What Is Dyslexia? (page 2)
Generally, if you ask the question, "What is dyslexia?" there is a degree of uncertainty regarding its prevalence, nature, and causes. Data cited by the United States National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) shows 20 percent of elementary school students are at risk for reading failure and of that number, 5 to 10 percent have difficulty learning to read despite exposure to research-based reading instruction that is successful for most students. However, these figures may underrepresent the prevalence of dyslexia because of a general underdiagnosis of reading problems. In the well-known and highly regarded Connecticut study of Sally Shaywitz (2003) and her colleagues from Yale University, these researchers determined that as many as 20 percent of all children are reading disabled with less than one-third of these identified and receiving services. There is still that "mystique" associated with dyslexia, probably due to changing terminology, speculations regarding causation, and no one "remedy" to the problem. As our fifth-grade student with dyslexia notes, there is the widespread belief that there is something wrong with how individuals with dyslexia read words. The word identification problems of individuals with dyslexia relate to specific difficulties with the phonological components of language, central to the definition of dyslexia offered below.
The following definition is provided after an exhaustive review of several hundred research studies and published articles and books on the subject of dyslexia:
"Dyslexia" definition= dys and lexia, or inability to effectively read words, is the most prevalent specific learning disability (at least 50% of the LD population). It is thought to have a neurological basis, and the disability is unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and access to effective classroom instruction. There are specific difficulties with fluent reading and the phonological components of language (i.e., phonemic awareness). Secondary issues may or may not include other academic problems (e.g., reading comprehension); difficulties in socialization (e.g., more negative peer interactions) and co-existing disabilities or disorders (e.g., ADD or ADHD with 25% of those with dyslexia). With intensive literacy support in reading and writing, a social-academic network of support, and the development of individual resiliency, individuals with dyslexia can lead successful and fulfilling lives. (Spafford & Grosser, 2005)
Jumbled Up Letters
Often, as our grade 5 high honor student states, there is the belief that individuals who are dyslexic see "jumbled words" or read backwards.
"Some people when they look at a reading book, it might look all jumbled up or very blurry." -Grade 5 student with severe dyslexia
Our honor student is representative of students and adults alike in her view of dyslexia- she's not quite sure but knows that dyslexia relates to reading or learning disabilities and that learning is more difficult for individuals with dyslexia. It seems as though people with dyslexia read backwards or reverse or "jumble up" letters. Although many individuals with dyslexia have reading reversals (e.g., "b" for "d"), this is a normal phenomenon for beginning or emerging readers. With individuals who experience dyslexia, reading reversals may persist but are not the primary problem in word recognition - phonemic awareness or phonological knowledge deficiencies are at the root of word problems for dyslexics. Individuals who are dyslexic know that word reading is difficult and is also a primary obstacle to "desired" reading proficiency and "reading speed."
To summarize, for dyslexics, specific difficulties with reading and written language center on fluent reading and the phonological components of language (i.e., phonemic awareness) and not reading backwards. The National Reading Panel (NRP) (2000) reviewed a large body of research and confirms that children who are disabled readers have relatively poor phonemic awareness, and this deficiency "underlies and explains (in large part) their difficulty in learning to read."
A grade 5 student with severe dyslexia also understands that dyslexia can originate from genetic causes. Dyslexia does have a strong familial connection with high percentages of children with dyslexic parents also dyslexic.
© ______ 2005, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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