Arizona Literacy & Learning Center

Improving Literacy in Arizona Since 1987

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What is Dyslexia?

What is Dyslexia?

What is dyslexia?

This is the formal definition adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD):

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.

How does dyslexia affect students emotionally and what can happen to them as adults?

Dyslexia is a reading disorder that affects children’s self-esteem. Students wonder why they aren’t able to read when their peers can. For an excellent video, follow this link.

What causes dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological difference in the brain. It is also thought to be genetic. fMRI studies (among others) have recorded these differences. The good news is that these same scans also note that changes to brain activation occur after intervention! There is an identifiable change with the correct intervention.

“Phonemic Awareness is the core and causal factor that separates normal readers from disabled readers.”

– G. Reid Lyon, Head of NIH Dyslexia Research

There’s no cure for dyslexia. It’s a lifelong condition caused by inherited traits that affect how the brain works. Research verifies that most children with dyslexia can succeed in school if provided with the right reading intervention. As Dr. Shaywitz writes in her book Overcoming Dyslexia,

Individuals with dyslexia also have a “sea of strengths”. These include curiosity, a good imagination, the ability to figure things out, eager to embrace new ideas, getting the gist of things, a good understanding of new concepts, surprising maturity, a large vocabulary for their age, enjoyment in solving problems, talent at building models, excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him. We find our students at ALLC may have these and more! We find good artistic skills, athletic ability, musical ability, mechanical ability, people skills, 3-D visual-spatial skills, vivid imagination, intuition, creative, and possess global thinking.

According to G. Reid Lyon, Head of NIG Dyslexia Research:

Phonemic Awareness is the core and causal factor that separates normal readers from disabled readers.

Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do non-dyslexics. This neural diversity is so important to our society. Read what these researches tell us about neural diversity.

Dr. Gordon Sherman:

Dyslexia is not a product of a dysfunctional brain, but an example of learning diversity that can excel in the world outside of school. Unfortunately, a dysfunctional education system often awaits those who learn differently. Dr. Sherman understands the value of cerebrodiversity (our species’ collective neural heterogeneity), of which dyslexia is a byproduct, and to challenge conventional assumptions about socially and culturally defined disabilities.

Dr. Maryann Wolf:

According to Wolf, the brain never evolved to read. Rather, reading reveals how the brain “rearranges older structures devoted to linguistic, perceptual and cognitive regions to make something new.” Children with dyslexia have a range of difficulties that prevent this, but are often gifted in other areas, including all forms of pattern-finding, art and architecture. She points out that many successful artists, sculptors, radiologists and entrepreneurs have a history of dyslexia, and children and adults with dyslexia often think “outside the box” Proust and the Squid author Maryann Wolf.

The research on what may happen to individuals with dyslexia show potential negative outcomes for your child without interventions.

  • 74% of the children who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain poor readers in the 9th grade.
  • 73 percent of Americans believe that children entering kindergarten unprepared to read will catch up in later years. This assumption is false, and in fact, the opposite is true. The statistics and research suggest that out of 50 first-graders who struggle with reading, 44 of them will still be struggling in fourth grade, according to the United Way.
  • Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, spelling, and writing difficulty. As many as 43.5 million Americans may have dyslexia. It occurs among people of all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
  • 70-80% of all people with poor reading skills are likely to be dyslexic
  • 1 in 5 students or approximately 15-20% of the population have a language based learning disability and dyslexia is the most common of these disabilities.
  • About 80% of learning disabled children eligible for special education services have significant reading difficulties, including dyslexia.
  • The high school dropout rate for students with learning disabilities is more than twice what it is for other students (36% vs 14%).
  • 14% of adults in the US can’t read (more than 32 million).
  • Percentage of prison inmates who can’t read: 21%.
  • 19% of high school graduates can’t read.

As a society we must consider the financial aspects of untreated dyslexia as well as the humanitarian reasons.