The ‘puzzle’ of why some people find reading and writing to be such a problem has been with us for over 120 years. For almost the same time, there have been different answers to this puzzle, and certainly different opinions about the best words to describe it. Whatever words are preferred, there are areas of agreement about the most typical kind of reading and writing difficulties which can be identified as dyslexia.
Dyslexia Key Points:
– It is linked to a difference in the way that the brain processes information about word sounds. This makes it hard to learn and use the spelling-to-sound rules needed for phonic decoding in reading and in spelling. Usually there is an impact too on the memory systems that hold the spoken forms of words, making it hard, for example, to remember spoken instructions or to recall names quickly.
– In addition to difficulties with word-sounds, some people with dyslexia have ‘co-occurring’ difficulties for example with attention or co-ordination of movements.
– Another kind of reading difficulty is different from dyslexia, and this involves problems with comprehension. Here, the problems are not with decoding or recognising printed words, but in getting the meaning from the sentences and paragraphs that make up text.
With early structured teaching, difficulties with reading can be minimised, but some people have persisting difficulties, and they need to make more use of alternative methods for accessing and producing written texts.
Many people get to a stage where recognising and understanding printed words is not a problem, but they still have issues with speed of reading, spelling, and ‘getting ideas on paper’
Technology tools are playing an increasing role for everyone and have special value for those with dyslexia.
A big challenge for teachers, for parents, and for all who support people with reading and writing difficulties, is knowing when to persevere to try and improve skills (such as spelling) or when to put energies and resources into doing things differently. Again, technology is leading the way here, because, if it is designed well, it can support alternative ways of doing things whilst at the same time helping to develop skills.
We still have challenges especially in developing better tools, and in persuading some to allow and encourage different ways of learning and working, however there is much that we know now which we can act on.