many other factors make a difference to the overall picture. There are genes that will increase or decrease the risk for dyslexia, but that risk will be affected by many other things, including the effects of teaching and the effects of other genes.
What is the best approach to dyslexia?
Understanding and access to the right sources of support are key for anyone who may have dyslexia. With the right support, strategies to overcome the difficulties associated with dyslexia can be learnt and dyslexia need not be a barrier to achievement.
Is dyslexia recognised by schools?
We have come a long way since the days when people living with dyslexia were often wrongly labelled as ‘slow’, ‘thick’ or ‘lazy’, with school reports warning parents not to expect much from their child. Today, schools have a duty to provide SEN Support where a child or young person’s learning difficulty, including dyslexia, causes them to learn at a slower pace than their peers.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
Children can display signs of dyslexia from an early age - as young as 3 or 4 years old - but it is usually not formally identified until the age of 6 or 7. Here are some of the signs for different age groups:
Signs of dyslexia in children from 7-11
•Seems bright in some ways but unexpectedly struggles in others
•Other members of the family have similar difficulties
•Has problems carrying out three instructions in sequence
•Struggles to learn sequences such as days of the week or the alphabet
•Is a slow reader or makes unexpected errors when reading aloud
•Often reads a word, then fails to recognise it further down the page
•Struggles to remember what has been read
•Puts letters and numbers the wrong way: for example, 15 for 51, b for d or “was” for “saw”
•Has poor handwriting and/or struggles to hold the pen/pencil correctly and/or learn cursive writing
•Spells a word several different ways
•Appears to have poor concentration
•Struggles with mental arithmetic or learning times tables
•Seems to struggle with maths and/or understanding the terminology in maths: for example, knowing when to add, subtract or multiply
•Has difficulties understanding time and tense
•Confuses left and right
•Can answer questions orally but has difficulties writing the answer down
•Has trouble learning nursery rhymes or songs
•Struggles with phonics and learning the letter-to-sound rules
•Seems to get frustrated or suffers unduly with stress and/or low self-esteem
•Struggles to copy information down when reading from the board
•Needs an unexpected amount of support with homework and struggles to get it done on time
•Is excessively tired after a day at school
Signs of dyslexia in ages 12 to adult
•Difficulties taking notes, planning and writing essays, letters or reports
•Struggles with reading and understanding new terminology
•Quality of work is erratic
•Difficulties revising for examinations
•Struggles to communicate knowledge and understanding in exams
•Feels that the effort put in does not reflect performance or results
•Forgets names and factual information, even when familiar
•Struggles to remember things such as a personal PIN or telephone number
•Struggles to meet deadlines
•Struggles with personal organisation (finances/household, arrives at lessons with the wrong books, forgets appointments)
•Difficulties filling in forms or writing cheques
•Only reads when necessary and never for pleasure
•Develops work avoidance tactics to disguise difficulties and/or worries about being promoted/taking professional qualifications
•Difficulties become exacerbated when under pressure of time.
Dyslexia is complex and affects people differently and in different ways but hopefully the above has given a brief insight into some of the ways that dyslexia can affect you. If you want to find out more about it or get involved then join our online community on twitter @dyslexiaaction, on facebook or call your local Dyslexia Action Learning Centre