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What are the common signs of dyslexia?
About 60% of dyslexic people have phonological awareness difficulties in identifying and manipulating the sounds in words. This primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Other characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in verbal memory and verbal processing speed which affect sequencing, mental calculation, and completing work under time pressure. Dyslexia is not simply viewed as a literacy difficulty – some aspects of motor, organisational skills and numeracy may be affected. No two dyslexic people are the same and will not show the same traits.
Can dyslexia be ‘cured’?
Dyslexia is not an illness but a feature of the way some people learn. Each individual with dyslexia has a different profile of strengths and weaknesses. Difficulties experienced vary from slight to very severe disruption of learning. On the positive side, neurological differences are thought to give some dyslexic people visual, spatial and lateral thinking abilities that enable them to be successful in a wide range of careers. There is no complete ‘cure’ but the effects of dyslexia can be alleviated by skilled specialist teaching and a strong motivation to learn. However, even a ‘well compensated’ dyslexic may continue to have intransigent difficulties in some areas.
What causes dyslexia?
There are numerous causal theories but dyslexia is now firmly established as a congenital and developmental condition. After more than forty years of research, a definitive cause has not been confirmed, but the effect is neurological differences in the brain’s make-up. These differences bring about varying degrees of difficulty in learning when using words, and sometimes symbols.
Dyslexia can also be acquired by people who have lost some aspect of their literacy skills as a result of a brain injury caused by illness or accident, or where a condition such as otitis media [glue ear] has impeded normal literacy skills’ development. Some cases of acquired dyslexia display unusual types of difficulties with literacy and therefore require careful diagnostic assessment and specialised teaching and support programmes. Very understandably, people with acquired dyslexia can require a high degree of support and counselling. Their educational needs are usually long-term and the priority aim is for them to see themselves making progress.
At what age does dyslexia become a problem?
Because dyslexia is neurologically-based, children are born with it, but it is often only when formal education begins and they start learning using words and symbols, that dyslexia becomes a noticeable problem.
Recent research indicates that boys and girls are equally affected, but it is thought that girls may be better at compensating for their difficulties, so may be identified less frequently.
What is the incidence of dyslexia?
Approximately 10% percent of the population is thought to be dyslexic, with 4% being severely affected.
Some dyslexic children have behavioural problems which may be as a result of, but not caused by, dyslexia. Behavioural problems usually improve when appropriately structured, cumulative, multi-sensory teaching for reading, writing, spelling and basic mathematics is provided. If a child with dyslexia thinks s/he is no good at school work, s/he may look for other distractions in the lesson. Self-esteem depends on a sense of personal competence and this can be encouraged by giving genuine praise for good effort and achievement. The more a child can learn to do for his/herself, the higher his/her self-esteem, and it is then more likely that behaviour problems will diminish.
Does dyslexia exist in other languages?
Yes. Dyslexia even occurs in languages regarded as easier, such as Finnish, where mappings between sounds and letters are more consistent and therefore easier to ‘sound out’ than in English which has many irregularities. Dyslexia also exists in more difficult languages such as Chinese, where mappings between sounds and letters involve larger units of sound [syllables, prefixes, suffixes]. Dyslexia occurs at the same rate in these countries as in the UK.
Most researchers today agree that it is disordered language processing, and not visual difficulty, that is the primary cause of reading difficulties or dyslexia. However, many dyslexics find that coloured overlays or spectacles minimise eye strain or headache caused by reading. Some individuals find it particularly hard reading black print on a white background, as it appears to blur or move about. Others find red print difficult to see clearly. To determine the most effective colour for an individual, an Intuitive Colorimeter is used by some opticians. We recommend buying an inexpensive pack of coloured overlays first, to try out the different colours at home before committing to the purchase of more expensive tinted glasses. This is because, although many students will confidently wear them at school, others may refuse to wear them for fear of ridicule or teasing from their peers. Ophthalmologists may recommend tinted spectacles for clients with Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome [often called Meares-Irlen Syndrome] who suffer from such effects due to photophobia [sensitivity to light].
Does having dyslexia limit career options?
No. Each dyslexic person has her/his own pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Many enjoy lateral thinking abilities and may shine in such fields as the arts, creativity, design, computing, engineering and sport. Appropriate identification and teaching can enable them to release their talents in wide-ranging careers. Many famous people with dyslexia have influenced our world today, including: Sir Richard Branson, Sir Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Agatha Christie, Hans Christian Anderson, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Tom Cruise, Susann Hampshire, Steve Jobs and many others.