How time flies! Dyslexia Awareness Month is fast approaching, so why not spend some time this October furthering your own knowledge about dyslexia, and other Specific Learning Disorders?
VDC can help you get started, with Karen Dymke you can refresh your knowledge, discuss simple strategies to accommodate everyone or learn something new about Specific Learning Disorders in the upcoming webinar: Addressing Dyslexia and Specific Learning Differences in the Classroom
While experts aren’t quite sure exactly how many Australians have Dyslexia, the worldwide estimate is about 10-20% of people. Characterised as a type of specific learning difficulty (SLD) in which the person has difficulties with language and words, the exact cause of dyslexia is unknown. As outlined by Better Health, symptoms of dyslexia vary depending on a person’s age.
“Some of the symptoms in an adult could include:
- reading and spelling problems
- doesn’t like reading books
- avoids tasks that involve writing, or else gets someone else to do the writing for them
- better than average memory
- often, a greater than average spatial ability – the person may be talented in art, design, mathematics or engineering.”
The Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) puts it rather eloquently:
“Dyslexia is not a disease! The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means difficulty with words. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with reading and spelling despite having the ability to learn. Individuals with dyslexia can learn, they just learn in a different way. Often these individuals, who have talented and productive minds, are said to have a language learning difference.”
They also explain exactly what people with dyslexia are coping with:
“…Dyslexia is not a problem with comprehension. Individuals with dyslexia are able to use higher level language skills to support their reading and this ability to ‘compensate’ may mask their underlying difficulties with single word reading. The central difficulty for a student with dyslexia is to convert letter symbols to their correct sound (decode) and convert sounds to their correct written symbol (spell)…”
But the prevalence of dyslexia is often disputed, since so many individuals go undiagnosed until adulthood, or just never get diagnosed.
So what does the research say about who has dyslexia?
A 2015 article by Fumiko Hoeft MD PhD, Peggy McCardle PhD MPH, and Kenneth Pugh PhD, published on the International Dyslexia Association website notes that dyslexia exists in higher rates than previously thought across the world. Even if a language is phonetic (spoken exactly as it’s written), dyslexia is still quite prevalent. In fact, more research is definitely required into the testing for dyslexia. Previous studies found a substantial amount of data as noted below.
“… in a large sample of German children, prevalence was between 1.9 to 2.6 % when the criteria used was a reading score of 1.5 to 1 standard deviations below the norm AND average performance in at least one other cognitive measure (Moll, Kunze, Neuhoff, Bruder, & Schulte-Körne, 2014).”
But, upon further reading, the article notes that:
“The German prevalence rate jumps up to a range of 7.1 to 15.6 %, however, if only the reading score of 1.5 to 1 standard deviations below the norm is used.”
So this shows that dyslexia is far more complex than originally thought. The article also notes:
“The current thinking is that there are core similarities in the neural representation of dyslexia, with small differences in weighting and recruitment of additional networks depending on the writing system (e.g., recent findings in Japanese people with dyslexia: Kita et al., 2013) (Richlan, 2014).”
There is research supporting that individuals with dyslexia can and do excel in many ways that may surprise us! As the ADA says:
“Often individuals with dyslexia are very capable so whilst the challenges need to be addressed, there is a very high need to identify and cultivate their strengths whilst minimising their weaknesses”
Some of the cognitive differences that dyslexic individuals display may actually confer advantages for some kinds of thinking or encourage them to find different paths to learning.
Some of the differences that people with dyslexia have been actually advantageous and encourage thinking outside of the box! As listed by the ADA, here are some strengths that can come with dyslexia:
- Problem Solving
- Analytic thinking
- Creative thinking
- 3-D construction
- Finding different strategies
- Seeing the big picture
- Insightful thinking
What we can take away from this article is that dyslexia seems to be a fundamental part of the human experience. It’s just one of the many unique things that the brain does, that we’re learning to work with, not against.