Dyslexia is a learning disorder that manifests itself primarily as a difficulty with reading and spelling. It is a reading disability due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols, a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material. It is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or from poor or inadequate reading instruction. It is estimated that dyslexia affects between 5% to 17% of the U.S. population.
Although dyslexia is thought to be the result of a neurological difference, it is not an intellectual disability. Dyslexia is diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence, average, above average, and highly gifted.
Two commonly held beliefs about dyslexia are that children with it are prone to seeing letters or words backward, and that the problem is linked to intelligence. Both beliefs are incorrect. The problem is a linguistic one, not a visual one, in dyslexia. And dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant. The effects of dyslexia, in fact, vary from person to person. The only shared trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels significantly lower than typical for people of their age. The treatment of dyslexia should be directed to the specific learning problems the person has. The usual course is to modify teaching methods and the educational environment to meet the specific needs of the individual with dyslexia.
The prognosis for people with dyslexia is mixed. The disability affects such a wide range of people, producing different symptoms and varying degrees of severity that predictions are hard to make. The prognosis is generally good, however, for individuals whose dyslexia is identified early, who have supportive family and friends and a strong self-image, and who are involved in a proper treatment program.
Learning Characteristics of Dyslexia
- Unable to read satisfactorily in spite of adequate intelligence and educational opportunity
- Work does not reflect intellectual ability
- Unusual difficulty in handwriting
- Unusual difficulty in spelling (beyond the weekly spelling test)
- Unable to write or recite the alphabet in sequence
- Reversals, rotations, transpositions in reading and writing
- Directional confusion: left-right, before-after, over-under
- Poor recall ability, especially for names and words
- Poor auditory discrimination or confusion with similar speech sounds
- Unable to copy accurately from the near point, far point, or both
- Inconsistent: knows the material some days and doesn’t remember it on other days
Other Characteristics of Dyslexia
- No definite preference for right or left hand
- Difficulty following directions
- Forgets assignments and/or loses papers
- Lacks organizational skills
- Short attention span
- Overly active and disturbing in classroom
- Unusually passive and withdrawn
- A downward trend in achievement scores can be noted
Click on links below for articles on Dyslexia:
Steps for identifying dyslexia in your child:
Talk to your child. Some children with dyslexia have trouble deciphering meaning from words that are heard. Is your child confused by things you ask or tell? Is your child confused with commands involving direction like up and down or over and under? Do you have to repeat yourself or reword your commands or dialogue with your child? Does your child seem not to hear you? Does your child have consistent difficulty explaining things to you?
Read with your child. If your child is just beginning to identify words in isolation or is able to read full sentences and paragraphs, pay attention to the way your child reads. Don’t always draw attention to mistakes, but pay attention to the mistakes your child makes to see if a pattern is developing. Children who have dyslexia and other reading disabilities make specific types of errors when reading and writing.
Listen to the way your child sounds out words. Does your child struggle with reading even a simple sentence or word? Is your child’s reading very choppy even when reading books that you have read together several times? Does your child reverse letters or numbers; deb for bed, left for felt, sing for sign, or 12 for 21? Is your child unaware of rhyming words or syllables of words? Does your child omit suffixes? Some children with dyslexia will replace a word with a similar word – house for horse, for example – even if it alters the meaning.
Ask questions while reading. When your child finishes reading or when you finish reading ask your child questions about what just happened, characters present, and their feelings and predictions of what will happen. Children with dyslexia will usually be able to answer questions from stories read to them but will have difficulty answering questions after they read to themselves. The child with dyslexia will spend a lot of energy “reading” the words without understanding the meaning or sequence of the words.
Write with your child. Does your child have difficulty spelling common or familiar words even when copying words from a book? Does your child have difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas in written form? Children with dyslexia will often make the same mistakes in written form as they do when reading. Look for number, letter or word reversals; omissions or additions when writing; as well as consistent difficulty with common sight words like and, of, ball, they and from.
|What is Dysgraphia?Print this pageNote: This fact sheet about dysgraphia is published by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). IDA encourages the reproduction and distribution of fact sheets. If portions of the text are cited, appropriate reference must be made. Fact sheets may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale.
What is dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia means difficulty with handwriting. There are several different kinds of dysgraphia. Some people with dysgraphia have handwriting that is often illegible and shows irregular and inconsistent letter formations. Others write legibly, but very slowly and/or very small. When these individuals revert to printing, as they often do, their writing is often a random mixture of upper- and lowercase letters. In all cases of dysgraphia, writing requires inordinate amounts of energy, stamina, and time.
Dysgraphia can interfere with a student’s ability to express ideas. Expressive writing requires a student to synchronize many mental functions at once: organization, memory, attention, motor skill, and various aspects of language ability. Automatic accurate handwriting is the foundation for this juggling act. In the complexity of remembering where to put the pencil and how to form each letter, a dysgraphic student forgets what he or she meant to express. Dysgraphia can cause low classroom productivity, incomplete homework assignments, and difficulty in focusing attention.
Emotional factors arising from dysgraphia often exacerbate matters. At an early age, these students are asked to forego recess to finish copying material from the board, and are likely to be sent home at the end of the day with a sheaf of unfinished papers to be completed. They are asked to recopy their work but the second attempt is often no better than the first. Because they are often bright and good at reading, their failure to produce acceptable work is blamed on laziness or carelessness. The resulting anger and frustration can prevent their ever reaching their true potential.
What causes dysgraphia?
A few people with dysgraphia lack only the fine-motor coordination to produce legible handwriting, but some may have a physical tremor that interferes with writing. In most cases, however, several brain systems interact to produce dysgraphia. Some experts believe that dysgraphia involves a dysfunction in the interaction between the two main brain systems that allows a person to translate mental into written language (phoneme-to-grapheme translation, i.e., sound to symbol, and lexicon-to-grapheme translation, i.e., mental to written word). Other studies have shown that split attention, memory load, and familiarity of graphic material affect writing ability. Typically, a person with illegible handwriting has a combination of fine-motor difficulty, inability to re-visualize letters, and inability to remember the motor patterns of letter forms.
What are the different types of dysgraphia?
While dysgraphia may be broadly classified as follows, there are many individual variations that affect both treatment and prognosis:
In dyslexic dysgraphia, spontaneously written text is illegible, especially when the text is complex. Oral spelling is poor, but drawing and copying of written text are relatively normal. Finger-tapping speed (a measure of fine-motor speed) is normal.
In motor dysgraphia, both spontaneously written and copied text may be illegible, oral spelling is normal, and drawing is usually problematic. Finger-tapping speed is abnormal.
In spatial dysgraphia, people display illegible writing, whether spontaneously produced or copied. Oral spelling is normal. Finger-tapping speed is normal, but drawing is very problematic.
Who is qualified to diagnose dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia cannot be diagnosed solely by looking at a handwriting sample. A qualified clinician must directly test the individual. Such a test includes writing self-generated sentences and paragraphs and copying age-appropriate text. The examiner assesses not only the finished product, but also the process, including posture, position, pencil grip, fatigue, cramping, or tremor of the writing hand, eyed-ness and handedness, and other factors. The examiner may assess fine-motor speed with finger tapping and wrist turning.
What is the treatment for dysgraphia?
Prevention, remediation and accommodation are all important elements in the treatment of dysgraphia. Many problems can be prevented by early training. Young children in kindergarten and grade one should learn to form letters correctly; kinesthetic memory is powerful and incorrect habits are very difficult to eradicate.
Muscle training and over-learning good techniques are both critical for the remediation of dysgraphia. Specifically designed exercises are needed to increase strength and dexterity. A specialist can recommend the most appropriate plan of exercises. For all students, kinesthetic writing, that is writing with eyes closed or averted, is a powerful reinforcer. Work needs always to begin with the formation of individual letters written in isolation. Alphabets need to be practiced daily, often for months.
Finally, individuals can benefit from a variety of modifications and accommodations. One effective method is to teach the use of a word processor, by-passing the complex motor demands of handwriting. Many students may find learning the keyboard by the alphabet method easier than beginning with the home keys. For many, touch typing offers a whole new opportunity to learn to spell through a different kinesthetic mode. Students should also experiment with different writing tools; some people with dysgraphia may find pencil grips helpful. Other bypass methods include allowing the student to answer questions orally or into a tape recorder instead of writing, modifying written assignments so that less writing is required, and allowing extended time to complete tests and assignments. Copying from the board is an especially difficult task. Teachers need to provide notes. Photocopying the notes of another student is one possibility. Providing an outline, with spaces left for the student to fill in information, is another. Writing on a slightly inclined plane may be helpful.
Should people with dysgraphia use cursive writing instead of printing?
For many children with dysgraphia, cursive writing has several advantages. It eliminates the necessity of picking up a pencil and deciding where to replace it after each letter. Each letter starts on the line, thus eliminating another potentially confusing decision for the writer. Cursive also has very few reversible letters, a typical source of trouble for people with dysgraphia. It eliminates word-spacing problems and gives words a flow and rhythm that enhances learning. For children who find it difficult to remember the motor patterns of letter forms, starting with cursive eliminates the traumatic transition from manuscript to cursive writing. Writers in cursive also have more opportunity to distinguish b, d, p, and q because the cursive letter formations for writing each of these letters is so different.
TEACHERS AND PARENTS CHECKLIST FOR CLASSROOM RECOGNITION OF A CHILD WITH
LANGUAGE AND LEARNING DIFFERENCE
*CHARACTERISTICS OF DYSLEXIC STUDENTS AND MODIFICATIONS*
Difficullty with Handwriting and/ or copying
Difficulty with Spelling
Difficulty with Reading
Difficulty with Written Composition
Difficulty with the Concept of the Passage of Time.
Poor Organizational Skills
Short Attention Span
High Anxiety in Testing Situations
If student has been identified as dyslexic, it must be noted.
Common Warning Signs of Dyslexia in Children in Grades 3-8 (click on link below)