Awareness and understanding

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Having an understanding of the facts about dyslexia can help teachers identify vulnerable children and support them. Outlined below are some of the questions that are often asked when considering dyslexia.

What is dyslexia and what difficulties can it cause?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects reading and spelling and is characterisd by difficulties in processing word-sounds and by weaknesses in short-term verbal memory. The current scientific evidence suggests that these difficulties arise from inefficiencies in language-processing areas on the left hemisphere of the brain, which, in turn, appear to be linked to genetic differences.

In addition to the weakness in reading, spelling and writing, children with dyslexia often have difficulties with:

  • Breaking down spoken words into smaller units of sound (phonological awareness).
  • Sequencing - remembering the sequences of words or sounds. This may also include things such as, days of the week, months of the year.
  • Finding the right word for an object.
  • Handwriting - motor difficulties can make writing messy and illegible.
  • Mathematics - involving sequencing like multiplication tables, months of the year.
  • Comprehension - difficulties recalling information that has been read: dates, times, facts.
  • Expressing thoughts in written form.
  • Expressing thoughts verbally.
  • Orientation - confusion about directions in space or time (right and left, up and down, early and late).

It is important to be aware that the number, type and severity of difficulties you see will vary from child to child. In addition the child's intelligence, personality, parenting, schooling, are just a few variables that will impact on the child's learning, making for a learning style that is very individualised.

Are dyslexic children badly behaved?

Given the nature of the difficulties that dyslexia can cause it is common for the child to become frustrated and sometimes distracted. Some children may be disruptive and others withdrawn. Many children with dyslexia lack self-confidence. With support all of these behaviours can be changed.

What evidence is there to support dyslexia as a recognised condition?

It is very important to stress that dyslexia is not the same as just having a difficulty with reading. Advances in modern technology over the last 30 years have provided a wealth of evidence to support it as a condition that affects a large number of individuals. Studies have also shown that dyslexia is inherited, which is important when considering the difficulties of a pupil if another family member is dyslexic.

How common is dyslexia and whom does it affect?

Dyslexia can affect anyone of any age, sex, race or social background. Studies tell us that dyslexia affects 10 per cent of the population to varying degrees and 4 per cent serverly. This means that as many as 2-3 children in any given classroom could have some degree of dyslexia - over 300,000 school-age children.

Does dyslexia affect intelligence?

There are particular misconceptions related to intelligence. Because dyslexia affects the ability to learn the assumption is often that the individual is slow, lazy or stupid. However, dyslexia can occur at any level of ability and if taught appropriately children with dyslexia can achieve just as well as their peers.

Can dyslexia be cured?

While the promise of a quick fix is very attractive it is important to stress that dyslexia is life-long and is not something that can be cured. But the difficulties it causes can be resolved and there are methods of support that can help the individual to overcome them.

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